My Chinese New Year holiday has begun and one of the things on a short list that I want to accomplish seeing I am staying in Beijing instead of going to any lovely warm climate, is to learn to ride my new bike. So the first thing I did this morning was try to begin that process. How hard could it be? Well, I learned a lesson.
First of all, my bike, known as Black Beauty (BB), is parked in my apartment to keep it from being stolen. So there it sat in all her glory this morning just waiting for me to take her out and learn to ride. That turned out to be quite a challenge because turning a 50 pound bike around in a confined space when it has pedals attached is not a graceful task, at least not the way I did it. After much lifting, turning the handle bars this way and that because I was backing up, I finally got her headed out to the door of my apartment. I already knew I was going to have to do something about the direction I parked her in when she was in the apartment. Now we head for the door and those pesky pedals, which I won’t be able to use anyway because they are in an awkward position, kept hitting everything plus it is almost impossible to push a 50 pound bike over a shoe that I have left in the path to the door.
Well, we finally negotiated the doorway, my little hallway, the door out to the elevator and I was finally waiting for the elevator praying no one would be on it when I went to push the bike inside. No one was. I pushed the button for the first floor as I was planning to have my first practice session out in my complex where it is not busy and there are straight sections but that is when I got the IDEA. Why not practice learning to ride in the garage underground? No one would see me, there would have to be straight areas and it would not be as cold as outside. Brilliant idea – NOT!!!!!!!
Got down there and introduced myself to the level one garage. Yes, it looked feasible. On I hopped, settled myself with my foot balance on the ground, remember to turn on the key to start the bike, turned off the blinker which was beeping and pushed the handle bar towards me and off I staggered. It was not a pretty site but I figured my fear was not helping and I needed to go a bit faster if I was going to be able to bring my foot off of the ground and get it on the bike where it belonged. Just as I got that done I came to the end of the straight away and needed to turn. That wasn’t great but I made it ok. Stopped the bike, straightened it out and started the whole process over again. I was doing quite well, feet up, balancing well, good speed when everything feel apart.
I really don’t know why except that I suddenly panicked and rather than going straight the bike began to go to the left. I didn’t have room to straighten it out, I couldn’t remember how to stop the bike, I didn’t take my hand off of the throttle or turn it down and I plowed into a cement pillar that holds up the garage. Well, I stopped……I will say that for the pillar. I didn’t fall off or anything but I knew I had done a bit of damage to my baby. I backed away from the pillar and checked the bike out and yes my lovely new black basket that I was so proud of is now all bent on the left side. Apparently, cement and inexpensive Chinese baskets don’t mix without one of them coming out the worse for the wear. I felt bad about that but was determined to continue on my journey of learning to ride the bike correctly. That is when the other rather bigger problem arose.
The alignment of the bike is now off. The front wheel of the bike and the handle bars are now not going in the same direction. When I have the handle bars straight the front wheel is turning to the left so in order to go straight I have to have the bars turned in a different direction which even if I could ride the bike would be difficult for a newbie like me it was impossible. I decided the bike lesson was over for the day and went to get back on the elevator to go home. That is when I found out that in order to get out of the garage you need to have the swipe card. Thank goodness I had that around my wrist and I was able to escape from a depressing and obviously not very safe basement.
I awkwardly got the BB out of the elevator and back through the door, down the little hallway to my apartment only to find out that I had left the front door to my apartment (well actually the only door to my apartment) wide open in my stress of getting BB out of the apartment. Everything was fine. I parked her back in her spot, took a close look at the handle bars and realized until that particular problem is solved I will not be taking anymore riding lessons. It won’t be much of a problem though. Just have to find the local, street corner, bike repair man. I hope he hasn’t packed up shop for Chinese New Year.
Lessons learned: 1. Don’t ride a bike in a parking garage as a way to learn to ride. There are cement pillars and other cars and trucks.
2. This is going to take me a little bit longer than I thought to get the hang of it.
3. I have not lost my enthusiasm for this task just have realized I need to adjust my time line a bit.