“It’s just like riding a bike!” They say,
You have no idea how much this sentence infuriates me.
They say that once you’ve learnt how to do something difficult, you’ll never forget it. You will always be able to pick it up again easily, just like after you learn to ride a bike.
Well, this wasn’t the case for myself; I did learn to ride a bike at an early age, but after a nasty accident as a child I completely erased the memory of learning forever.
So you can only imagine how much anxiety I felt when, after only a few weeks of consideration, I decided to move to Amsterdam and realised “oh shit, I really needed to learn to ride a bike”.
For all of my adult life it’s really annoyed me how fearful I have been to give it another go, especially when travelling. I’ve made up some pretty creative lies to excuse myself from joining fellow travellers on a bike ride – heck, I even completely missed a “must-see” destination in Argentina because I was so nervous about being teased for not joining in on the wine tasting bike tours. But if there ever was a time or a place to get over it and learn to ride a bike… It was moving to Amsterdam.
I wanted to learn as quickly as possible, to avoid as little embarrassment as possible, so I decided to go with the private lesson option. After a quick google search, I came across a website with word of encouragement such as “it’s nothing to be ashamed of, you’re never too old to learn!”.
The author has obviously never had a whole Contiki group make fun of them for not knowing how to ride a bike, as an awkward and insecure 20 year old visiting Europe for the first time.
Yes, I’ve done a Contiki tour. Don’t hold it against me.
On your bike!
The first lesson of my journey to learn to ride a bike started at 10am in Vondelpark on an extremely overcast day. I knew there was (obviously) a chance of rain, so I decided to be sensible and wear my rain jacket. Unfortunately being new to a country where one has to invest in a rain jacket, as well as being unemployed, my rain jacket was a second hand hot pink Helly Hansen number from the 90’s – not exactly subtle when you’re trying not to stand out as a bike riding novice.
Especially in this country:
Somehow I managed to find a fellow Aussie teacher, so at first I was a little weary that he would give me a hard time when I would inevitably fall over, but he was friendly and encouraging from the start.
I was expecting falls, bruises, tears, glorious tall Dutchies laughing at me while they glide past on their bikes and text at the same time… but surprisingly, there was none of that. Okay I lie – a group of people doing boot camp decided to blast “Bicycle race” by Queen to tease me, but it was all in good jest. I was honestly prepared for not being able to fully integrate into Amsterdam life, but after 40 minutes and a couple of failed attempts to kick-off, all of the sudden… I was riding a bike! I guess the saying is true.
Learn to ride a bike: In summary…
I wish I had funny stories of me falling over to add to this story because I truly love a bit of self-deprecating humour, but I really don’t. I haven’t fallen over once, I do get a bit nervous and wobbly in the bike lanes, but overall it’s been okay. I’m still working on my confidence, you can sometimes find me doing happy laps on a small purple bike in Bos en Lommer. Other than the pride I feel for finally getting over my fear, it hasn’t been a big deal. And it really shouldn’t be.
For those of you out there who are too scared or ashamed to admit you don’t know how to ride a bike (and I know that you’re out there, because I’ve met others too!) – you might feel like a bit of an outsider right now, I know I certainly did. Just remember that a big part of Dutch culture is not being afraid to try new things, even if you do fall or fail. Who knows, one day you could also be one of those glorious no-hands bike riders, anything is possible!