The other day, Antonin wanted to go biking in the next town with a mountain-biking club, so I decided to go with him and try it out.
While he went for a trail ride, I stayed with a monitor and a group of other boys to learn the basic techniques of the sport; it turns out that I’ve had a dormant talent for mountain biking that’s been stewing, untapped, all these years. The instructor was so impressed that he singled me out numerous times and even said that I was too good for the beginner’s class, and with a month or two of training I would be good enough to compete in the tour de France.
It was so bad. I swear that I was having some sort of crazy psychological Alice-in-Wonderland experience; it felt as though I was regressing to my childhood self, back to the days when I was the fattest, most physically incapable, constantly humiliated child in my Grade 1 gym class. To add to this trauma, every single other boy in the group was at least five years younger than me, and they were laughing at how terrible I was! Their jeering was made all the more shameful by their prepubescent French accents, the little shits.
I was a little bit nervous going in; my mother had always kept a bottle of peroxide in her purse whenever we’d go biking when I was younger, as I’d invariably fall off the damn bike. I couldn’t even get on the bike at first- it took me about five minutes to figure out how to get one of the pedals to the right height so that I could kick off and get going. Pretty pathetic, I know. Then, after that, I ended up pushing the bike up the first hill, because the twenty or so minutes of trying to find the right gear and move while not falling off bore absolutely no fruit.
I arrived at a soccer field- late- where the monitor had us bike around for about half an hour while trying out different ways to ride the bike. First, he had us stand up on the pedals, which I was actually able to do after a little while. Feeling a little bit more confident, I was able to complete the next task a little bit faster, which was to stand up and lean against the hand bars. Then the monitor had us bike really fast down a hill and lift one leg over to the other side and back again. He might’ve well have told us to do a triple back flip hand stand while singing the nation anthem of France for all that I was able to accomplish.
After a while he dragged a log out onto the field, and placed a large rock on one side in the centre. We were supposed to be able to lift our front and back wheels to get over the log, which (predictably), was a big struggle. Also, one of the kids fell off his bike and hit his head off of the rock, and I really didn’t want that to be me- maybe that hesitancy added to my inadequacy. The French was a little bit more difficult to understand than usual, too: I get the impression that mountain bike jargon contains more unrelated words and false cognates than other subjects. I think it’s safe to say that I’m more suited to write whiny, self-deprecating blog posts, and use words like ‘false cognates’ to make me feel like a big person.
For some reason, even though I had made basically no progress, I was sweating like a hooker at mass the whole time- I could’ve drank the entirety of the Rhone by the time we had our first break. Fortunately for me, my host mother, Muriel, is freaking awesome. Before leaving, she had hastily thrust a small backpack into my hands, saying that it had a bottle of water for the break, neglecting to mention that she’d also slipped in two Snickers! Try to sympathize with my excitement; imagine crawling on your hands and knees on a stairway made of broken glass, getting to the top, and realizing that you were actually on the stairway to heaven when you see the clouds part to reveal St. Peter’s Gate. That was how I was feeling- it was like an angel descended from above and soothed my worries with sticky, artery-clogging chocolate. Normally I’m not one for junk food, but my utter inadequacy with every single biking exercise warranted a self-pity induced indulgence in cheap chocolate, I think.
All of my stress vanished the moment I saw the label; actually, now that I think about it, it’s kind of sad how much of a grip food holds on my mood. It worked, though- I was able to finish the class relatively unscathed after (somewhat guiltily) whetting my resolve with nutty caramel
I’m glad that I had the experience, though. While I’m not entirely sure if my genitals will ever function properly again, it was still good to get out and try something new. Even though I won’t be wooing any French boys anytime soon with my biking skills, it was nice to meet new people and absorb more of the language. Plus, it wasn’t really that terrible; even if I’m having a not-so-great day here, all I’ve got to do is remember that I could be in Madoc doing boring Madoc things, as my wonderful French teacher told me before I left. Furthermore, the monitor was very patient, even though I couldn’t bike up a hill. All in all, it’s going pretty good.
Stay tuned for more cringe-worthy adventures!