“It’s like riding a bike…” doesn’t really mean anything to me.
If you mean it’s a mind-bogglingly difficult task, then yes.
One of the most excruciating memories from my childhood was riding a bike along Han River with my classmates in elementary school. I must have been 8 or 9 years old. We were going from one end of the city to another. I wasn’t an athletic child. I was a big-sized, dorky and shy book nerd. My playground was a bookstore. My parents taught me how to ride a bike when we went to the park near the river. We didn’t have enough space in our neighborhood to ride a bike. It was a very hilly, small and hectic area where we lived. After graduating from the three-wheeled bike on the rooftop (I have photo proof of this), I’ve never owned a bike. Naturally, crossing the city from one end to the other by a bike was a big challenge for me. I remember looking at the river under the setting sun, feeling left out and stupid. I could get a perfect score in school tests, but I couldn’t ride a bike.
Fast forward to 2011, I had another interaction with the bike. It inspired me to write “It Takes Courage to Call It a Day” Long story short, I fell off my bike and landed hard on my shoulders and head, knocking my friend down in the process. Everyone gathered to see if I was still alive. I was lying down on the ground and couldn’t stop laughing and crying at the same time. I still have the scars and vivid memory. Once again, I failed.
I’ve ridden many bikes after that incident but only in the countryside. I was only comfortable when there was no traffic or fast moving objects. One bike ride in Yangshuo, Guangxi Province of China was one of the scariest experiences in my life, but we survived. So I can do it, but I’m just not good at it. Being the stubborn and high-achiever human being that I was, it’s hard for me to admit that I’m not good at something.
During my recent trip to Ireland, I had to get on yet another bike for an excursion. I was sure that I could handle it but I was secretly not excited about the schedule. It would’ve been fine if I was alone but I was with a group of 12 adventure travel experts from all over the world. I even named two guys ‘mountain elves’ because of obvious reasons. Not a good crowd to be in when I wasn’t confident of a bike ride. The beginning of the trail was a steep downhill. Ooo-la-la. I sent everyone ahead of me and followed the last. I wish I could say that I got on the bike and had the easiest day of my life, but then it would be a lie. I did have a good time though, but the start was extremely hard. When I saw other bikes going downhill, I couldn’t stop thinking about my accident a few years back. In my mind, my shoulder was bleeding heavily already.
No task too hard when you’re with the right people, right? I was embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t good at riding a bike. Such a simple task to everyone, but a few people stayed back and protected me front and back. There was a high chance that I would fall onto the wrong side of the road and into traffic. Such angels (Thank you, Maureen, Inga, and Matt!) They patiently saw me getting on the bike, peddling and falling repeatedly. After taking a lot longer than it should have, I was able to finally enjoying the beauty of the area.
We were on the Great Western Greenway, going from Newport to Mulranny. The Greenway trail is a total of 42km, from Achill to Westport, and is built for walking and biking. It was a perfect day to experience the quiet countryside of Ireland. As hard as it was, I was glad we were there. We cycled under old brick bridges, met cows and sheep, saw spectacular sceneries and sunset and met fellow explorers. The 18km trails weren’t too hard even for me, thankfully. We finished the day with a fantastic sunset over Mulranny. The weather was a bit gloomy, but it surprised us with golden rays and colorful skies at the end of the day.
There’s no challenge too big to overcome if you are determined to do so. Travel is what pushes me out of my comfort zone and gives me the opportunity to test myself. I’m up for most of the tasks but I have my weaknesses, like riding a bike. But the important thing is what we get out of the experience. I constantly try to do something different in each travel. This time in Ireland, I challenged myself to experience the beautiful Irish countryside by bike. I bonded with good friends along the way. Riding a bike won’t be “It’s like a riding a bike!” for me for a while, but I’ll keep trying.
The point is, the Great Western Greenway is a great place to cycle. For all levels of cyclists!