A few weeks ago, at the age of 25, I learned how to ride a bike. Yes, I had been taught as a child; but upon trying to ride after over ten years with virtually zero bicycling experiences, I realized that riding as an adult is quite different. Luckily, our local Berkeley REI offers a class just for folks like me.

At 10 a.m. on SuperBowl Sunday, I met five other adults with little to no bicycling experience in the parking lot of REI where we signed waivers and piled into the official REI Outdoor School van. Aptly titled How to Ride a Bike, this class promised to make us feel more confident on two wheels, but as we set off for the El Cerrito DMV (its parking lot would serve as our training grounds), we exchanged nervous jokes.  We were all there for the same purpose, however, and agreed to support each other and cheer each other on, sharing stories about our motivations for participating in this lesson.

The instructors were fantastic. Patient and supportive, they not only had a clear passion for riding, but also for teaching. We spent the first hour or so on mountain bikes with no pedals; we were not to even think about pedaling until we had mastered “gliding” down the gentle incline of the driveway, making a wide-sweeping right turn and cruising halfway through the parking lot back to the van.

The instructors had said that we would be “begging for pedals” after a while, and boy were they right! After that first hour of gliding, I felt so comfortable balancing on two wheels that when I was granted pedals, I could not believe how easy it all was! Because my body now knew how to control a bicycle without the stability of pedals, I didn’t have that familiar tension and anxiety of “how do I balance and pedal and steer and…?”  I just rode.  I even made it to the “advanced” level of our beginner class, slowly weaving my way in and out of a cone-slalom-type course.

Ten years of fear and discomfort vanished in a mere three hours, and I look forward to the next time I will hop on a bike to show off my new-found skills.

The Outdoor School offers a ton of classes in Berkeley (and around the Bay Area), from biking and rock climbing to sea kayaking and photography. The instructors are experts in their fields with years of experience and a drive to inspire others. Check them out if you, too, want to tackle a lifelong fear… or  just pick up a new hobby.

This is the third in a series of Scouting Berkeley posts by Kim Weisberg, who lives in Berkeley. See previous posts on Ohmega Salvage and Kitchen On Fire.

Photo: REI

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