One day I will ride a bicycle

4 min
Andy Green promised herself she would do three things when she got out of hospital. Throw away her crutches, take a hiking holiday and learn to ride a bicycle.

When Andy opened the door to her apartment, which took a long time with a bag and the two aluminium poles she needed to stand straight, she breathed in musty air, and breathed out a sigh of relief. She could wash her own hair, make her own tea, cook her own vegetables. That put a semi-smile on her face – she was yet to get over the limp pale green fare served to in hospital. In fact, she thought tonight she wouldn’t even bother to cook the vegetables – just eat them raw for crunch and colour.

After making a cup of tea, she sat down on the couch to begin planning her missions.

Mission one was to get rid of the crutches.

Andy looked down at her scarred, dented legs and wrote down what the physiotherapist had said. Three months after your first step. The first step was two weeks ago. That left ten weeks. She made a point by point plan for each day of those ten weeks, writing at the end ‘put crutches on top shelf in spare cupboard.’

She then planned a holiday in Crete, a mixture of beach and gorge hiking with sea views and stone white accommodation.

Taking another glance at her legs she moved to mission three – ride a bicycle.

Despite an active childhood, occasionally sitting on a bicycle and taking it down the driveway, Andy had never mastered riding a bicycle for anything longer than two minutes. She did not know what the timeframe was or where or how she would accomplish this. She put her pen down and slurped the last dregs of tea.

You may find it odd that learning to ride a bicycle can be so flabbergastingly difficult. But learning to ride is deemed a childhood activity, and when you take it on as an adult you encounter all sorts of things in your way.

Unfortunately for Andy, she was a loner and wanted to learn to ride on her own. She was prepared to get a coach and pay for lessons. But unless she rode in a group she seemed doomed to be a two minute cyclist and nothing more. Join the club, said the mails and messages. It’s such fun. We all ride together. We’re very supportive. It’s social.

Andy went to bed with a few carrot sticks. Uncooked. The one was a bit sideways like her left leg. She bit it in half and swore to herself she would ride a bicycle.

Three weeks later, when Andy was able to stand straight with minimal support from her aluminium friends, she put a notice on a local community board.

‘Beginner cycling lessons sought. Teach me to ride.’

Two weeks passed and nothing happened.

She put the same notice in the library, jazzing it up a bit.

‘Two broken legs won’t get me down, but I need your help to get on a bike and ride it.’

Nothing. Maybe cyclists didn’t read.

Andy was now walking with one crutch. A major achievement, and she felt it just like everyone told her it was. But it wasn’t enough. She wanted to feel the wind blowing her hair and move herself forward on two wheels.

She decided to take a third step. Visit a bicycle shop.

If you have ever visited a cycling shop as a non-cyclist you will know how intimidating they are. Andy leaned hard on her single aluminium pole throughout the visit.

‘Do you have a notice board or know where I can learn to ride a bicycle from scratch?’ she asked the attendant. Who looked friendly but professional.

‘A group of us ride out every Saturday morning. You can join us.’

Clearly the man was delusional or the stories about cycling and drugs were all true.

I’m voting for yes on the latter, but leave Andy to make up her own mind. She is, after all, the one wanting to take up this discipline!

‘Oi! I know I only have a bit part but I don’t inject myself with drugs!’

Narrators occasionally allow interruptions from characters .

‘Well, I have never ridden a bicycle so I need to learn and I would be too uncomfortable in a group. Where can I find a cycling coach for beginners?’

The man looked at her.

Andy went for broke.

‘I have put out messages and requests online, I’ve put up notices in community centres and the library and now I am here asking for help. I want a coach, one-on-one, to help me spend more than two minutes on my bicycle. Can you help?’

She moved her hand on the crutch handle, gripping tighter.

‘There’s a group of women you can join.’

Andy put him down as a person with a hearing problem, or temporarily in a state of idiocy.

She leaned against the cement bin outside waiting for her uber ride. This was proving difficult.

Andy had overcome greater obstacles. She had, after all, survived being hit by a car at seventy kilometres an hour. But she was momentarily deflated.

That evening in the rehab pool she decided on another tactic. Perhaps she was targeting the wrong group – sports people. What about people who cycled for work – they were usually on their own. And a bit of weekend work with extra pay might go down well.

She went back to the message boards.

‘Show me how to ride for work.’

The day Andy got rid of her final crutch, and placed the two aluminium poles as far out of reach as possible, she felt another moment of despair. Her holiday was three months away, and to fill the time she needed to be on mission three.

She drank some milk, laced with whiskey, lay down on the couch and fell asleep.

Andy bought herself a stationary bike and rode it every day. She continued to put out requests, and visited every cycling location she could think of. She even printed flyers that she gave to all the lone cyclists.

Sitting on the plane to Crete was exciting but frustrating. She was mobile, she was walking, going to hiking heaven. But she wanted more.

Andy had booked three hotels in Crete. The first was pleasant, the walking good, and the gorge fantastic. Andy planned that hike first so she could tick it off the list. Three days after arriving she moved to her second hotel. It looked a bit more rickety, but outside stood a row of shiny bicycles - for hire.

Was mission three now this easy?

She checked in. Twiddling the pen in hand, faltering, hesitating. Do you dare?

‘I see you have bicycles for hire, do they come with a guide or companion?’ she asked.

The three people behind the counter looked at her.

‘I’ve done some hiking and have got some beach walks planned, but I really want to ride a bicycle. Could you show me?’

The man came out from behind the counter, took her hand, and led her to the bicycles.

‘Pick one. We go now.’

Andy never left Crete.

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