Learning to Ride: Rabaha’s Cycling Story

Until recently, my only cycling experience was riding a tricycle as a child. Unlike other kids, I never ‘graduated’ to a bicycle. I remember nagging my mum for one, but something always came in the way. We didn’t have enough practice space, there were cost issues or concerns about safety. After all these ifs and buts, I was eventually ‘too old’ to cycle. That’s what I thought, until I came back to Glasgow for my doctorate studies.

When I was quarantining after travelling, looking out the window was my only adventure for ten days. Whilst people-watching, I found myself looking forward to the arrival of a woman who cycled to our accommodation every other day. I never got the chance to talk to her, but I sensed this freedom and independence from her and it rekindled all my lost cycling dreams. Before long, I found myself searching online for where I could learn to cycle.

I found Bike for Good were offering a service for all my cycling needs. The lessons were free, I didn’t need a bike, helmet or accessories and most of all, due to Covid the lessons were 1-1 which was a huge relief for me. I sent an email to understand the booking process, then booked my first lesson for when I finished self-isolating.

That’s where I had my first surprise. Having not done any sport or cycling before, even walking the bike to the park was a new experience. It kept getting in my way and I was horrified to see it didn’t have any training wheels! I asked my instructor, “is this bike really for me? I haven’t been on a bicycle before”. They explained this new approach to learning where you learn to balance on the bike first before you pedal. Thanks to the slope of the Kelvin walkway and wind behind me, the balancing was easy. The pedalling however would just not come to me! 

Lesson after lesson, I would try to push the pedal, but it wouldn’t budge. On days it did, I wasn’t able to put the other foot on the pedal to complete a stroke. We tried changing bikes, gears and strategies, but four lessons down, all I could do independently was glide. My record of pedalling was stuck at five strokes, and I was growing impatient with myself. My goal was to learn by my birthday which seemed increasingly near.

I asked my instructors if I was their oldest learner (I wasn’t), if everything was okay with my body (it is) and if I should get a bike with training wheels so I could focus on pedalling without worrying about balancing (you should never do this). Outside of my lessons, I looked up if exercise bikes could help and I even secretly planned to get a bike with training wheels, but thankfully the bike I had my eye on didn’t allow the right fittings. I was ready to give up on myself, but my instructors were not. They kept reminding me not to worry or rush and promised one day it would be ‘as easy as riding a bike’.  

On my fifth lesson, it actually was! The lesson didn’t start out great. I was to practice just one stroke, and even that wouldn’t happen enough to reach the first cone used to mark distance. My instructor helped me pedal a few times, but I couldn’t seem to pedal unaided. Then the magic happened… I don’t know how it happened exactly, but suddenly I was cycling on my own down the Kelvin walkway, which once seemed so distant. Behind me my instructors called “excellent!”, “bravo!” and in my head all I was thinking was “is this real or am I dreaming?”

Since then, I haven’t stopped cycling. When I’m not on my bike, I’m watching biking videos, reading biking books or dreaming of getting back on the bike. It’s brought structure to my days too because now I know I need to get my work done on time so I can get outside to practice. It’s helped me form friendships; there’s so many people who cycle it’s like there’s a secret cycling society! It makes me immensely happy, whoever invented the bicycle is my hero. Most importantly, it’s helped me realise that when learning a new skill, trusting yourself isn’t all that’s needed, we need to trust the learning process too. When the time is right, cycling is indeed as easy as everyone says it is.

Now that I’m progressing further with my cycling, my goals are ever-evolving. Initially, all I wanted was to be able to go to uni and shops but thanks to my reading of all biking books, I have a growing list of to-dos. Some of them are still personal milestones that are yet to be mastered, like coming down full speed from the tallest hill in Kelvingrove or riding up a hill and pedal while standing as people do; but some of them are really crazy, e.g. trying stunts like Danny Mackaskill in At the Edge or pedalling all the way to Edinburgh and beyond like in A Bit Scottish. And the funny thing is, it doesn’t appear as impossible as the first pedal stroke appeared. That’s the thing with cycling – now that I can ride my bike, and go from one end to the other unaided, everything else feels accomplishable.


Aged 1 month and ten days in #BikingYears”

If you’ve been thinking about learning to ride, check out our cycling training for all ages and abilities offered on a sliding donation scale.

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