There is a saying that you have most likely heard when doing something you have done before. People will tell you, “It's just like riding a bike.” What they are implying here is that once you have learned to ride a bike you will always know how to ride a bike. You won't have to go through the trials of falling off, getting back on, scraping your knees and so forth. It will simply be a matter of getting on, peddling and riding the bike. It will be like you have never stopped riding.
I have obviously heard this saying myself. But, I don't know if people who say this take in to account people who have lost their sight. There are different factors to consider when riding a bike and sight loss can really mess those up.
For example, a key component of being able to ride a bike is balance. You have to get used to the “feeling” of keeping yourself upright. It takes a little time, but once you do it then it makes sense. However, sight loss can very much affect your sense of balance. In fact, I have a hard time walking in a straight line. I would most likely never pass a sobriety test. Although, I guess I would have to be driving to take one, but I digress…
Balance is just one thing that is affected with bike riding after losing your sight. There is the obvious things of not knowing where you are going or being able to see out in front of you. It can be a scary thought to jump on a bike and start peddling as fast as you can. So, I wondered if it was even possible.
Spoiler alert: It is.
Admittedly I was never a huge bike rider. I could certainly hold my own and get around my small town pretty well. But, riding a bike translated into exercise which I am not a huge fan of at any age. So, getting on a bike wasn't something I was thrilled about doing. But, I figured it was a good way to potentially get around and yes, even get some exercise.
Five or six years after losing my sight, I talked to my wife about getting a bike to try this out. She, being the intensely supportive person she is, totally went along with it. Hindsight suggests that may have been a mistake, but hindsight is 20/20 even for us VIPs.
We got a nice bike and I took it out to my driveway to test things out. Keep in mind that I had not ridden a bike in many years, especially not after losing my sight. I remembered the phrase that it is just like riding a bike and I thought we would surely put that saying to the test.
I climbed on top of the bike, set my course as straight as I could and began peddling. And, to my surprise, it really was like riding a bike. I was able to take off with no crashes. Sure, there was a little wobbling here and there, but I was really doing it. I was riding a bike.
I rode that bike for a while after that. In fact, we got a kids seat on the back and my son and I would ride down to the local market for a coke and candy bar run. Granted, the road to get there was a straight shot, so as long as I followed the lines, I did pretty good.
People in town would see me riding the bike and ask me about it later. They wondered how I was doing it and if it was safe. One such person, who knew me well, told me I should get a sign like they have on semi trucks. The kind that says something like “If you can't see my mirror, I can't see you.” She suggested mine say something like, “Even if you can see me, I still can't see you.”
All in all, riding a bike was pretty fun. It gave a sense of independence that is sorely lacking when you lose your sight. I didn't ride that bike forever and we eventually sold it when we moved. But, it was fun while it lasted.
Now, I'm not suggesting that you hop on a bike and go for a cross country ride. Remember, I was only riding my bike in a small town with very little traffic. There are a ton of factors to consider. But, if you are wondering if riding your bike after sight loss is just like riding a bike, I am here to tell you that at least for me, it certainly was. And, even to this day when I hop on the bike and ride around the street with my kids, I can still do it like I always have. Well, with the exception of my kids yelling, “Car!” occasionally.
What about you? Is there something like riding a bike that you have been wanting to do since you lost your sight? I encourage you to give it a shot! You never know…it might just be like riding a bike. Especially if it is riding a bike! Share in the comments below what you would like to do that haven't since losing sight. We'd all love to support!