The weather was perfect on Saturday – dry, and neither too warm nor too cool – and I had decided on some outdoor exercise before dinner. Like every proper Jane Austen heroine, I’m very fond of a long walk. I even have a three-mile course through our woodsy neighborhood (partly on trails and partly on country roads) that I use regularly. So I had in mind an invigorating walk, not a bike ride, when my husband made the above statement.
I’ll admit I did not at first respond enthusiastically to his suggestion.
You should know that 1) it’s been easily 5 years since I’ve been on a bike, 2) our neighborhood is full of hills, and 3) I’m not as young as I used to be or as fit as I should be. Although I feel perfectly secure with my feet solidly on the ground, the idea of perching on a painfully narrow seat balanced atop a pair of perilously skinny tires filled my mind with dread. I was envisioning the embarrassment and disaster that would likely follow.
Naturally, when considering the question before me, I asked myself what would Jane Austen advise. It seemed her heroines were admired for having at least a measure of boldness and athleticism, within the constraints of the day (see related post Care to Take a Turn? ). Even the timid Fanny Price (quoted below) received praise and reward for plucking up the courage to try something out of her comfort zone.
“Ah, cousin, when I remember how much I used to dread riding, what terrors it gave me to hear it talked of as likely to do me good… and then think of the kind of pains you took to reason and persuade me out of my fears, and convince me that I should like it after a little while, and feel how right you proved to be, I am inclined to hope you may always prophesy as well.” (Mansfield Park, chapter 3)
(And you thought I wouldn’t be able to find an appropriate Jane Austen quote for a post about riding a bike. Ha! Okay, so Fanny was talking about riding a horse. Close enough.)
Then I was reminded how many times I refer to riding (horses again) in my own books, especially Return to Longbourn. In it Lizzy says, “There is nothing – or almost nothing – like a thrill of a good ride.” And then there’s this passage where Mary (much like in my situation) is unexpectedly invited/challenged by Mr. Harrison Farnsworth (master of Netherfield, and her employer) to take a ride with him:
” You must admit it is a fine day for riding.”
He was correct, maddeningly so; the weather could not have been more obliging, and it would be an ideal opportunity to consult about the children. She could not even beg off because of her dress, for the gown she wore was as serviceable as any summer riding habit. Besides, Mary told herself, it was a chance to brush up on her skills, so that she might be in better form for another day and for that other, more pleasant riding partner.
“Very well, then,” she said presently. “I will go if you wish it, although I must warn you that I am woefully out of practice.” …Mary could feel her own excitement building for this next adventure. She only hoped she would not be sorry for agreeing to it.
What could I do? I refuse to be shown up by Mary Bennet AND Fanny Price, so I likewise said ‘yes’ to the call of adventure. What’s more, I lived to tell the tale.
We rode about 8 miles. And I’m proud to say that I did pretty well, with only one minor mishap.