Cycling Stories

I’ll Support You

April 26, 2020

I’ll Support You

“I cycled through tunnels and open sky with the exhilaration of my first childhood ride.”

Emmily Magtalas Rhodes 

“You always have to fall before you learn,” Nanay said.  

I was seven, and she was teaching me how to ride a bike. Despite being on a quiet Manila suburb street, I still had misgivings. The road was concrete, and I knew it would hurt a lot if I fell. Besides, I wasn’t sure if I could balance on two wheels. I’d become too accustomed to my stabilizers, which Nanay removed. 

“I’ll support you,” she promised, holding the back of my saddle to keep me steady. “Please don’t let go,” I begged. She smiled reassuringly. I took a deep breath and summoned courage. Then, I pedaled. 

For a few seconds, I was cycling on my own, although I didn’t know it. She’d let go, but I was too focused on keeping my balance to notice. Eventually, I looked back and discovered I was riding my bike by myself. It was so exciting! Then, I started to wobble. Nanay seemed so far away. Fear gripped me, and I tumbled. 

It did hurt — I got plenty of scrapes and bruises. But I lived through it. And I learned.  

A few years later, emboldened, I challenged my older sister to a race on our street. Near a creek, her chain snapped, and the bike skidded, sending her hurtling onto her front on the pavement. When she looked up, her chin was gashed and bleeding. It was an accident, I was told. My sister was ok in the end, but I blamed myself. 

After that, it was twenty years later and was married before I got back on a bike and rode again. My husband was the one who took me to a cycling trail. I was nervous, but he allayed my worries by saying that once you know how to do it, it’ll never be gone. “It’s like riding a bike,” he laughed. 

I immediately almost crashed into an elderly lady as I pedaled. I apologized profusely and explained it was my first time on a bicycle after twenty years. Instead of reprehension, she cheered me on. You can do it! And I cycled through tunnels and open sky with the exhilaration of my first childhood ride. 

Later, on holiday in Yorkshire, I rode a bike with my family. By then, we were four. We cycled from Hawsker to Robin Hood’s Bay along the Cinder Track, a disused railway line-turned-bike-trail. It was a long and bumpy ride, but the coast was breathtakingly beautiful.

My husband (pulling our three-year-old in a trailer) and our eight-year-old were speeding ahead, although I moved slowly and unsteadily. My whole body ached, and I yearned for respite. They laughed at me. They egged me on. I feigned annoyance, but I was having so much fun. 

Back home, we started teaching our youngest to ride his bike. Despite living in a quiet area, he was very wary and had misgivings, unlike his older brother. We gave him words of encouragement. We promised him treats for his trials. There were tears. We didn’t give him the security of stabilizers. He was afraid of falling. “I’ll support you,” I said.  

I held the saddle of his bike and ran behind as I propelled him forward. I didn’t want him to get hurt. But for him to learn, I had to let go. 

Emmily Magtalas Rhodes is a freelance writer and lives in an English spa town. She dreams of a bike with a rustic basket.
  1. Michelle Mariñas

    Proud of you, Boo. You’ve always cycled on your own. And yes, I was ok. I became a doctor but never biked again after that accident, but not because of you. It just wasn’t my thing anymore. And yes, your Nanay (nanny) always had your back. Love, your older sister who isn’t really keen on riding again but loves you loads.

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