Not at all Like Riding a Bicycle
There's an obnoxious little phrase: "It's like riding a bicycle ..."
Usually the bit about "... you never forget how" remains an exercise for the listener.
So after some years of listening to it without thought I realized that in fact the open end of the aphorism made for some interesting rejoinders:
"... you can get your trouser leg all greasy?"
"... you can ring a little bell and people will get out of your way?"
"... it's easiest when you're going downhill?"
It is this obnoxious phrase, O Avid Fan, upon which I wish you to reflect today, as I share with you:
Metro's First Bike Ride
So technically it wasn't my first. I don't recall how old I was when I first rode a "two-wheeler." I know there was a kid in our apartment block in Hamilton who owned a small one--It was painted sparkly gold, as most things were at the time so it seemed. It may or may not have had training wheels.
I remember vaguely, in that dreamlike haze all childhood memories have (For me--Yours may be perfectly clear, in which case you may freely assume your memory is lying to you) riding this bike about. I could frickin' fly on that thing. It was too small for me, even at five-ish. It had no gears. And I had to stand on the pedals because the seat was set so low my knees would have been pistoning into my forehead. Ah, how flexible we are as kids!--But I digress.
When we moved east, a schoolmate of mine took me home one day. She wished to go for a bike ride. I'm guessing I was about six, maybe just turned seven. The trouble was that while she had a bike, it wasn't suited for "doubling" (Young people ask your parents--Doubling was an astoundingly dangerous practice in which boys and girls risked life, limb, and testicle in an attempt to prove that all bicycles were in fact built for two).
There were two bikes, her mum's and her dad's. But as I recall with my lying memory, we knew the ones with dropped crossbars were for girls. And it would be wrong for a boy to ride a girl's bike. It made perfect sense at the time.
So we decided I should try her father's bike. On the surface, to any observer over the age of about ten, this would seem absurd. Her dad (whom I cannot recall now--Hell, I don't think either of her parents were around, but then what was she doing home alone?) obviously had an inseam about the same as my height.
Still, we pushed his big blue bike to the back steps of her house. It was a typical, probably CCM, sit-up-and-beg bike, painted sparkle blue, as most things were at the time, so it seemed. It definitely did not have training wheels. And with serious trepidation, I mounted. I balanced wobbly-ly atop the seat. My toes could touch the pedals until a little way short of their lowest point. After some discussion possibly involving the questioning of the wisdom of our actions (but I doubt it), I pushed off with a toe, and set off down the back alley behind the rows of tiny fenced yards.
The bike spun readily away, picking up speed from the slight downhill, and from my full weight against the pedals. I was probably going about fifteen kilometres per hour, approaching the point where the alley I was in T-ed to a stop at an intersecting alley, a garage door across the alley providing an emphatic full stop. I would need to slow down to make the curve, so my instincts told me.
At what I figure was about eighteen kilometres per hour I stepped backwards to slow the bike--the common practice on the coaster-brake-equipped units I was used to. The pedals rotated freely. I tried again, harder. The pedals flew counterclockwise, the left one turning upward and striking my shin while my right foot lost contact and flailed at empty air. At the same time, because I had been standing up to pedal, I slipped down, with the result all young men have experienced. Young ladies, I cannot explain, but if you hold a pair of baseball bats with the end of the handle against the point of your abdomen containing your ovaries and run at a brick wall you may get a similar sensation. The discombobulation led me to look down, attempting to untangle myself and regain control whilst trying not to retch too loudly and relieve the hideous pressure of my probably-about-fifty-pounds from my crotch.
At this point the die was cast. I looked up and saw the phone pole, swerved late, ang glanced off of it, then careened, brakeless, across the end of the alley and fetched up with a "CRUMP" and a rattle of ironmongery, in a heap against the garage door, curled around my private pain and experiencing a series of novel sensations, including my first real case of road rash, as well as some old ones--the scraped knees and elbows, the sensation that I wanted to "$#!7 myself and blow lunch simultaneously" as Stephen King put it so gracefully in "Christine" ...
My friend seemed to feel responsible for my injuries. That's probably why she waited until I had gotten up and brushed myself off and more-or-less stopped crying before she checked to make sure her dad's bike was okay. Then she led me off to her mother, who did whatever magic other people's mothers do when a boy's knees, elbows, and testicles are bruised. I don't really recall much beyond that. The girl and I stayed friends awhile. She may or may not have attended my next school.
Oh ... And the reason the brakes didn't work was that I hadn't noticed the odd little levers protruding from the handlebars. I'd never ridden a bike with hand brakes.
And that's really all I recall. But it's the incident that springs to mind when someone says "Hey, it's like riding a bicycle ..."
And I finish for him or her: "... if you fall off it's really going to hurt."