Recently, we biked. I don’t want to trouble myself trawling through the other posts to see if anyone else has told you this, so I’ll just say it. I’ll even give more details. We biked the Golden Gate bridge, on 4 bikes and a tandem, between the hours of 5 and 7 pm on Thursday.
I was a single bike holder, and as it seems I am with all things, I was reluctant. Not at first, note. I bounded down to the bike hire with energy and enthusiasm, listened eagerly as the route was explained and elbowed the others out of the way to get the first bike. The shop was selling t-shirts with the words ‘I biked the golden gate bridge’ printed on and before my foot had touched a pedal, I enviously eyed up these tees, not for their good quality or the bold colours of the cloth, but because of the simplicity and honesty of the wording. In 2 hours, that would be a fact. I would have biked the golden gate bridge, and I would be part of the club that was entitled to wear the shirt. 2 hours later I was willing to spend every penny to my name to buy one of these -shirts, to burn.
Every year, the family does a sporting activity on the family holiday. One engagement a year with nature and physical health. Every year my reaction is the same. It’s embarrassing that this is the case, but I must explain how the sporting activity inevitably pans out. A suggestion is made; maybe it’s a hike, maybe it’s a bike ride. One horrible year it was a ‘family fun run’. I stay calm, it’s still only a suggestion, not a fully formed plan. From the back of the room I do my best to nip it in the bud. I point out problems, highlight weaknesses in the idea, say how it could never work. I’m ignored. The plan takes shape and I reconcile myself to the idea. I have some persuasive siblings, they persuade me it will actually be marvellous fun, and I come to believe them. I’m ready and raring to go. This stage is represented in the golden gate example by the bounding down to the bikes.
We set off. I push the pedal down and almost immediately either swerve into the traffic or fall sideways off the bike. Every time. I really do never improve. My previous enthusiasm is replaced by a cold dread. I remember that I can’t do physical activities, because my body doesn’t let me. In no situation do I feel less safe than on a bike. Everyone bikes along merrily, singing, cajoling, joking with each other. Everyone is blissfully unaware that I am one swerve of the handlebars, one ill-timed sudden brake away from death. The danger is more real than I can describe. I have absolutely no control over my bike. If it wants to push me into the traffic then into the traffic I’ll go. If it wants to tip me off its side as I round a corner then off its side i’ll go (to the great anger of sammy and Jess following close behind me on the tandem. They masterfully execute an emergency stop and heartlessly yell things as they carry on past, leaving me with a grazed knee and blushing cheeks on the kerb).
But by the time I’ve rediscovered that I can’t ride a bike, it’s simply too late. Dad is almost a mile ahead, under the impression that he’s taking part in a high pressure biking race and must beat his fellow competitors. I’ve never known him to allow even young, ambitious Rachel to overtake him. My only option is to allow the bike to take me forward and be prepared to apologise to every unfortunate victim that crosses my path and suffers for it, be they cyclist, pedestrian or wheelchair user. The bike does not discriminate, it crashes into all.
In previous years at this stage, I would give up all hope, and lag behind (one infamous time by a full 2km- we were hiking along a curving mountainous peninsular in ’07 and I saw the rest of my family through the mist on the next curve, a whole mountain away, laughing at me). As I lagged I would cry. I would ask profound questions of myself, such as why I hated moving so much, and why I physically couldn’t move any faster even had I wanted to. Was I missing some vital muscles, an undiscovered disability that would explain why I was so inept? Or was I simply extremely, dangerously lazy?
This year I decided this would note the case. Sure, I lagged, but I held the tears back and I didn’t need to question anything. I had concluded by this time that it was just extreme, crippling laziness. Every half hour, I would catch up with the family that had kindly been waiting for me for almost half an hour (I was seriously moving slowly) and I would suggest as calmly as I could that I wait here and join them again on the return journey. It seemed like the ideal solution to me, but no such luck. I was forced to continue.
So 2 hours later, I complete my final dangerous swerve into the bike hire place. Im back, somehow alive, and all I want is to burn those fucking t-shirts, hanging gloatingly in the shop. Yes, I biked the golden gate bridge but I definitely don’t want the t-shirt to remind me of how I very almost biked OFF the golden gate bridge.