Lisa Learns to Ride, Part I

The wheels started turning in her head earlier this year. “Rob,” she said, “I’d like to get a bicycle.” Getting Lisa (and myself) outdoors and engaged in exercise sounded like a great way to spend time together this year, so I immediately agreed.

Still, Lisa hadn’t actively biked in years. Decades, actually. So while I supported the notion, I was concerned about a couple of things – finding a suitable bicycle for her and getting a handle on what sort of riding we could do together.

Initially, I didn’t think the former issue would be too much of an obstacle. My chief concern was that bicycles had changed so much since she’d last ridden that selecting the right one might be a bit overwhelming.

In talking to her, I realized that Lisa’s RA might make aspects of the bike selection process a little more involved. A good bike would need handle-bars that were comfortable and gear-shifters and brakes that were easy to use. Likewise we needed to find something that would be easy on her knees and ankles. The only feature I’d spent much time pondering from a comfort standpoint when I’d purchased my bicycle was my seat. Clearly, helping Lisa would require closer scrutiny of other parts of the bike.

Riding together was also a concern. While I’m hardly an accomplished cyclist, I am perfectly comfortable spending 3 or 4 hours out on a ride. And so, I began to wonder:

  • Could Lisa and I do extended rides like this together?
  • Could we recognize where a good stopping point was and know we needed to head back?
  • If we overextended ourselves, what would be a good strategy for getting home together in good stead?
  • How would she fare riding up long or steep hills?
  • Would such riding bother her joints?
  • What would we do if we got separated?

Lots of questions to ponder. Still, I was excited about having my wife join me on the bike trail, so there was no question that we would forge ahead with the bike purchase.

April was busy for us both, so we finally began to go bike-hunting in mid-May. Our first stop was the local Performance bike store. After a bit of consultation with a sales rep, we selected a hybrid bicycle for Lisa to test ride. I had never seen Lisa on a bicycle before and she hadn’t ridden in years, so I didn’t know quite what to expect. I remember feeling a bit nervous that she might have trouble working the gear-shifter or the brakes. I also knew that she can have balance problems, so I was worried she might fall. Fortunately, the test-ride area was small and largely free of cars and pedestrians. Lisa expressed a bit of hesitation getting on the bicycle, but saddled up and set off on the bike. Her first ride in probably 20 years!

As Lisa began to ride away, all hesitation melted away and she took control of the bicycle naturally. She rode to the end of a street, turned around, and rode back. I’ll never forget what happened next. As she came toward me on the bike I saw a look of sheer joy.

While I’d seen my wife happy before plenty of times, I’d never seen this look of wonder and excitement on her face. At that moment, I knew we were absolutely getting Lisa a bicycle. Soon. Challenges we might face, but Lisa was going to learn to ride again.

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