I can't remember learning to ride a bike. It would have involved the BMX which I can remember. We had a dead end at the end of my road which became our playground and I would do loop after loop of that. My brother had a Racer which was more difficult to ride than the BMX and a little too big for me. It was red. I can vividly remember part of learning to ride that one. It involved a crash.
We had two 'across the road' neighbours. One had a driveway you could do a U-turn into on the start of a hill. Then there was a steep drop to the next one. (Both also had a Trev - the son at the first T2, the dad at the second T3). When you have big brothers, sometimes you attempt things they can do before your time. You don't want to wait till you are big. I watched my brothers zipping into T2's driveway and wanted to give it a go. I hopped on the too big bike and rode down the hill, but I hadn't quite mastered the turning and brakes, so rather than turning into the driveway, I turned into the steep drop. The brakes became my split legs and the fence. I learnt about pain.
But as you do, I eventually learnt to ride without using my body as the brake. The saying goes that some things are like 'learning to ride a bike'. Once you get it, you never forget. The body does have incredibly muscle memory. I recently met a hardcore marathon runner named Tiago. He did the Unogwaja Challenge for the first time without having done a lot of cycling training. I don't know how many marathons he had run by then, but he recently ran his 400th! He has run 200 in the last year. He figured running was a more effective use of limited training time (family and job need their share) so focused on that. He paired with someone who was more of a cyclist and they helped each other. He leant on his teammates for the cycle (c.170km a day x10), and then was able to provide support on the run (The Comrades Marathon). He did the challenge two years in a row. First time round the cycle started off really tough. He really had to draw on mental reserves to get through the first few days. Despite taking the same approach the second year, he said the cycle was much easier. His body remembered.
Yesterday I picked up my new bike. I have applied to do the Unogwaja Challenge next year. Only a small group of about 10-12 is selected so I may be accused of putting the bike before the donkey. But as Yoda says, 'Do or don't do, there is no try'. I believe exercise is a big part of happiness, and so I am not getting on my bike just for a challenge. In fact, John has suggested dropping the word challenge from the event. Unogwaja isn't about the plod & pedal. That is just the vehicle for conversation, action and walking with people as they empower themselves. You don't have to apply to be part of the solution.
I didn't have to learn to ride, but I had to learn to use a those cleat thingies. I headed to the park to find a soft place to fall should things go wrong without driveways and fences (my body remembered). My big brother is still helping me, but this time he is on the other end of a phone. I then realised I hadn't attached the cleats properly, and went back to the shop for help. Attempt two went better. Then I had to learn to use all the gears. Again, not all that complicated, but the mist still descends when you are picking something up. There was no dead end for me to do loops round, but I did find a quiet carless block to do loops of till things started to click in place.
I also learnt that apparently you aren't supposed to wear white socks. Red socks and me are better friends than red bikes and me.