Saddles, shame and stabilisers


I decided to take on cycling as my first sport for a variety of more-or-less valid reasons.

  1. It’s a skill I probably should have acquired by this stage in my life (from here in known as the Shame Factor).
  2. As a solo activity, I’m only letting myself down if I don’t master it. I still have nightmares about the look on the rest of the team’s faces as I look the other way and let the opponent score again – I was never allowed to play Table Football again after that.
  3. My nephew has already learned to cycle and he’s five! I expected him to be at least seven before he out-achieved me.

But where does a self-conscious biped over the age of twelve go to learn the art of pedalling? Of course, the city has oodles of lovely (and slightly less lovely) parks in which a brave learner could tumble towards cycling proficiency, but without a bike, a death wish or a certificate in self-administered First Aid, learning without a proper expert was never going to be an option.

Luckily, a charity called Free Wheel North exists. Their cycling centre, based at Glasgow Green, has an impressive range of bikes and cycling equipment – which includes tandems, go-karts, multi-seaters and hand-cranked bikes – and, most importantly, a wonderfully-patient instructor.


And even though I was as jumpy as a caffeinated kangaroo when I arrived outside the centre’s gates (to the point that I couldn’t even find the way in!), it wasn’t long before I was sitting on a bike for the first time in my life and not feeling too bad about it. The tutor took me through the basics of bicycle maintenance and a hair-wrecking helmet fitting before setting me to work on my balance with a technique known as ‘paddling’. After removing the pedals, she showed me how to propel the bike along the path using my feet, with the intention of finding my balance and eventually (here’s hoping) not letting my paws touch the ground at all. Needless to say, I haven’t quite got that far yet.

Clearly, balance is the biggest hurdle for all new cyclists but, for me, the extra challenge will be to master not feeling like a complete twonk during a lesson. I know this will be incredibly difficult for a self-conscious wee soul like me to achieve but, as it’s a transferable skill that would come in really useful for future sports (in particular, wrestling and weightlifting), I think it’s something I need to work on. I have to admit that when a small child who had just removed his stabilisers lapped me on the track, the Shame Factor reached its height.

After an hour on the bike – and a joyful ten minutes in a go-kart – I left the centre with homework (practise before next week’s lesson), renewed determination and my first ever sports injury, which gave me equal parts pride and pain. And while I was told that I only need pay what I could afford for the lesson, the full price of £15 seemed entirely reasonable for the level of support I received and the kick up the saddle-sore backside I needed to get me on a bike at last.


The aftermath!

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