These days, though I still frequently wake up with a touch of vertigo and a relatively mild case of the wobbles, rarely are the problems with my balance truly debilitating. But if severe loss of balance does hit, it hits hard and fast.
If gravity challenges me while I’m standing or walking, chances are that I’ll recover my balance quickly enough to avert disaster. However, there are situations that are too risky for my taste. Sarah now owns my bike and I’ve donated my ice skates and roller blades to Goodwill.
I was forty-one years old when I learnt to ice skate, forty-three when I began roller blading—I never became adept at either, and my braking techniques often yielded some pretty interesting results: skating into walls, grabbing onto people, running into trees, stumbling onto grass banks, slamming into letterboxes. So, other than missing the sensation of flying, I didn’t really mind giving up ice skating and roller blading.
Not so with bike riding. I was never an avid, ride-every-day cyclist, but when I did ride, I enjoyed it immensely. After the bloody brain, balance issues made biking impossible, and I missed it.
I was on the phone to Cindy, bemoaning my loss and reminiscing about the fierce joy I used to feel as I pumped furiously to the top of a hill and the elation I felt as I swooped down the other side, the wind in my face.
Cindy responded, “Why don’t you buy a tricycle?”
Her suggestion reminded me of a photo on my mantelpiece. In it, Dad is astride a bike, looking over at Mum—who, thanks to her own balance issues never mastered a two-wheeler—riding a tricycle by his side. They’re in their early fifties, the year they spent in Oxford, the year she discovered an adult-sized tricycle she could use—and did, riding around the neighborhood and on shopping trips to the local stores.
I plucked the picture off the mantelpiece and examined it. Mum and Dad looked happy, smiling at each other, possibly laughing. I zoomed in on the tricycle—it was yellow, and it had a basket in the back and a horn attached to the handlebars.
I pictured myself on a tricycle like my mother’s, with a basket, except the trike in my mind was red. I saw myself riding by the river, sometimes pedaling, other times coasting, the water in the background.
Except for table tennis, Mum wasn’t one for power or speed—I suspected she rode her trike at a leisurely pace. For me, power and speed were the whole point of bike riding—the main source of its joy.
As a college student, I rode my bike to the university every morning. I surged down the first long stretch, a glorious downhill, delighting in the speed and the sensation of complete and utter freedom. The next leg of the journey was also long, and uphill. I stood, all my weight on the pedals, the bike swaying from side to side as I pumped furiously, pushing myself to keep going without a break, rejoicing in my prowess.
I purchased a tricycle, a red one, with a basket.