Learning to ride a bike in later life

Elizabeth Galloway shares how she learnt to ride a bike later in life.

I came to London from the Caribbean when I was 13 years old and I was unable to ride a bike.

The children on my street were helping me with learning to ride a bike – I was very embarrassed as I kept falling off and all the five and six year olds could ride a bike!

Last year (aged 70 years) I saw an advert in the Hackney Today about free cycling lessons for everyone in Hackney.

I realised in that moment that this was something that I had wanted to do all my life, and also as a diabetic who was walking for exercise I thought it would be a more interesting way of exercising and getting around.

I applied for what I thought would be group lessons as this would give me an opportunity to hide. I bought a helmet, gloves, knee and elbow pads.

However, when I turned up it was just me and my instructor! I laughed at myself as I would be unable to hide.

Lesson 1
My instructor took me to the bike shed to find a bike and then I pushed it to the basketball court. Then he adjusted it to the right height for me. Next he showed me how to get on and off the bike safely. He also said I would not need all of my safety gear, just the helmet and gloves. He then took off the pedals and I went off freestyling like a youngster. After 40 minutes he fitted the pedals and told me to try it with the pedals on. Off I went with lots of getting on and off, stopping and starting till the end of the lesson.

Lesson 2
We started with no pedals again and I enjoyed freestyling again – it was a bit like having no responsibility. Then he put the pedals on and it was stop and start, on and off all over again.

Lesson 3
This was very similar to lesson 2 – a mixture of pedals on and pedals off, and lots of frustration from getting nowhere fast and my bottom getting very sore. A cyclist friend told me there are padded pants you can buy, so I bought some and continued with my pedalling practice!

Lesson 4
I had been thinking about why I was unable to stay on the bike for any sustained amount of time. I had concerns – if I stopped quickly I might fly over the handle bars or I wouldn’t be able to stop in time. I spoke to my instructor about my fears and he reassured me that I was in control and could judge for myself when to slow down or stop. So off I went freestyling and then it was pedals on. I found I was now staying on for longer and longer. Then suddenly I was pedalling and riding around the basketball court. I was riding a bike. Yippeeeeeeee!!!

Has Elizabeth’s story inspired you to cycle?

Hackney Council is partnering with Cycle Confident to offer FREE cycling sessions.

Visit www.hackney.gov.uk/cycletraining or call 020 3031 6730.

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