The first time I rode my bike without training wheels and kept my balance! I still feel the excitement and triumph of achievement. I must have been 6 years of age. We had just come back from Surinam and lived with my grandmother and auntie in Rijswijk, as we did during every leave in Holland. My elder sister had patiently sacrificed herself to teach me how to bike on my auntie’s big black bicycle.
The paved street was our training area. I climbed on the bike, the saddle was far too high, so I pedaled standing up, hands fiercely tightened on to the handlebars. My sister holding both saddle and handlebars while running besides me. Back and forth on the road. Try again! Look straight ahead! Don’t be afraid! Keep pedaling! Hold onto your handlebars! Both of us had red cheeks from endless efforts.
Suddenly, almost sure that I would never learn to bike, I flew! My sister shouting encouragement from far behind. And me swaying the huge bike from side to side, independently until the end of the street. Finally victory. And a big smack against the sidewalk when I was trying to stop!
From that moment my world grew bigger. Back in Paramaribo, I cycled to school on my own. In the blazing sun over sandy roads, vividly feeling free. I have strong memories of the soft sound of the tires rolling over compacted sand. A sharp shadow on the road, moving smoothly with me in the tropical heat.
In our ‘Get in Touch’ group in Eindhoven we regularly head for places outside the city center. Most of the spouses are trained bikers, and the ones who never biked before, manage to learn to cycle in no time. They share the feeling of freedom and independence when biking and enjoy the exercise. A good way to recharge in fresh air for free! Or share the fun of touring with partners and friends.
I don’t know how I would have managed without a bike when I was a student in Amsterdam, crossing the city from North to South and from East to West. Or later, with kids in front and rear seats and full shopping bags hanging from the handlebars.
When we go out on ‘Get in Touch’ bike tours in a long lively row, it touches me with pride and warmth and always reminds me of my first ride on my auntie’s bike. Independently!
Carola writes for Eindhoven News on a monthly basis, she writes about things happening in her life, subjects that touch the multicultural world of Eindhoven: www.indigo-wereld.nl