Look Ma, No Hands!

I started riding my bicycle last month after letting it sit for way too many years collecting dust in the garage. This past Monday, I hit the road (well, really the sidewalk, as the road I live on is so busy it can be a bit scary for a cyclist) for an hour-long ride.

Thirty minutes into my journey, I couldn’t help but recollect the days of my youth when I practically lived on a bicycle. And visions of riding hands-free found their way back through the dust and fog of my memory. I needed to try this. I mean, why wouldn’t I? It’s par for the course where bike riding is concerned, right? It’s a magnificent taste of the excitement of youth and all its fearlessness.

So I thought about it. I let my hands roll to the edges of the handle bars until only my finger tips steered. I was almost there. But why couldn’t I just let go? Like I had done probably a thousand times before so many years ago? What could possibly happen? I mean, if I lost control of my steering, I could fall; but is that such a horrible thing? Well, I suppose that depends on how I fall and at what angle I hit the ground. I’m wearing shorts, so I don’t want to land on my knees. That would hurt. Or I could break my fall with my hands, but then my wrists might break. Or I could fall over sideways and not have use of neither my hands nor my knees to break the fall. Then my head would be unprotected and vulnerable, and who knows what would become of me!

So I ride for about 15 minutes, steering with the tips of my fingers, flirting with danger a few times until finally and let go for what seemed like …seconds! What the heck happened to me? Where did the old Jeanie go? I mean the young Jeanie.  Am I now this tired out middle ager too scared to take risks?

So, while I did not actually let go of the handle bars for more than three seconds, I was filled with this oddly encouraging nudge to make doing this my goal. You know, riding with no hands. So I set out the following day on my bicycle – same time, same route. With the temps in the 90’s, I took notice of how much more energized I was at the start of the ride than I had been near the end of the ride the day before. So naturally, I wondered if these first 30 minutes of riding might be critical to my mission. I surveyed the terrain carefully, waiting for the smoothest stretch to reveal itself, and then I did it. I let go of the handle bars. Now don’t get me wrong, I still had visions of pavement splatter resonating through my being, but I knew as long as I had energy, a solid, even ground free from grassy patches and cracks, and the will to do it, I was ready. So I let my hands go and I was suddenly flying! First for only about eight seconds before I felt the urge to retake the handles, then for 30 seconds, then for 60 seconds. Ahh, I was back. The fearless life-loving 12-year-old Jeanie.

So again, Wednesday and then today, I repeated the routine. Each time showcasing my newly regained skill and confidence as I cruised along on my hour-long ride and every so often threw caution to the wind and released control of those pesky handlebars.

Today, I knew I was once again the master of my ride. Fears are natural, but it’s often difficult to find that place in our brain that we can switch off to avert our fears. What I realized, in my quest to rediscover my hands-free independence, was that all I needed was a few things: to tackle my fear at my best physical point, not tired, not overheated or exhausted, and not discouraged. So basically, right at the beginning of the journey! Maybe all that means is getting a good night’s sleep and eating good, healthy foods so that the body is well-equipped. Secondly, I had to scan the terrain and make sure that there were no obvious obstacles that would hurt me should I fall or fail. If I did fall, that was OK as long as my environment around me was protective and supportive and would allow me to get back up and try again. Basically, a safety net – in this case, a lot of soft grass! And finally, there was a lot of self-talk involved. Self encouragement, self motivation, and visions of what the reaching the final goal would feel like. I knew I wanted to soar and be that fearless child once again. I wanted to fly! And that is what I did. I flew today! Now what shall I do tomorrow?

What have you done lately that left you feeling like you were flying? Or what fears are you hoping to conquer in the upcoming weeks? I’d love to hear from you.