Friday, 30 October 2009

The First Ride

Time flies. It really does.

When there is work to be done, events to plan or a tight deadline, it's always on your back before you know it. Time and it's ability to fly, seems to be even more pronounced when you're dreading the impending event. Well before I begin to sound too much like Stephen Hawking, deliberating the finer points it time perception, I'll get the point.

I'm dreading learning to ride a bike.

In fact, I don't think 'dreading' really covers it. The idea of learning is intimidating after all these years of cycling sobriety. The planning of the training is nerve racking, anything mildly sport related normally results in injury on my part. This is no exaggeration, I broke my thumb and wrist during a mere kick about during lunch time at school and dislocated my knee throwing a bouncy ball around in sixth-form. Some people really aren't cut out for sport, I am definitely one of them...

So as you might imagine, actually grabbing the two-wheeled-titan, after a ten-year hiatus and riding it, is terrifying.

I can honestly say, the walk to my first attempt was long. Despite only being ten minutes away, I was dragging my feet and wanted to put it off, for as long as possible.

I bumped into a friend from work on our walk over, it was a typically awkward, dead-end conversation. Never-the-less I strove to keep it going, to the extent I began to ask about his lacrosse team in great detail, a sport I neither understand or want to understand. Eventually I relinquished my interrogation about his dinner plans, when he insisted he had to leave as he needed sleep.

Solemnly I continued toward my first attempt in ten years, whilst Coach Woodward did wheelies and various other tricks. This did not do much for my confidence, I still struggle to understand how people stay upright, without pedaling on a two wheel bike.

I insisted that I should learn on grass. Despite the recommendation of my teachers Coach Woodward and Coach Ali. My logic was that I am going to fall off, so I want my fall as cushioned as possible.

I was wrong. Peddling on grass is twice as hard.

So I moved onto a near by cricket run. And this was the result:
(N.B Video is quiet, crank up your volume)

That is Coach Woodward's excited voice you can hear in the background. Luckily there was no blood but unfortunately there was no success either.

The problem was that Coach Woodward's bike is a special mountain bike and cannot have stabilisers fitted. Therefore I attempted a technique I like to call the 'Waddle Walk'.

I started by pushing myself along with my legs in order to gain speed and then began to pedal, as getting the initial speed is the hardest part. Coach Woodward said that some learners start with this technique and no pedals, until they can eventually lift their feet up and still balance.

These were the comical results.

As stylish and professional the 'Waddle Walk' looks, it does takes time to get used to pedaling. I either missed the pedals altogether, placed my feet wrongly or spent so long looking down thinking about pedaling, that I ended up on the floor.

What did I learn:

1) Pedaling on grass is hard, especially on wet grass and turning is even harder!
2) People always laugh when you fall off.
3) Watching other people showing off on a bike really doesn't help your confidence.

Next time I'll treat you to more videos of my attempts and introduce you to my bike.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Students Become The Teacher:

Learning to ride a bike takes will power, patience and a good teacher. My previous teachers either gave up too quickly or didn't know the right way to go about it.

This time round I've enlisted two helpers, two of my university housemates George Woodward and Atif Ali.

On the left, Coach Ali and on the right Coach Woodward.

George is a keen mountain-biking-extreme-dude. He rides down hills in the country at brake neck speeds and recently returned from a trip to Morzine in France, a mountain biking hot spot. Check out his blog for more.
George is very ambitious and always strives for the next level in my biking skill.

Coach Woodward: "I'm totally pumped to teach Laurence to ride, some of the fails will be pretty gnarly and he'll probably spank it big time but we're all stoked here in Stoke to see him succeed."

Atif, like many is a regular bike rider and learned when he was very young. He has missed using a bike since he has started driving and been at university. Atif also brings a more methodical approach and an understanding balance to the teaching team.

Coach Ali: "What the hell did George just say!?"

                  Coach Ali fulfilling the proud paternal role

Check back soon, for my first ever ride in 10 years and hilarious videos of my attempts!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Little White Lies 2

I was in year 9 of secondary school and another school trip was approaching. This year was a water sports trip to France, which sounded amazing, especially in comparison to the previous two years in Germany seeing cathedrals with thousands of steps and France seeing caves, where they kept wine.

The plans for the water sports trip included water skiing, banana boats and all the wet fun imaginable...(except that).

However there was one day on the itinerary which involved a group bike ride around the area. Which obviously struck fear into my heart, how could I possibly avoid going on a bike ride everyone was doing? I couldn't muddle through and hope no one noticed me falling off every five seconds or perhaps I could magically learn before the trip.

Instead I asked my tutor, a P.E teacher, about the trip and whether you had to go on a bike ride.

"Whys that?" he asked

"Erm, erm, erm, I just don't fancy it, know what I mean" I replied in the most nonchalant and macho voice i could muster.

