Forget Mark Cavendish: I just rode 50 yards by myself

First Person

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The Independent Online

In a highly specialised, post-Henry Ford world, I have long been of the opinion that if you are not instantly good at something, you should give up and move on. It is not meant to be. And so, at the age of six, when my newly destabilised bike veered mysteriously to the left, it was Nintendo for me.

More recently on a trip to Cornwall with friends, I was forced to cycle the picturesque Camel Trail, from Padstow to Bodmin, on an "adult trike".

Now aged 29 and two-thirds, it is time for me to learn, undoubtedly – but the UK's biggest cycle show might not be the most sensible place.

Kiddimoto make bikes with no pedals for two to five-year-olds, so they can learn to balance before they learn to pedal. But the little bikes are only around a foot high, and I can barely get my feet off the ground regardless, so I move on.

I sign a disclaimer, the first line of which reads, "I confirm I am a competent cyclist", and head out, newly helmeted, to the road demo track.

It is Trade Day, so most of the attendees are employed in some way in the cycling industry. Some of them seem to be going round the lumpy asphalt track rather quickly. One is riding a single lime green wheel, with a tiny stabiliser protruding from the back. A unicycle for beginners apparently.

A "Bikeability" instructor (the modern reincarnation of the Cycling Proficiency Test) by the name of Claire drags me round for half a very wobbly lap. Then she stares me in the eye. "Can you drive a car?" Yes. "Can you walk?" Yes. "Then you can ride a bike. Look straight ahead. Eyes on the prize. Go."

And I am off. It is only 10 yards later that I become aware that Claire isn't holding on anymore, and I veer straight into the metal barriers. But I did it. I bloody did it.

Five minutes later, I've managed about 50 yards and am overcome with a sensation of pure joy that feels eerily similar to when I passed my driving test aged 17. I guess most people just do it the other way round. I still can't go round corners however. "Move out of the way, you idiot, or I'll crash into you" screams a voice from behind, which a second later I learn belongs to a man who is teaching himself the unicycle, and probably works in a bike shop.