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Never too old to learn

My first official blog post, how exciting! Since this is a blog about cycling, and this is my very first entry, I thought I would begin by sharing the monumental moment of achievement when I first managed to maintain my balance atop a two-wheeled machine without outside assistance. For most, this day occurs a few years before starting school, but for me it happened a solitary year before I finished. It’s crazy to think it took me this long considering I grew up in a cycle mad country, Belgium, and have Dutch relatives whose second nature it is to pedal their bicycle. Nonetheless, I was 17 years old and still couldn’t fathom how people didn’t topple when taking to two wheels; it felt like you had to be Einstein to figure it out and began to think my mastery of it was about as likely as encountering a smiling Belgian. Little did I know that my friends were planning an intervention that would drastically change my life.

Balance = M*C^Impossible

Balance = M*C^Impossible

It was the summer of 2003, and my best friends had recently got wind of my inability to ride a bicycle; two of these friends, Jamie and Hallie, decided to take it upon themselves to become my mentors in mastering the dark arts of balancing on two wheels. Equipped with Hallie’s mountain bike and a whole lot of patience, they found me a quiet spot where we wouldn’t be disturbed and began the arduous and repetitive task of sitting me atop a bicycle. The lesson began with my feet acting as stabilisers; I was instructed to shuffle myself up and down a 20 m stretch while trying to use my feet as sparingly as possible. Following this, my dear friends took it in turns to steady my wobbly frame, patiently acting as surrogate fathers as they encouraged me to pedal and find an inner Zen of balance. The afternoon wore on, and though tempers never frayed, I could sense my newly adoptive parents becoming increasingly frustrated with their oversized son’s inability to determine his centre of gravity.

And then, without warning, it happened. Just like the moment Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon; or the moment Sir Edmund Hillary reached the summit of Mount Everest; or when some chap clocked Justin Bieber with a water bottle, so too my moment of success had arrived. I was away with no stabilising shuffles, no surrogate parents and, most importantly, no falling over. Again and again I defied the laws of gravity, floating atop this majestic metal steed with my newfound confidence. The lesson’s finale was a true test of my newly acquired sense of balance with the infamously dangerous “Obstacle Course of Death”, complete with sticks, water bottles and moccasins. This was mastered with aplomb, and the day was over. A huge success, we made our way home for the award ceremony where I received my certificate of outstanding merit with immense pride. Even wheeling the bike through poop on the walk home could not sour my mood; it was Hallie’s bike after all, not my problem.

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My certificate of outstanding merit

My cycling career had begun...

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