“What took me so long? Why did I put it off?” Krista Wax, a spring 2015 Learn-to-Ride participant, ponders this question, as so many other adults might when learning to ride a bike after years of trying.
“I just wrote it off as I’ll never ride a bike and I’ll have to stick to spin class,” she says of her years of putting off learning to ride. Wax, who is a U of M graduate and works at Entellus Medical in Plymouth, loved her spin class. “Stationary biking was ‘safest’ before the real thing,” she admits.
Wax heard about the Learn-to-Ride program from her mom, who heard about it on WCCO in the fall of 2014. She knew her daughter had been trying to ride since childhood, trying many times on and off, struggling to stay upright. “My mom wasn’t pushy—more like ‘Hey, in case you want to try it again,’” recalls Wax. “I was like, ‘Oh, man. I have to wait until next spring?” she laughs.
That desire and enthusiasm bode well for her during the four-week class, hosted out of Spokes in Minneapolis. Each of the four Learn-to-Ride classes is 90 minutes long and takes place at Matthews Park. “The first week we got acclimated with our bike, stretched, practiced not ‘death-gripping’ the handlebars, tried to move the bike with our feet on the ground, and just get used to being on the bike,” Wax explains. She also marvels at how patient the three instructors were and how they really knew how to talk to her as she learned. “It was such a safe environment, and one with people who were in the same boat as you,” she says.
Her class had ten other learners in it, mostly parents who wanted to learn to ride because their children knew how, and it was a welcoming, casual environment for all. “I was the first to start to pedal,” Wax humble brags. “Everyone else was jealous. It was a great first night.”
Wax missed the second class, but during the third, she and her classmates started bicycling around the tennis court in Matthews Park. Instructor Sheldon Mains played a huge role in her bicycling education, teaching her the tricks of starting and stopping. Already, on just her second lesson, Wax was successfully stopping, braking, and maneuvering her bike around cones. But, her favorite class was the fourth and final, because they all went out on the street for an actual bike ride.
“I was out of my comfort zone,” she says of the experience. “But it was so much fun. There was a girl riding behind me and after the first block I turned around to her and yelled ‘We did a whole block!’ All of us were super excited. We all made it, we all survived, we all came back in one piece.”
And Wax marvels at how everyone was so supportive of one another, coming together as a new community of bicyclists. “We all cheered each other on as we kept improving,” she says. “While we did our bike ride on the road, I was practicing my hand signaling and two of [my classmates] cheered for me and told me what a great job I was doing.” Everyone left that final class with a sense of pride.
With the conclusion of her Learn-to-Ride program, Wax was ready to jump right in to the world of biking. “I got a bike two weeks later and went on the Bike-a-Thon,” she says. “I did the 20 mile one out of Spokes, close to where I live, and Sheldon was like ‘You just finished class a month ago. You’re doing twenty miles?’ But, yes, I made it.” she recalls. Mains and Wax even had the opportunity to bike part of the ride together. “I was so happy to ride with Sheldon because he knew me and my abilities, and it was a lot of fun to be able to share the ride with him.”
When asked what the most important thing is she learned in the Learn-to-Ride program and how it has carried over into her life now, she laughs, recalling the mind block that told her she was going to fail and always set her back from accomplishing learning to ride. “I’m on a rampage now: what else can I tackle, what else have I been putting off in life? I don’t limit myself now. I can do what I want, push towards goals. [The class] was very empowering. It was the best confidence booster.”
Besides boosting confidence, Wax also thinks bicycling helps create community. “I [recently] went to the East Lake Street Opens Streets—not an area I would normally go to,” she says. “It was great to see the local businesses and people, proud of their neighborhood. And seeing everyone biking in the open street.” She pauses to think about the world and bicycling. “If I was running the country, I’d have everybody just get on a bike,” she says. “Stop what you are doing and ride. You will feel better.”