"Well, yeah probably, sure you can put up with it."

Luckily, he was a particularly simple minded P.E teacher, who didn't click why someone would adamantly not want to go on a bike ride for no reason. Maybe the idea of a 16-year-old unable to ride a bike was ridiculous. Either way, the last thing I wanted to do was give ammunition to a cocky, cynical, athletic P.E teacher. He was the last person I would ever want to know about not being able to ride a bike.

I never did go on the trip, no way could I risk having to go on the bike ride, even though everyone was going on the trip and I really wanted to do everything else.

I remember when everyone got back, all tanned and full of stories about some lad's dirty pants, I asked someone.

"How was that big bike ride then?"

"Oh, we never went."


Little White Lies

It occurred to me that not being able to ride a bike came with wider ramifications.

Not only was there a host of failed attempts, bruised knees and a battered ego but a few little white lies. The fact remains that even though I can't ride a bike at the age of 20, most people don't know that. Hence their responses.

This will obviously change when I tell my colleagues, friends and all the randomers in my Facebook friends list about this blog.

In years gone by, around the age of fifteen I met up with some friends after school, who decided we should go to the park on our bikes. I retorted that I didn't have my bike with me, whilst feeling subtly proud about maintaining my secret. Never-the-less, my friend had a solution.

A scooter.

I guess it could have been worse, he could have had another bike in his garage...

Still you need to bear in mind, my balance was not that of an agile tight-rope walker and more of a dizzy, one legged tramp who had recently drank a bottle of paint stripper.

Oblivious to this, the other two shot off up the hill on their bikes, to the park where I had previous problems. My portly little legs lacked the strength to heave my frame up the hill and soon I was carrying the low price, rusty scooter.

I did catch up with my friends, at the park about 20 minutes later...
With more venom towards bicycles and their riders than ever.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

In The Beginning: Part 2-Showboating Little Girls

Last time, as i delved into my closet of skeletal biking tales, i mentioned three people have attempted to teach me to ride.

My Mum tried alone whilst my mates dad and brother worked in tandem (see the bike related pun).

However despite the expertise and strength of two grown men, they failed...whilst this does ruin the end of the story, hopefully you can learn more from my journey. As most children won't tell you why they're so embarrassed to be learning or failing, I can outline every gory detail.

The attempt began one afternoon after school, my school friend's dad, was attempting to fill my fatherless void and help out my mum by teaching me to ride a bike, when I came round for a play-date.

Whilst being a very nice gesture, it was news to me, I had no idea or intention of learning. Instead I had planned on some particularly epic adventures with my mates action men, or producing another installment of our worryingly named radio show 'Rude Radio'. With highlights including us interviewing each other, whilst one of us pretended to be Briney Spears, talking to listeners (in an old woman's voice) about her menstrual cycle.

Amazing what you learn on the playground.

So soon I was stood in the middle of the park, staring at my mates intimidatingly large BMX. Although I was much taller than my friend at the time (he has since shot up to a tower 6'4") the towering size of the bike only meant one thing to me, a bigger fall.

According to a friend on mine, whilst working at Halfords most parents always purchased a large bike their kids could 'grow in to' my mother applied the same logic to clothes, that saw the same space invaders hoody dutifully serve me for four years! Although this theory is easier on the back pocket, especially as we still wade through recession, perhaps a smaller, cheaper bike from a bootfair is better. Especially if your child is still knee-high to a grasshopper.

Back in a chilly park in Kent, the first of a few attempts at riding failed miserably. So my mates dad and brother, held me at either side and tried to run along with me as i pedalled. Now two problems occurred here-

1) The aforementioned puppy fat was too much for my 50-year old teacher and his chain smoking son. Which lead to much heavy breathing and mumbled profanities as they waddled along beside me.

    2) Soon another attempt was abandoned, to my great relief. I recall my mate's dad saying, 'keep practicing Laurence' as I got into my mum's car, I smiled and said I would...Then turned my back on learning for ten years.

    I think another three pearls of wisdom can be drawn from this trip down memory lane:

    1. DON'T neglect to tell your kids when you plan on teaching them, especially if their previous attempts have been riddled with failure. If it's something they really don't want to do, don't just drop it on them, especially with a relative stranger.
    2. AVOID buying a huge bike for your kids to grow on to, even though it may seem cheaper, if it's too big and intimidating, they'll never learn and the bike will never get used.
      Maybe share a smaller bike between a group of parents at school??
    3. MOST IMPORTANTLY go somewhere secluded, this was one thing my dear old mum did get right, no one likes having their faults on display in public...

    Friday, 16 October 2009

    In The Beginning: Learning To Ride

    Before I set out and open the old wounds (metaphorically) and create some new ones (literally) I want to divulge my past experiences.

