Instruments of learning come in many guises. The first thing that springs to mind is the tools of writing. Depending on one’s age, these can be as varied a slates, scribblers, typewriters or computers. Others think of musical instruments–a piano, a trumpet, or–heaven forbid, the favorite gift of aunts and uncles–drums.
But I think of a bike as being a serious instrument of learning.
I think it began the day my dad drove into the yard with a big black bike he’d bought from a neighbor. He offered it to my older-by-one-year brother. Brother got on. Dad gave a shove and off went Brother. His wheels wobbled across the rough ground but he kept riding until he circled back to Dad.
My lips deepened into a frown. Anything my brother could do, I could do. I would ride that bike too.
The bike was too big for me to reach the pedals, but not about to be deterred, I worked out a system. I leaned the bike away from me, stuck my leg under the bar and pedaled. I’m sure we were a strange sight–or would have been if I could make it work. All summer my knees had thick blackened scabs, but I was determined. If my brother could ride, I could ride. Or die trying. And eventually I did–learn to ride, that is. It was a year before my parents found an affordable bike with no bar for me to ride. In the meantime,I spend many enjoyable hours riding the bike beside me rather than under me. And I learned some life-long lessons.
Such as, anything worth doing, is worth doing to obsession.
Well, maybe that isn’t such a great lesson even if it has stuck with me through the years.
But I did learn if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And never let a little pain discourage you.
There were other lessons learned from the bike. Such as the time brother was riding down the sidewalk headed straight for me. I was ordered to get out of the way . Or Else! Being bigger and a boy, he thought I should be the one to move. I likewise reasoned that he was only a year older and boys are no better than girls so he would have to give in first. Now we aren’t really stubborn (and don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise) but neither of us was prepared to concede. I learned another valuable lesson. Don’t stand in the way of something bigger than you.
Now that I think of it, there were other important lessons. Don’t go too fast downhill. Avoid ruts. Take a leisurely pace and you can visit with your friends. Exercise doesn’t necessarily have to be torture.
No doubt about it, the bike has been a valuable tool in training me.