I learned to ride a bike in 1967. My older brother’s Malvern Star, running a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed bicycle gear hub on a full sized steel frame, with 27inch wheels. I was straddling the top tube, rather than sitting on the saddle, this allowed my small legs to reach the peddles, but I could only push them half way round before needing to kick them up so I could push down again.
Leaning forward, clutching at those rams head handlebars, I managed to complete a wobbly, unsteady sweep from one side of my street, up the driveway, along the footpath and back without crashing.
Part of learning to ride is learning to stop, which took a degree of coordination and dexterity I hadn’t yet developed. Stopping involved a less than graceful calculated fall onto the grassed nature strip.
The sensation of moving forward under my own steam on a contraption built for the purpose was invigorating. Washing away the fear, I felt grown up like one of the big boys, those who had paper rounds and were brimming with confidence, who would fishtail their bikes at speed along the gravel road at the bottom of our street near the creek. Or like Mr. Jamison, the retired WW1 Light Horseman who lived in the house on the corner, he would cycle home from the pub with a Gladstone bag full of beer balanced effortlessly on the top tube while singing a marching tune.
Pushing on, the wide arching circles grew larger and the speed increased. Suddenly I was out of control but unable to stop. Holding on for dear life and drawn down by the gentle sloping gradient towards the creek, rocketing towards my fate, my life really did flash past- there’s Mrs Hitch and Mrs. Moore with her hair in pink rollers gossiping.
Leaving the bitumen, bumping across the gravel, I had the sensation of flying as the bicycle and I parted company. Landing on a grassed mullock heap, I sat up dazed and unscathed. My first words were “Is the bike ok?“ Since that time I have had many cycling adventures, smashes, crashes and a few broken bones. But that first exhilarating ride has never left me.