I didn’t bike growing up because I grew up on a super busy road and it wasn’t safe to ride places from my house. Also I spent 3-4 hours a day at swim practice, so there wasn’t much time for other “exercise-y” kinds of things. Sure I’d pedal my little bike with training wheels and a basket around in circles in driveway, but according to other people my age (and by my age, I mean 11), that was not cool. Not cool at all. So I quit. Looking back I can’t say I disagree with their assessment.
A few years back I spent my tax return on a bike. I had no idea what I was looking for and probably didn’t choose the friendliest shop in the area to purchase my first real bike. It was a cruiser and weighed about a million lbs. I was too scared to test ride it outside the shop (since I didn’t know how to) and once the sales people, hard core cyclists, saw I had no clue, they’d about had it with me. I naively bought the bike anyway. My husband and I did occasional short rides on the trails and I never got very comfortable. The bike was too big for me so my feet didn’t even touch the ground (I’m only 5 ft. tall)so I was terrified of stopping at street crossings. I also got a rush of anxiety when people passed me because I liked lots of space.
The night I brought my bike home, one of my neighbors spotted me riding around in little circles at the end of the court in our neighborhood under the cover of darkness. She pulled her van over and told me that her daughter (about 14 at the time) would take me to a trail and teach me how to ride my bike. It was a sweet offer, but a bit awkward!
It took finding the right bike (my first bike was NOT the right bike), at the right bike shop and training partners that I felt safe and comfortable with to help me learn the ropes (or wheels) before I started to make any kind of progress. Fortunately, the bike that was not right for me was the perfect fit for someone else so I was able to sell it. Now I have a little 44 cm Canondale road bike and I’m in love with it. It is light, speedy (well, in comparison to the beast I rode before), and I can touch the ground when I need to, which I think was what boosted my confidence more than anything!