Clapham Christian Classical School

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Learning to Ride

Learning to Ride blog2

Learning to Ride

by Mandi Shields


Unwrapping my tense fingers from the handlebars, I pulled into the driveway. My palms were sweaty, and I could feel knots forming throughout my shoulders and neck. But I had done it! After years of failed attempts, I had taken my first bike ride.  As a mother of 3, I never thought I would see this day. And the knots…totally worth it!

I did have a bike growing up like every other kid I knew. I got my first bike when I was 7. As we lived in a rural area with no sidewalk to ride on, I used this excuse to put off learning. It wasn’t really that I didn’t want to ride; I just didn’t want my struggle of learning to be on display. We started going to my grandparents’ house to practice, but the prospect of their neighbors witnessing a humiliating fall motivated me to find more excuses not to ride. Eventually, after many tear-filled attempts, my parents gave up. 

Throughout high school and college, I had wonderful friends who encouraged me to keep trying. I came close a few times, but pride or fear would win out in the end, and I’d give up all over again.

Learning to Ride blog

In 2010, I moved to Beijing, a place where bicycles are a major mode of transportation. It seemed fitting I should try again. This time I got further as many of my inhibitions were out the window. (Having to depend on a native-speaking friend at a personal doctor visit will extinguish a great deal of pride!) I gave the bike a go in our apartment complex a few times, but faced with daunting Chinese traffic and not having a death wish, I opted to ride on the back of my friend, Mr. Shields’s bike. (That worked out well in the end!)

The bike I finally learned on was a gift to my son. mandi bikeHe taught himself to ride at the age of five, and the new bike my parents bought him was just a little too big. I discovered that if I raised the seat all the way up, I could ride and still touch the ground. My dad said, “I got you a bike 30 years ago,” (not quite accurate for those trying to guess my age) “and you never learned. If you don’t learn now, I’m not buying you another one.” I decided that in solidarity with my children, I would do it! How could I comfort and encourage them through the struggle if I was not willing to go through it myself?

That was three years ago.

Even after resolving to bite the bullet, I was only recently able to travel beyond our street. Learning to Ride blog3And then during the ride, I was so nervous every time a car would pass me, I would stop. Even writing this blog post, I’m anxious about the whole Clapham community knowing I just learned how to ride a bike! However, there’s something more important here than my vanity. The Lord used a bicycle to highlight my struggle, but it could just as well be a math concept or public speaking, or anything else that fills you with fear. Many times, we settle for our weaknesses and opt to continue the status quo, never realizing that, with just a little more grit, we could aspire to something far better.

And, when we do push through our struggles, we often find the sweetest victories!

shields fam


Mandi Shields is Clapham’s Class Five teacher. She has 3 children and has been married to Mr. Shields (who transported her around China via bicycle!) for 10+ years.

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