    The past 20 years, have seen some calamitous attempts and the odd white lie.

    To date, three people have attempted to teach me to ride. My mother, my friend's dad and my friend's brother. All three tried. All three failed.

    However there are some lessons to be learnt from their attempts and quite a few laughs to be had.

    First of all came my mum. Now, she worked hard all her life and still does. At the time she was working as a cleaner and was strapped of time and energy to take me out to learn.

    My mum and sister's bike had been condemned to a dusty grave in my nan's shed, as our house was too small to store them. So there were no bikes readily available, odd conversation sometimes cropped up between the family, mumblings about my nan's god-son fitting stabilizers.

    I have only met this god-son about four times in my entire life, so the odds of him dropping his busy life of being an unemployed chav, buying some stabilizers, fitting them to a bike I didn't have and then teaching me to ride, were slim to say the least.

    So the job fell to my mum, who god-bless her was protective of me. However calling her protective doesn't quite cut it. In primary school I was forced to wear a vest, polo-shirt, shirt and jumper to school, to keep me warm, in the summer. Even now, when I told her I was learning to ride a bike, the first thing she said was "STAY OFF THE MAIN ROAD!"

    Bearing her maternal omnipotence in mind, I'm sure it won't surprise you that she bought me a girls bike. Yes thats right, not only was the idea of a tubby, 10-year-old falling off his bike in public bad enough, she wanted me to do it on a little girls bike as well.

    Although there was some method in her madness, said bike was purchased from a boot fair, where choice was limited but the bikes were cheap. Being a single parent family it was the logical choice, however a baby blue, girl's bike emblazoned with Tony The Tiger stickers was not.


    Her other reason for buying a girls bike was the bent, down-tube frame. So if I fell off, I wouldn't hurt my...little fella.

    In her credit I never did hurt myself in that way, however the one and only time she took me out on the baby blue monstrosity, I hurt myself in so many other ways. Scraped knees and bruised shins shattered my motivation as did her lack of advice...


    This method of teaching me to ride a bike was very similar to her method of teaching me to drive.


    What, 'kick on' means is speed up. Why she kept saying it and didn't just say 'speed up' I do not know. All I can say, was that it was annoying, very, very annoying!

    My day spent 'just peddling' saw me reach my record distance on the long-jump run up:

    Three Metres.

    My mother has been the ideal parent all of my life, however for all her countless skills, she can't teach for toffee.

    What i learnt: So if you are a parent or friend trying to teach a child or anyone to ride a bike. There are three things to avoid.

    1. Don't shout vague commands like- "RIDE A BIKE", "PEDDLE" and "STOP CRYING" It may have helped Forest Gump learn to run but won't magically teach someone to ride a bike.
    2. Don't buy a Girls bike for a boy, it adds insult to injury, most parents are oblivious to the embarrassment they cause. This is a no brainer.
    3. Don't put it off, if you're going to buy a bike, buy it! If you're going to fit stabilizers, fit them! If you're going to go out and teach someone, stick at it!

    *Stay tuned for more embarrassing moral tales, as two grown men try and fail to hold an obese 10-year-old on his bike!*

    Thursday, 15 October 2009

    Inventing The Wheel...

    "It's like learning to ride a bike, you never forget" ~Some Idiot
    But what if you never learned? What if you lived too near a main road, with an over-protective mother and no father or older brother to fix you up with stabilizers?

    What if repeated failures, a large amount of puppy fat and a chronic case of shyness ruined your resolve to learn?

    Well, I am that if.

    Let me introduce myself, my name is Laurence Mozafari, I am like most 20-year-old men. I drink, I drive (not together) and I'm enrolled at University. However I am lacking one basic skill, that it seems the whole world and his wife and their child posses.

    I can't ride a bicycle.

    Now there are about 3 responses I get from divulging this skeleton from my closet.

    1) Uncontrollable laughter
    2) Disbelief. Followed by an odd look and questions.
    3) I'LL TEACH YOU!

    I would easily take the first two responses over the latter. Why? Because the idea of people knowing about my problem is mortifying. Having to relive the frustrated friend/parent/teacher running alongside, attempting to hold me up and the inevitable fails just rubs salt in the wounds.

    Maybe this derives from my detest for being in situations where everyone else knows what they're doing and I do not. Maybe it's because I see it as an unnecessary skill. Maybe I'm just lazy.

    N.B I realise the hypocrisy of being embarrassed about not being able to ride a bike and then creating a blog about it.

    As you may have realised, I have finally decided to learn, to bite the bullet and inevitably bite the dirt. However in a bid to help other learners like myself, children, adults and looking for a laugh on their lunch-break, I'll update my progress on this Blog. The ultimate goal is to learn, enter a biking event and raise money for charity.

    All I can say is, once I learn, I better not bloody forget!