Bike Freedom

For the past few weeks I have been working with, or perhaps that should be running with, my four year old to help her learn to ride a two-wheeler free of training wheels.  She is doing well.

When the sun first emerged and melted the snow we got out her starter bike with training wheels from last summer and discovered that it was much too small for her.  Some friends of ours gifted us their son’s old bike which was the next size up.  As a bonus it has beads on the wheels that clack when she rides.  We added some streamers and a red horn and it was ready to go.

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When I am running behind her I often remember my parents running up and down the street behind me when I was learning to ride my bike as a seven-year old.  I can’t remember if it was my mum or dad who was the one who finally let go of the back of my seat and set me free as a soloist.  It was amazing to discover that I was on my own and riding without someone holding me up.

My first bike was a used green bike that was a bit of a transformer. It could be a bike for boys or girls since it had a removable cross bar.  Bikes are one of the few gendered products that have a practical reason to them… I rode that green bike for a couple of years and became quite proficient at skidding to a stop.  I burned off enough rubber stopping that I actually had threadbare rear tire.

My parents gave me that first bike for my birthday and I still remember how I found my way to the bike.  My card had a string attached to it and I followed the string all through the house and if memory serves me correctly, out into the backyard and around the above ground pool to the bike.

My second bike was also a birthday present.  It was a shiny red BMX bike with a gold name plate with my name on it affixed to the cross bar.  It was thing of beauty.  It had hand brakes instead of pedal brakes.  I found it by following clues. The first clue was in my card and one led to another until I found the bike.

Those bikes gave me freedom.  I rode all over the neighbourhood to friends’ houses, on paths through the forest, over jumps that we built and to parks in the area.  My parents provided that freedom by teaching me to ride and letting go of the seat.

Now I am the one doing the teaching.  Our six-year old is riding to school and on family bike rides.  She still has an aversion to riding in a straight line, but she is a solid rider and can even take her hand off of the handle bar to honk her horn and let people know she is coming.   These skills have been hard-won.  She has crashed into mailboxes, trees and I think one parked car, not to mention all the road rash from tipping over and scraping herself on the pavement.  Our four-year old is just getting the hang of it.  She can ride without me holding on, but I am still running behind her to help her rebalance if she starts to lose control.  Now we are working on starting and more importantly stopping.

I wasn’t successful in keeping her safe today.  She had discovered the joys of speed and I couldn’t keep up and she wasn’t keen on listening to me shouting at her to slow down and back pedal to apply the breaks.  She crashed into her mum’s bike and they both crashed.  Lots of abrasions for my daughter, none for my wife.

I patched her up when we got home.  I suspect that there will be many more wounds to patch over the coming years since she is the fearless one..  The real challenge is going to be letting go of that seat to let them roam the neighbourhood and have the freedom that riding a bike offers.

Maybe I’ll just wrap them in bubblewrap before they head out on any adventures…

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About DadGoesRound
I am a Canadian father of three girls and blog about Fatherhood, Kids and Current Affairs at www.dadgoesround.com

8 Responses to Bike Freedom

  1. Anne-Siri says:

    Congratulations on your blog adventure! You write very engagingly about your daily life and how it connects to past memories and events. Our own blog project for friends and family about our cottage sabbatical has made us realize how much thought goes into such an endeavour and I admire your openness. Sounds like your girls are doing very well on their bikes. A four-year-old without training wheels is quite advanced! Henrik was happy when the kick scooters appeared just when he was learning to ride a bike in our hilly neighbourhood and he announced that now he never had to learn to ride a bike : ) Wishing you many fun family bike rides this summer!

    • goroundround says:

      Thanks Anne-Siri. I’ve thought about writing a blog for a while and a project at work recently reminded me how much I enjoy writing so I decided it was time to give it a shot. I am enjoying it so far and it helps me to pay a little more attention to what is going on in life as I look for topics to write about. What is your blog address?

  2. Wendy Berry says:

    I enjoyed reading this! You painted a very vivid picture with your descriptions of the past, present and what is yet to come! Put those helmets on and hang on…..

  3. Susan says:

    Ah, I remember it well, running down Wedgewood Drive trying to hold on to the back of the seat and stay upright myself. I remember the sensation of letting you go for the first time – how scary it was. The letting go part was always scary, but look how you turned out today! And despite all the worry about your bike riding, the worst injury was when the bike fell over with you on it – and the bike was standing still.
    Now, about that fall in the driveway when you were trying to kick a leaf out of the spokes, and I was at Commencement and came out to the message that you were in the hospital. . .
    Great blogging, my son.

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