It’s Never Too Late by Touran Soltanifard
Published in Issue 2
‘It’s never too late to learn to cycle!’ The advert proclaimed. It was a poster for a bike riding scheme for adults.
I had always wanted to ride a bike, but I thought at 57 years old my time had passed. I also thought my height would mean riding a bike would be doubly difficult. As I’m just under five foot I thought bikes for adults would be too big for me. Adding to this, I suffer from arthritis and a heart condition.
I never learnt as a child because I was born into a poor family in Tehran, and we did not have enough food to eat, never mind to buy a bike. I am the second of seven child in the family. As an adult when I started working, the first thing I did was buy a nice bike for my youngest brother. I wanted him to at least learn, even if it didn’t seem like it would happen for me.
The first lesson was the hardest. The instructor didn’t know about my height and brought a big bike with her. I struggled to get on it, and found it to be too high. The instructor put me in contact with an independent bike shop and I found a bike suitable for my height. What a relief, I thought. I bought a bike perfect for my height. I was determined to take this seriously.
One afternoon, I went on my own to practice sitting on my bike, and balancing.
‘You’ll never be able to ride a bike,’ a little girl said to me, laughing.
Her words made me more determined.
‘Yes, I will. You’ll see.’ I said this partly to myself.
There were times that I thought to myself I’ll never be able to ride a bike, but I didn’t want to give up. In addition to having an instructor, my son gave me some lessons. We went to the ASDA car park on early Sunday evenings to practice. Everyone kept telling me to push myself harder, to try and peddle on my own, but I was terrified. How am I going to balance? My biggest fear was that I would fall over, and as well as being painful it would be mortifying.
After many sessions, I started to peddle with my son holding the back of bike.
‘Don’t worry, I’ve got you,’ he said.
I continued pedaling and could hear his voice again far behind me. ‘You’re doing it!’
I was riding a bike on my own! In that moment I felt incredibly lucky. It felt like I won the lottery; something I thought was impossible actually happened.
Now, I ride my bike along the seafront, even cycling ten miles! I owe this achievement to my instructor and my son, but also to myself for not giving up. I have fallen in love with my bike and riding is a treat for me. Whenever I have a hard day I go for a bike ride. It relaxes me.
I wholeheartedly disagree with the misconception that if you didn’t learn to cycle as a child you’ve ‘missed your window’. Learning to cycle as an adult is no harder than learning as a child. Adults are more cautious than children, more self-aware that things could go wrong, and that’s what stops us.
The benefits of cycling are endless. I recently spoke to my GP and he said my heart condition has improved, as have the symptoms. Beyond the physical, mentally I feel I have achieved a great deal. So my advice to you is this: it is never too late to follow your dreams. Don’t let anyone, even that voice inside your head, tell you otherwise.