Riding Bikes with No Handlebars

Autumn is drawing in with its warm golden hues, and brisk air.

I love cycling down lanes with the gradually browning trees meeting above me. Fresh air always beats air inside. Even if its warmer indoors, and you’re snuggled up in hand-knitted scarves and drinking coffee. (I successfully can do latte art now. It took an age. So many variables! The temp of the milk, the angle of the steamer, and how deep you put the steamer in the milk and for how long, then how you pour it. My gosh. But when I poured my first successful latte, I literally wanted to yell, “I win at life!!”. I delivered the coffee expecting to get an award. I didn’t. But I did do my victory bum wiggle dance nonetheless.)

Anyway, autumn bike rides. Gotta love ’em. The solitude, Time to daydream, the perfect pace: you get there faster than walking, and can glide down hills in seconds, but you’re slower than driving, so you have the time to take in the surroundings. I love to watch people, and seeing them go about their daily lives makes me smile. A delightful elderly lady was waiting to cross the road, and I smiled as I passed and she said, “Thank you for the smile.” I think I called back, “you’re lovely!!” You’d miss those moments if you were in a car.

Sure, riding a bike isn’t all fun. That brisk air can certainly whistle through all your layers! And cycling in England is scary. I once turned my head to see if I could turn right, and because I’m a girl, when I turn my head, I turn my handlebars, so I came face to face with a bus whizzing past me. I could have kissed the passengers if there was no window. I was that close!! Due to the same dysfunction, I’ve locked handlebars with a friend when she wanted me to look at her shirt.

I do have fun on my bicycle. When I was learning again, after the “bikes-aren’t-cool” phase, I was unsurprisingly quite wobbly. I was on the same road as the bus-to-face incident, and had to mount the pavement, because the stand still traffic hadn’t left enough room for cyclists. Cyclists aren’t meant to be on pavements, because of pedestrians. One pedestrian in question, wasn’t looking where she was going, because she was texting and walking. I considerately stopped to let her past. Then, I went to get going again, and like an eight-year-old, I wobbled to my left, then wobbled to my right, then, in front of the rush hour traffic jam: toppled right in to a massive bush. That is not what one might call “winning at life”.

I pushed myself out of the bush, fell deeper in to the bush, got my legs caught in the frame, then violently surged out of the bush like some wild monster.

Like a brave woman, when I fell off my horse I got back on. I got back on the road, teetered past the same lot of cars, and then, another car hadn’t left enough room, so I aimed for the dip in the kerb. Now when I did this before, I mounted straight on. This time I was parallel, but being a “new” cycler, I didn’t realise this made a difference.

I went to mount the kerb, my first wheel ploughed on through with no problem, then all of a sudden, I’m on the floor. I don’t know how it happened, but that same lot of cars that saw me fall in to the bush, saw me fall dramatically to the ground. My bag which had been tied to the back of my bicycle emptied its contents everywhere. The pedestrians at the crossing just looked at me and awkwardly offered help. “No I’m quite alright thank you” (This was before I moved away and learnt to ask for what I need!)

When I embarrass myself, everybody knows. I’m a red head. And my face likes to catch up to the colour of my hair when I feel silly. I become just one massive shade of red. It does not help that my coat is bright orange too. And also, being an only child, I learnt to make myself amused, and nothing makes me laugh more than people falling over. So guess what happens when I fall over, and it’s embarrassing? I laugh. Super loud. And go bright red from head to toe. No one’s laughing with me, nah, of course not. It’s just me, laughing away. And when I cycle away, I replay it in my head, and laugh more.

I’ll tell you how loud my life is. I went on holiday with a friend and her Dad, who had access to all National Heritage sites. We spent everyday driving hours in the car to old ruins, or mines, or in this case, castles. My friend, Kira and I always have fun together. We’d noticed two boys our age, and got silly and loud trying to get noticed. We kept bumping in to them. Not physically, although that might have worked. One of these times, I came down a spiral stone staircase, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw something white flash by me. We were in a castle, and something ridiculous came over me and I thought it was a ghost. I screamed. Kira had no idea what was going on as she was stuck a few steps up round the corner, and she screamed too. And of course, it was one of those boys! No guy gets impressed by a girl who screams in horror when they see him. Screaming in hysteria, because you’re in a boyband, well that’s another story.

We reached the top of the castle, and whilst others were looking out at the view which went on for miles, we were checking out the boys that were on the grassy grounds below. Now funnily enough, they were larking about too, whether to impress us or not, we’ll never know. But Ghost Boy, started play wrestling with Alternative Goth Boy, and pulled at his cliché studded belt. It released, and his trousers came ALL the way down. I burst out laughing, and to my horror, they heard, and looked up to the TOP of the castle where we were. Just a tiny dot in the distance. If you can hear my laugh from that far away, imagine being in the same room!

But back to cycling, I learnt to ride with no handle bars, in America. Quite the feat for somebody whose hands and head are connected to which way they go! It was easy over there, gliding down their smooth tarmac roads. But not in England! Gees our roads are shocking. I was wondering why I was finding it so hard to make my right hand let go. And today, I realised. It’s not me. It’s the roads: all the bumps and dips where we just dig up a patch at a time. You can’t access that magical glide moment if you must constantly adjust the steering to go straight!

Out there, there are masters, who have overcome, and like them I will learn. But until then I’ll enjoy the ride, take in the changing scenery, and the funny people, and laugh- loudly- at myself if I fall off or stumble in to a bush or a bus.

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5 thoughts on “Riding Bikes with No Handlebars

  1. Ellie says:

    Naomi I absolutely love you! This is absolutely wonderful! I am laughing out loud because I can picture everything you described. Miss you girl!

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