Saturday, June 28, 2014

I've made a huge mistake.

Back in my formative years, back before pudding was handed to you in a disposal plastic cup and its only protection from the elements was that deliciously rubbery skin, I had a bike.

This bike had a banana seat, sparkly green paint (it was a MANLY sparkly green), and a three-speed shifter on the down-tube that looked like it was cribbed from an Iroc-Z.

Back in those days, bikes were tough and made for abuse.  Like the other boys in my neighborhood with their banana-seat bikes, I would grab a scrap of plywood from dad's workshop to use as a makeshift ramp for jumping curbs. No helmets. No parents following closely behind. This led to my eventual enjoyment of single-track mountain biking as a young adult, something I still like to do when I'm not at the chiropractors office nursing a slipped disk. But rarely was there a day during the summer where I didn't just take the bike out on the street and ride back and forth for hours with little supervision and dreams that the banana seat was actually the driver's seat of that Iroc-Z, and Iroc-Z with one badass suspension made for jumping over curbs.

The mistake I've made is to teach my children how to ride a bike using current 21st century methods.

I remember getting them started on their little "Foxy" bike. 

Things #1 and #2 were taught how to coast and pedal carefully back and forth in the cul de sac. When a daughter fell off, dad was there to give her moral support and nurse the bleeding. They were taught to be so paranoid about helmets that they would refuse to be within ten feet of the bike without one. They were never taught what it was like to jump a curb. To build a ramp. To even stand up on the pedals. 

Now that the kids are 10 and 13, they should just want to pull their bikes out and disappear down the street, enjoying the sunshine. Instead a typical bike ride involves dad getting up early to strap everything to the car, fill water bottles, and pump up tires, then driving to the nearest rail trail, unstrapping everything, and leading the family in a ride. A STRAIGHT ride. No hills, no curbs, no crazy flying down a grassy hill only to flip over the handlebars, suck up the pain, and try it again. That's not biking. That's riding a monorail. 

I sense now that the kids view biking as a means to an end - dad means to get everyone outdoors and away from screens, and the kids mean to ride just long enough to make it to the nearest lunch place halfway down the rail trail. And in the end, dad drives home, the kids disappear into the house, and dad's stuck unstrapping those bikes again and storing them in the garage, to remain there until he, and only he, demands the next family bike ride.

I've made a huge mistake.

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