I learnt how to ride a bicycle last week-what a shame!
I never let anyone find out that I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle,until I thought the matter over, and concluded I could
I pleaded with a close friend to act as my instructor.
Due to the fact that I was quite heavy,unlike a young child learning for the first time,he brought four assistants with him. It was a good idea.
These four held the graceful cobweb upright while I climbed into the saddle; then they formed in column and marched on either side of me while the Expert-my close friend- pushed behind; all hands assisted at the dismount.
Stones were a bother to me.
Even the smallest ones gave me a panic when I went over them.
I could hit any kind of a stone, no matter how small, if I tried to miss it; and of course at first I couldn’t help trying to do that. It is but natural.
It is part of the fool that is put in us all, for some inscrutable reason.
I was at the end of my course, at last, and it was necessary for me to round to.
This is not a pleasant thing, when you undertake it for the first time on your own responsibility, and neither is it likely to succeed.
Your confidence oozes away, you fill steadily up with nameless
apprehensions, every fiber of you is tense with a watchful strain, you start a cautious and gradual curve, but your squirmy nerves are all full of electric anxieties, so the curve is quickly
demoralised into a jerky and perilous zigzag; then suddenly the iron horse takes the bit in its mouth and goes slanting for the curbstone, defying all prayers and all your powers to
change its mind — your heart stands still, your breath hangs fire, your legs forget to work, straight on you go, and there are but a couple of feet between you and the curb now.
And now is the desperate moment, the last chance to save yourself; of course all your instructions fly out of your head, and you whirl your wheel away from the curb instead of toward it, and so you go sprawling on that granite-bound inhospitable pavement.
That was my luck; that was my
I dragged myself out from under the
indestructible bicycle and sat down on the curb to examine.
I started on the return trip. It was now that I saw a farmer’s donkey-wagon poking along down toward me, loaded with cabbages.
If I needed anything to perfect the precariousness of my steering, it
was just that.
The farmer was occupying the
middle of the road with his wagon, leaving barely fourteen or fifteen yards of space on either side,more than enough for me to steer myself through and clear away from his wagon.
I couldn’t shout at him — a beginner
can’t shout; if he opens his mouth he is gone; he must keep all his attention on his business.
But in this grisly emergency, the boy came to the rescue, and for once I had to be grateful to him.
He kept a sharp lookout on the swiftly varying impulses and inspirations of my bicycle, and shouted to the man accordingly:
“To the left! Turn to the left, or this jackass’ll run over you!”
The man started to do it. “No, to
the right, to the right! Hold on! that won’t do! — to the left! — to the right! — to the left! — right! left — ri — Stay where you are, or you’re a goner!”
And just then I made a harsh contact with the wagon in the starboard and went down in a pile.
I said, “Hang it! Couldn’t you see I was coming?”
“Yes, I see you was coming, but I couldn’t tell which way you was coming. Nobody could –now, could they? You couldn’t yourself — now, could you? So what could I do?”
There was something in that, and so I had the magnanimity to say so. I said I was no doubt as much to blame as he was.
Within the next five days I achieved so much progress that the naughty boy-who always mocked me from the sidelines- couldn’t keep up with me.
He had to go back to his watch-post at the top of the hill, and content
himself with watching me fall at long range.
There was a row of low stepping-stones across one end of the street, a measured yard apart.
Even after I got so I could steer pretty fairly I was so afraid of those stones that I always hit them.
They gave me the worst falls I ever got in
that street, except those which I got from rambling dogs that seemed to fill up the streets whenever I practised.
I have seen it stated that no expert is quick enough to run over a dog; that a dog is always able to skip out of his way.
I think that that may be true; but I think that the reason he couldn’t run over the dog was because he was trying to.
I did not try to run over any dog.
But I ran over every dog that came along.
I think it makes a great deal of difference.
If you try to run over the dog he knows how to calculate, but if you are trying to miss him he does not know how to
calculate, and is liable to jump the wrong way every time.
It was always so in my experience.
Even when I could not hit a wagon I could hit a dog that came to see me practise.
They all liked to see me practise, and they all came, for there was very little going on in our neighborhood to entertain a dog.
It took time to learn to miss a dog, but I achieved even that.
I can steer as well as I want to, now, and I will catch that boy out one of these days and run over him if he doesn’t reform.
Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live to tell it.