Saturday, 25 January 2014

I want to ride my bicycle

So to truly embrace the Dutch culture, riding a bike is an absolute must. Before I left the UK for my lowland adventure, this was one of the things that filled me with fear and dread at the mere thought. I really had to wrack my brains to think of the last time I rode a bike and have come to the conclusion that it was when I was about ten years old, during cycling proficiency at primary school. They say that riding a bike is a skill that you never forget; it is part of your procedural memory. Through practice your brain no longer needs to think about the actions it carries out and your body takes over. But what happens when your bike decides not to listen to your body's commands? Pain. Pain is what happens. Lots of it. At least there were words of encouragement from the child passenger: 'Momma, she is so wobbly I find it scary'. That was prior to crashing into the side of a bridge. He was silent after that. But I could feel him shaking.

I should probably mention here that I am a generous 5ft 1, with shoes and a good hair day, so this ruled me out for any bikes made for actual women over the age of about 15. After attempting, to no avail, to lower the saddle on the smallest bike they owned, (short of the little boys tricycle) the mum of my host family thought it was probably a good idea to find a bike that I didn't have to pole-vault onto. You know, to somewhat ensure that her then four year old son might arrive at school safely and not be scraped off of the biking lane or fished out of the canal as I optimistically misjudge my steering abilities. So I am now the proud owner of a teen bike, complete with leopard print decor, some remnants of string flowers that adorned the basket and some rainbow coloured spoke beads. At least I blend in. With the child's seat stuck on the back I really do worry that I look like the Dutch answer to MTV's 'Teen Mom' though.

So my first few weeks of biking were pretty horrific but, luckily, there were no serious injuries, just some major bruises and scratches. Oh and my hands seized up like arthritic claws for about two weeks due to clutching the handlebars so tightly. But weeks/months have gone by now and biking is becoming more natural and I think I'm starting to blend in with the Dutchies. At least I no longer turn up at the school playground a sweaty, asthmatic mess. Though I think it will be a long while before I match the crazy mum that overtakes me most mornings with a child on the back, one on the front while simultaneously guiding another by her side with a huge smile slapped across her face and 5 inch heels on her feet. And even longer before I am akin to the guy carrying THREE dining chairs on his bike whilst steering with the legs of two of them. Also, he belongs in a circus.

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