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No, It's Not Just Like Riding a Bike

Photograph by Getty Images

Fall brings bike weather. The crisp, cool air makes it the perfect time of year to get the kids suited up with helmets and gear, and onto their bikes. Who doesn't love fresh air and exercise? I mean, my kids have a blast. On the other hand, I usually get stuck holding the sunscreen and water bottles. A constant observer, never a participant.

This year, that's changing,

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I didn't just want to get my kids on their bikes. I wanted to keep up with them. I wanted to join in on the fun. I wanted to get on a bike, too. So, for my birthday, my husband promised me a bike. I could barely remember the last time I'd balanced myself on two rolling wheels. Then I figured it out: not in over 20 years.

Anyway, we went to the bike store, and I picked out a few I liked.

"You need a comfort bike," the salesperson told me. A comfort bike? I thought. Can he tell I'm desperately out of shape?

"Why not a regular bike?" I asked. We discussed what I'd be using it for (keeping up with the kids, rides around the neighborhood. Just for fun.)

It took a few minutes, but I finally found my rhythm.

"So, you won't be racing or doing mountain trails?" he asked. I laughed out loud. I didn't race or do mountain trails even back when I was in shape. Comfort bikes, it is.

"Hop on," he told me. He readied the first one for me to try.

"I should just hop on?" I asked. He nodded and told me that yes, I should just hop on.

I was a bit nervous. What if I forgot how to ride? I told my husband this.

"You know that expression: it's just like riding a bike?" he asked, and smiled broadly back at me.

I hopped on. It was not "just like riding a bike." You can, in fact, forget how it's done. I wiggled this way and that, seemingly unable to get my balance. I was certain that I'd fall flat on my ass, embarrassing myself in front of everyone in the bike shop. Don't even get me started on turns. I tried to round a corner and dipped perilously low to the ground. I put my feet down to stop.

"Let's try another one," the salesperson suggested.

It took a few minutes, but I finally found my rhythm. I remembered what it was like to ride a bike, the freedom, the joy. I also forgot to be scared. I forgot to be worried about falling.

We brought the bike (and new helmet) home, but I couldn't wait for the kids to come back from camp. I wanted to get on the bike as quickly as I could.

Riding my bike became part of my routine, something I really looked forward to doing.

So, I took it for a spin around the neighborhood. I rode the old route I used to walk when I was trying to get rid of the baby weight. I went up hills and remembered the thrill I got as a little girl flying down the hilliest street in our neighborhood. There was just something about being on a bike—feeling the wind, feeling the speed—that exhilarated me.

That afternoon, my kids were thrilled I'd be joining them when they took their bikes out. We raced each other, we rode together, and we tried not to crash into each other. It was way more fun that my usual: standing in the sidelines.

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Most days, I could barely wait for the kids to get home. I'd plan my schedule, so I could go for a ride by myself. I could go faster, do more hills, be alone with my thoughts. Riding my bike became part of my routine, something I really looked forward to doing.

And I haven't stopped since.

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