Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Learning to Ride a Two Wheeler - How am I Doing?

Since my first real trip out of a safe seafront ride on 25th June, and after a couple of hours, over two days, of learning to actually ride the bike, the weather has been nothing but torrential rain and high winds.  Definitely not weather to be out learning to ride a bike.

Yesterday however was a beautiful day.  So I made up a flask of tea, a bottle of water and some sandwiches, and along with my ciggies I set off intending to spend a good few hours cycling out further from home.

I set off with the intention of cycling into Christchurch, visiting the priory, a walk along the river and have my packed lunch.

It didn't however turn out that way.

On setting out from home where the residential streets are very quiet at that time of day, I braved it and rode on the road.  A bit nervous, but I kept a good distance from the kerb, about the same distance as I would have to with the front wheel of my trike, and all went smoothly.

On meeting up with the fast main road, I walked across the pedestrian crossing to the opposite side,  in order to cycle illegally on the pavement until it becomes legal to cycle on a bit further down.

I passed a couple of pedestrians, who with a smile stood aside for me.  I duly thanked them, and also had a quick chat about us finally getting some lovely weather.

I also passed 5 cyclists coming in the other direction cycling illegally just as I was.  I had to pull in for them as there is not enough space for cyclists to pass each other safely while still riding.

The pavement became legal to cycle on a short way down, and after riding a little way further I had to stop.  Why?  because quite honestly the journey from the time I picked up the main road until that point had not been at all a pleasure.

The paths, and I include the shared path, for a novice 2 wheeled cyclist, is a very hair raising experience.  Ok I suppose I can't count the part of the path I was illegally riding on, but my only other choice was to cycle on the main road.  For me that's a no, no.

The paths are barely wide enough for 2 pedestrians to walk comfortably side by side and if they happened to pass another pedestrian going in the opposite direction they would have to go in single file.  On top of that in many places there is nothing separating one from the fast moving traffic coming towards one.  One slip and it would be your last one.  As a novice cyclist the sheer fear makes one cling with white knuckles to the handle bars and has one wobbling all over the place. 

On my trike of course I have never noticed this as I am stable and there is little chance of me wandering off the curb into the traffic.

So after I picked up the legal cycling part of the path and also ridden for a while along that I truly had had enough.  At that point I was wishing I had taken my trike instead, and knew that even if I did carry on into Christchurch town I would only be dreading the journey back.

I turned around in disappointment at myself for being such a wuss and instead thought I would cross over and visit Highcliffe Castle grounds instead, knowing that from there it was a direct pathway down onto the beach path and I could go home from there.

But, a little way up the road I found an entrance in the hedge that lead onto the golf course and a very pleasant ride/walk down to Steamer Point.

I was really surprised that I hadn't known about this pathway.  I knew the golf course was there but not that there was a pedestrian/cycle path.

I did get to the woods part of Steamer Point and started to ride through it, but it was so very muddy after all the rain that we have had, and I was by now starving hungry, that I back tracked on myself with a mental note to visit there again and investigate further.  I had enjoyed that part of my trip out.

Once out of that area and back on the main road I only had a short way to pavement cycle before turning off into the Castle grounds.  Where I sat and had my lunch and cup of tea which the flask had kept boiling hot.

I sat contemplating how I hadn't enjoyed my cycling whilst having to cycle near the main road, and thought about what I was going to have to do about it.  If I am too scared to go amongst traffic, even when on a pavement, how am I possibly going to replace my trike with this 2 wheeler for my everyday transport?

I am petrified of falling off of it, even though I am not finding balancing too hard as long as I don't have to make any tight cornering.  I thoroughly enjoy riding it when off the road and where there is no traffic, but there isn't the same joy during the whole of a journey that I get from riding my trike.

I desperately want to learn to ride and enjoy riding this thing, but I am finding it harder to get the hang of than I did when I learned to drive.  I had no fear of learning to drive, I just loathed driving.  Here's me now, loving cycling but terrified learning.

The return journey along the seafront was glorious.  Loved every second of it.  I also stopped off there for a ciggie and to drink the rest of my tea.  Along with meeting an elderly couple and their dog and having a nice chat with them.

By the time I got home I had been out for 3 hours so had had plenty of sunshine and a break from the flat.  So all in all it was a worth while journey.

I did get home though dreading the thought of forcing myself out on the bike again.

I am so very angry at the moment with the fact that we have no cycling infrastructure.  The Dutch can leave their homes and ride directly onto safe paths, lanes, and cycle roads.  We have nothing in this area except a shared cycle/pedestrian pavement that is terrifying for a novice and very dangerous for young children to cycle on.

Note:  The first couple of images are from google maps.


  1. Glad to see you are blogging. I thought something might have happened to you. Just keep trying and I feel sure your confidence will increase. On the cycle show, channel 4 last night , one of the guests said his way of keeping safe is to wobble about and cars will avoid you!! Don't know if that is true though. Stick to the pavements but be prepared to stop for pedestrians.

    1. Yes, I saw that show and had to smile when he said wobbling is a great way to keep cars away.

  2. It is the same here in Australia it it gets better as you find those little paths you didn't know about before you cycled and as you get more confident. It is really hard work cycling on the footpath when you have to dodge pedestrians and watch out for cars coming out of driveways but once you become familiar with the roads where it is safer to ride on the road you will find it much more fun I am sure.

    1. Hi Vicki. I do so hope I get to the stage soon where I find it "Fun" instead of a chore of learning. I am determined to keep at it as there are so many places I could go on a 2 wheeler than I can on my trike.

  3. I'm being a little presumptuous, but, I think you're being too hard on yourself. You've only been on 2 wheels for a matter of 'hours' in reality. When the familiarity kicks in, what you rightly find alarming now will not have anything like the same impact. It is very hard to concentrate on the physical act and keeping yourself safe in a busy environment until it is automatic. If you'd started on a 2-wheeler as a child you wouldn't be allowed out of the cul-de-sac for weeks yet :-)

    Don't worry about trying to deal with motorists until you no longer worry about the motor skills.

    1. I think you are right BB. I realise now that I should ride the 2 wheeler as much as I can in non, or low, slow traffic areas for a while, and just enjoy it. I can still use my trike for going from A to B when shopping or visiting. Just until I feel more confident.

      Attempting to ride into town on just my 2nd real day of cycling was far too ambitious, even stupid if you like.

      If I push myself too hard I would probably end up hating the bike and end up back on my trike permanently.

  4. I do agree with BB and think you should just go out on your bike because it's fun. Finding different ways to get where you want to go is great and I also think that you are a bit hard on yourself.

    Having learned to ride a bike in Holland and being good at bike riding I can honestly say that after watching some video's of the traffic in the UK I would be damn scared.

    There seems to be more consideration fir bike riders here in Australia then what there is in the UK and that is sad.

    I am hoping to get back on a bike myself in spring :)

    1. I really want to get over to Holland one day and experience bike riding there for myself.

      Yes, I agree. I have come to the conclusion myself that I have to stop pushing myself and only cycle where I feel comfortable until branching out on it.


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