How to Bike When You’re Scared to Bike

By ena ganguly

I was in the 8th grade when I learned how to bike. My parents tried to teach me when I was younger, but the thought of leaving my training wheels behind always frightened me. And then, the ultimate betrayal happened when my Baba promised he was holding the back of my bike as I pedaled without the support of my training wheels, and when I made the mistake of glancing back, he wasn’t there! How could he abandon me like that? How could I keep biking on my own? Bam, I fell on the ground.

It wasn’t till the 8th grade, when my closest friend in middle school taught me to ride on her bike. Of course I wasn’t going to back down. It was embarrassing enough that I was in the 8th grade and still couldn’t bike, so I went for it. My friend told me, “Put one foot on the pedal that is facing up and push it down, then let the other foot catch the other pedal. Don’t focus on balancing yourself, just think about the pedals.” That took the pressure off of me on doing what made me the most nervous: keeping myself balanced on this contraption.

I did as she said, and voila! I started moving! Towards what I didn’t know, I just knew I was free. The curse had lifted! I could bike anywhere now. The corner store, the pool, hey, maybe even school? BAM! I biked into the stop sign across from her house, and fell sideways on the street. Ouch.

Biking left its traumatic mark on me, because even now, it’s an intimidating endeavor. I haven’t really biked after high school, and now that I live in Austin, I feel like there’s an expectation that if you’re biking, you should bike on the streets, which stresses me out even more. However, as I attempt to negotiate with my fears of biking, here are some tips I aim to follow:

  1. Take small steps.
    • No one is asking you to start doing bike tricks and flips the first few times you start to bike. (I don’t think anyone would ever expect me to do bike tricks, EVER) Take it slow and easy. Maybe you just practice getting on the seat and adjusting seat height for a few days. Then, maybe you try to get on the bike. After a few weeks, maybe you have a slow pace of biking around. Be patient with yourself! And make sure to wear a helmet throughout!
  2. Practice in a big space like a park or a parking lot.
    • I would start biking again if I knew the ground was even and flat. There is nothing more stable than the white striped granite flat land of a parking lot. Start there and explore your comfort zone. Then, after you feel more comfortable taking on curves and more folks around you as you bike, try a park! I know there’s a parking lot right across the apartment complex I live in that I’ve been eyeing for a while, but haven’t gotten there yet.
  3. Buy all the safety gear.
    • If you know you’re going to need it, for mental and/or physical support, buy all the bike gear you can. Get yourself a helmet, a bike light, knee and shin pads. Why are you laughing? I’m not kidding!
  4. Get someone experienced to guide you.
    • This is the most helpful for folks who need that kind of personal support. If you know someone who is an experienced biker, is patient and kind, ask them to come out and bike with you some days. They can show you some helpful tips on how to bike and biking etiquette while on the streets, getting from place to place. My partner is a very experienced bicyclist, so we are currently talking about a plan where I learn how to bike from her. 🙂
  5. Find more affordable means to fulfill your biking needs.
    • As a beginner, you may not want to or be able to spend a chunk of money on learning how to bike. Ask around to see if one of your friends would mind teaching you on their bike. Then, when you feel comfortable enough you can look online to see if there are people in your city who are selling used bikes at a price that’s within your price range.

Overcoming my fears around biking is still a work in progress, but I know it’s something I want to do as I find different activities that bring me joy as well as challenge my body. I hope to follow these tips myself, and hope that my desire to bike can get me on the streets of Austin one day. Till then, I’ll brave the parking lot.

Join us as we invite you to bike to allgo this Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm to celebrate our 33rd anniversary! Use B-Cycle’s promo code: LGBTQCR or, if you’re right at the kiosk, use 1062018 for a day pass. Can’t bike to us? Skate, bus, drive over to eat cake and learn basic bike repairs by Yellow Bike Project as we give away 10 multi tool kits for accessible bike repairs! Can’t wait to see you there.

Do you like to bike? What brings you most joy about it? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter (@allgoqpoc) and Instagram (@allgoqpoc)!