We all remember that feeling. It’s that sensation of speed, freedom, and mobility we got when we first started riding. It’s what we remember about riding a bike as a kid, and in many ways what continues to fuel our desire to ride as adults. As a father, one of the next best things to that childhood sensation is the thrill I see on my son’s face as we ride together in our neighborhood.
My son is eleven years old and like others his age he usually doesn’t go out biking any extended amount of time. Usually, he just rides around the neighborhood with his buds, or hops on his bike to go visit someone down the street. I used to ask him if he wanted to go riding with me, but about a year ago I stopped asking because usually he said no. But in the last couple weeks, he’s been asking if he can come along when I’m going out for my regular after-work ride. I figure that a ride with my son will always be more fulfilling for the both of us—and certainly for me—than a ride on my own even though I might sacrifice the workout I would get if I were on my own. (And actually, I’ve figured out how I can get the workout I want and still not leave him behind.)
From the moment he got on a bike at about five or six years old, I told him that someone had to be outside when he’s riding, and “don’t go out into the street!” While well intentioned, that regularly-blurted warning may have served us well back then but is now coming back to challenge us. Telling a child this over and over again, and cautioning them about the dangers of cars and the need to pay attention, is pretty much telling them, “ride on the sidewalk!” But as we ride now on our neighborhood streets, and as I have over the years become a more experienced rider of the road, it is becoming obvious—at least to me if not my son—that riding on the sidewalk is not a safe thing to be doing.
On our ride yesterday, I started cautioning him when a good examples arose that, for example, when that particular car backed out of the driveway, if he was about another thirty feet in front, the driver might not have been able to see him in time, or that he might not have been able to stop his bike. I’m not going to force him to do the entire ride with me on the street because I don’t want to scare him to death either, but he has started to ride certain parts with me on the road.
All the while, I’m thinking, I don’t want to kill the thrill for him. Of course, I want him to pick up good riding skills. But, I want him to stay in touch with that feeling that got so many of us to be life-long riders.