Today was my first bike ride since Boise, and not coincidentally, I am going to teach my wife how to ride a bike for her 34th birthday.It felt good to move the legs in circles again, though I am very aware my popliteus muscle is still swollen. That particular muscle is small but critical to knee movement and mine blow up frequently. I think it’s because my hamstrings are chronically tight, even with stretching, and I overflex my calf muscles in my spin. This means I’m generating energy from the upper calf, instead of from the quadriceps thus limiting my wattage output. More reason to lift weights twice a week, including a lot of leg presses. Stronger quads will yield faster bike splits and less potential injury. I love riding the bike, I’d say it’s my favorite of the three sports (though swimming is coming up fast) and when it’s best I feel like a kid high on the mystical combination of speed and freedom (or Speedom and Freed, their Jewish cousins).
I started riding a bike when I was five. I was on training wheels for a long time and it was a babysitter who held my bike seat as I learned balance. I don’t know which of the Kim sisters taught me, we ran through the entire family – Sudi, Yudi, Madi, and Kadi Kim all babysat us before moving on to work at Dunkin Donuts, then college and career. One of them held my seat and ran alongside me down Stephanie Road in Randallstown, Maryland and gave me the first taste of exhilaration. When I discovered my wife didn’t know how to ride a bike it’s been a personal mission of mine to teach her. She grew up in the San Fernando valley, sandwiched between very busy streets – riding a bike more than a block was dangerous, and therefore kind of pointless. I wouldn’t let my kids ride those streets, and even now as an adult I try and avoid them.
For several years I’ve been mentioning it and I think now that her dad bikes all the time down in Playa del Rey (just a short ride down the Ballona bike path) and she sees how much joy I get out of riding, that she’s been more inclined to give it a try.
One of the reasons I married this woman is because she embraces change. I am personally defined by a need for change and transformation. My writing is often about fundamental change in environment or personality and I constantly challenge myself to learn, grow, and evolve. It is no wonder that I found a partner who embraces change in her own way, and looks for ways to grow both herself and our relationship.
We don’t have a well established dynamic of teaching each other how to do things. In fact, it’s a defining characteristic that our conflict points are when we both know our way of doing things is the right way. I’ve never taught someone to ride a bike before, and I rarely teach her how to do things. Often we learn things together, in our own way, which brings us closer together. Therefore, this experience has some landmines I’d like to avoid in a few ways:
1) There are no expectations that she’s going to magically learn how to ride in an hour, day, week, or month.
2) Only positive feedback, and suggestions on methodology that may or may not work.
3) Complete safety and mechanical instructions so the machine and its system of motion is not a mystery.
Mostly importantly, she’s spent the last 34 years not riding a bike. She can take as long as she needs to learn how. In much the same way I had to come to my physical achievements on my own terms, riding a bike is hers to learn and find the happiness – if she does at all. Choosing not to do something is also a perfectly valid option.
Should she choose to learn and master it, the skill will be like…