You might have heard that I'm learning to ride a bike after a 20-year hiatus. TL;DR I spent a lot of time just getting comfortable on the bike, rather than actually riding. Even so, I created a plan to help me continue with my ultimate goal being to bike to work this summer. While I haven’t followed the plan to a T (life happens), I hopped back on Capital Bikeshare this weekend determined to reach my goal.
On the way out the door, I checked my apartment building’s TransitScreen to confirm there were bikes available at our nearest Capital Bikeshare dock. Happy to see that there were a few available, my boyfriend and I headed over to the station and pulled a bike out. On the way to my normal practice spot, I decided I had two goals this time: push off and make a turn on my own.
To start, my boyfriend helped me on the first push off, and to my surprise, I rode farther in that one minute than I had my entire last training session. So, I told him it was time for me to do it on my own. With one foot on a pedal and one on the ground, I gave a good push and off I went pedaling, steering and balancing on the bike all on my own.
Feeling more confident than I had our previous trip, I continued to ride on my own, up and down the trail next to our apartment, over bumps and up and down the (very small) hills. With this part down, it was time for me to try for my next goal, making a turn.
Turning a Corner
The path by my apartment connects to the Custis Trail. When I got to this part, I'd typically hop off my bike, turn it around and go back down the path the other way. With my goal in mind this time, I slowly turned my bike to the right to head onto Custis and then kept going on the trail! I don’t know what I had been so afraid of.
With both of my goals accomplished and the 30-minute timeframe almost up*, I biked back down the path by our apartment and went to return the bike. You may remember from my last post that I had some trouble putting the bike back in the dock. It seems that was a one-off, as the bike easily locked into the position and I immediately received the green light, indicating my ride was over and I was good to go.
*With purchase of any Capital Bikeshare membership option, rides under 30 minutes are free and usage fees incur thereafter. Learn more about Capital Bikeshare.
What I Learned
Since I couldn’t do very much on my own last time yet I had improved so much now, I had to ask myself what changed. It has to do with two things: my level of comfort using the bike and basic bicycle education.
The first time I got on Capital Bikeshare, everything was new. I had to get used to the feel of the bike, the speed and the level of control that I had or didn’t have over it. I wasn’t confident riding last time because I hadn’t done it in so long. This time, I could remember what it felt like to be on the bike so I didn’t have to spend so much time getting comfortable. Additionally, knowing that my hesitations had stood in my way last time, I realized I would need to put them aside if I wanted to have a successful ride.
As for bicycle education, I had incorrectly assumed that I needed to pedal the whole time. I guess years of spin class gave me this impression, but for any other newbies, this is not the way that actual bicycles work. My boyfriend kindly informed me that I was pedaling too much and once I stopped focusing on pedaling the whole time, the ride was much easier and more comfortable.
I also wrongly assumed that you had no way of controlling your speed on a bike and that if you were braking, it was only because you were coming to a complete stop. I didn’t think of it like a car where you can apply a little pressure to the brake if you want to slow down. Learning that I could control my speed, instead of coming to a hard stop every time I wanted to slow down, helped me keep going at times I would have otherwise gotten nervous and stopped the ride.
While I’ve strayed from my original plan for learning to ride a bike, it’s important for me to continue my progress by setting small goals. As such, here’s my new plan to keep up the momentum based on the progress I’ve made:
- Take Capital Bikeshare out for a solo ride on the trail (repeat until comfortable)
- Take a City Cycling Class or similar lesson
- Take a solo ride in Arlington using the Bicycle Level Comfort Map as a guide
- Form a bike train with my fellow Ballston commuters and bike to work for the first time!
Photo Credit: Sam Kittner/Kittner.com for Arlington Transportation Partners