30 Thoughts on 30 #3: Learning to Ride a Bike was Hard…

I have an embarrassing secret whose humiliation grows with every friend of mine whose son or daughter learns to ride a bicycle before or near the age of five. Such accomplishments are broadcast in Facebook pictures and congratulatory comments commence. My niece will be riding a bike soon, too. Hooray, I think. But shame lurks beneath the surface.


Well, if my hope is to offer some honest confessions as part of my 30 Thoughts on 30, then I must admit this fact: I was 10 years and 8 months old before I learned to ride a bike.

There, I said it. Finally put the fact into the open. No more running, no more hiding. I’m blushing, even now, as I type.

I avoided riding my bike as most kids avoid going to the dentist. While my friends pedaled the three blocks from my house to the swimming pool in my grandparent’s backyard, I would run alongside them, keeping pace as best I could. They rolled along on cruise control. I panted in the background, my legs working overtime. When it came time to ride bikes in the neighborhood, I made up excuses to hide out at home—I have schoolwork or a sports game, I would fib. Anything to escape the disgrace of my two-wheeled impotence.

In 4th grade, I ran a mile in nearly 6 minutes, read most of Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and piloted the nation’s first ever zone read based football offense. But I still couldn’t ride a bike. Worse, I never even tried. It took until May of that school year before I summoned the “courage” to practice in an empty parking lot near my house. Protected by sprouting weeds and empty dumpsters, I learned to ride that damn bicycle in a place where nobody could see me fail.

I think everyone has those stories he or she doesn’t want the world to know. Not the silly slips of tongue or the indiscretions of youth, either. I mean the truly, stomach twisting, make you cringe and cover your ears for mercy ones.

I have three. One involves a Wall Street Journal, Friendship Sunoco Station, and my parent’s Trailblazer. The second ropes in a final exam in college and a dishwasher.

Not being able to ride a bike until I was 10 is the third. Old friends still jab me with this one when their children do something at 6 that I couldn’t do at 10.

Now blessed with the hindsight of a 30-year old, I think that I can admit such ribbing is fair.



  1. My first ride was down a backyard hill straight into a garage door the stopping resulted in my wrenching the handle bars up 90 degrees and hitting the door with my face. My instructor failed to include braking on lesson one I was in 4th grade too. So shut up

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. Misery enjoys company. We could have enjoyed the world together through our 4th grade eyes without the soil and speed of two-wheels to interfere. Hills and I never got along, either.

    1. Thanks, Jordan. Exactly what I’m talking about. Just pouring a little more salt in the wounds. That’s OK, I can take it! I’ll purchase the little man a sweet bell for the bike and bring it over in a few weeks when I’m home!

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