Bikes, Bruises, and Triumph

After my fifth day of being in Japan, I have experienced frustration, elation, and personal growth. While in Japan, my first concern was transportation. Living in West Seattle, I can easily walk to buy groceries and other necessities, and if I need to go somewhere farther I can simply ride public transportation such as the light rail and bus. However, staying in Matsuyama, Japan I learned quickly that bicycle riding is one of the most common modes of transportation. This discovery was much to my dismay because until recently, I had never learned to ride a bike nor was it my parents’ goal to teach me. Thus, began my frustration and embarrassment.

Our first day at Ehime University was dedicated to orientation, touring the campus, and renting our bicycles. After receiving our maps, handouts, and allowances for meals, we all walked for a few minutes to the bike rental shop. Through trepidation and shame, I stood by as my other traveling companions readily grabbed their bikes. Not being able to ride a bicycle, I immediately labeled myself as the problem child of the group. “What are we going to do with Arun, she can’t ride a bike,” is what I thought to myself. Fortunately, I was able to get around by hitching a ride on my friends’ bikes. And though I was grateful for their willingness to help me, I loathed my lack of independence. As a person, I dislike relying on others to do things, and to a certain degree I am much more comfortable being able to rely on my own skills to take care of myself. This is what partially motivated me to learn how to ride a bicycle.

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(First day getting bikes.)

With the help of one of my traveling buddies, I made a goal for myself: learn how to ride a bicycle as soon as possible! Once I rented my bike, I spent as much time with it as I could. With only less than 16 days to learn, I had to put as much time and effort into learning as much as I could. Practicing before classes, and whenever and wherever I could, I did fall a few times. Bruised and bloody legs, falling only made me more determined to get back on the bike. When I did, I learned from my friends to “keep your back straight, relax, and look where you want to go.” I quickly adopted this as my mantra, and eventually followed it to the letter.

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(First time I fell on my knee.)

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(My first time on a bike)

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(After I crashed into a pole?)
That’s me in the pink. To the left is Win Tong, teaching me how to ride a bike.

The next day as I was riding with my physics professor to Matsuyama Castle, he taught me to apply the concept of angular velocity to the wheels of my bike. I soon realized that if I practiced downhill to increase my velocity, I would be able to gain balance on my bicycle and ride smoothly without constantly stopping and starting (as I mostly did as a beginner). With patience and resilience, I was able to ride a bicycle within the same hour! Filled with elation and self-satisfaction, my self-confidence grew, and soon afterwards my skills as a bike rider excelled. Without someone needing to hold the back of my bike to balance me or tell me what to do, I was able to finally ride on my own!

Photos courtesy of Ehime BST 498 SkyDrive.