As his not-so-tininess The Deuce exited the turn I could see his eyes widen and mouth pull taught in an O of amazement. His expression said it all—Holy cow, I pulled it off! U-turns had been his Gettysburg, a move of near constant defeat, and this time, with his feet off the pedals and his legs spread as wide as his muscles would allow, he sailed through his arc. As he slowed, he planted his feet on the asphalt and looked up.

Daddy, did you see?!

There’s something about first-time events that due to their singularity, the very fact that they’ve never occurred before this very event that they seem if not impossible, then unlikely, so we have to ask someone else. I still do it when I have company; we all need a witness, right? But with a child, they need that confirmation because they aren’t convinced it was real until you report that you saw it too.

I get to see that face, his bright expression, the O of whoa, on a nearly daily basis as he rides in our driveway. It is an important reminder to me of why we all still ride bikes. That amazement isn’t a routine experience for any of us anymore, but there’s still a kernel of it in every ride. Simply heading out is an implicit statement of hope, that we’re open to it happening with each new ride.

The Deuce’s problem has been that he turns in too quickly and he ends up low-siding. It still happens, though maybe only one in five turns now. Of course, he sees the problem not in terms of him asking the bike to do something physics won’t allow it to do. The bike simply isn’t cooperating.

Stupid bike!

But here’s the thing: when his impulse lines up with what the bike can do, his reaction is incandescent. It’s flow with its telltale need to do that thing more—right now.

What I find especially illuminating is how his experience has changed from one bike to another. In a matter of weeks he moved from a 12-inch-wheel balance bike to a 12-inch-wheel bicycle to one with 14-inch wheels. Despite the fact that his urge is to turn in suddenly, and take a digger as a result, the bike with the larger wheels has been a welcome change for him. It fits him better, and thanks to a longer wheelbase and the larger wheels, its handling is calmer, more stable. The larger wheels also mean lower rolling resistance, so he’s faster as well, and when was the last time a little speed wasn’t fun?

Perhaps the biggest revelation in all this is the way I see it inspire independence in him. Sure, he likes being able to pedal and carve a path of his choosing, but when I really see the independence come through, the occasions when I see how much it matters to him, are when it is perhaps least obvious. When he falls he wants to pick up the bike himself. He doesn’t want help getting up unless his foot catches on the bike and he can’t get up by himself, something that does occur at least once per day. Those skinned knees? I’m okay. It’s going to take more than a bit of lost skin to keep him off the bike.

When we look at those things that contribute to a happy life, certain things are reported over and over. Top among them is feeling mastery and control over your circumstance. I see nothing else in this kid’s life that provides the same degree of control, the same charge, as riding his bike, and I try to watch with the objective eye of a journalist. Of course, I could just take his word for it.

I want to ride my bike, Daddy. It’s my favorite. 

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  1. TomInAlbany

    The ‘O of Woah’.

    I’m using that. Thanks, Padraig.

    I still get to enjoy those moments with my kids whether, it’s my son playing a glissade on his trombone or my daughter nailing the backflip in Ninja class. They’re so thrilled when the get it right!

  2. Charlie

    Excellent! So much of this has to do with visual skills, allowing the brain to not panic. Swiveling the head around to look where you want to go has always been the key to u-turns for me on bikes and motorcycles. The moment I look anywhere else is where the falter occurs.

    1. Author

      Great point. He hasn’t fully learned that lesson yet. He is amazed that he can’t stare at something else and not continue to go straight. He also occasionally stares straight down at the ground; I think he likes watching the asphalt zoom past his wheels. What amazes and delights me is that I can watch this progression at such a granular level. All these years of dissecting something I adore allow me to see his progression in a way I wouldn’t appreciate otherwise. Those last two sentences should have been part of the post.

  3. MikeG

    The U-turn challenge and Charlie’s comment “Swiveling the head around to look where you want to go…” took me right back to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation class I took decades ago. Now I’m passing on some of those core lessons to my son as he perfects riding his dirt bike. If they can truly grasp “your eyes are magic, look where you want to go” and that whole “target fixation” thing; if you look at the tree/cactus/ground, you are going to hit the tree/cactus/ground, they are well on their way to a lifetime filled with flow and enjoyment!

    Great stuff Padraig!

    1. TomInAlbany

      Look where you want the bike to go. Simple and truthful.
      Corollary – DON’T LOOK AT THE ROCK!!!!!

  4. Scott Fitzgerald

    The best quote of the post “Perhaps the biggest revelation in all this is the way I see it inspire independence in him.”. This is a building block of lifelong happiness….

  5. Michael Bell

    I began reading RKP a couple of years ago, and had noticed the references to the Deuce’s early travails but didn’t know the details. Well, last week I was noodling through the webstore, and followed links to the story behind the “There will be Chaos” t-shirts. After reading that, I searched for stories tagged “Deuce” and finally read them all from the beginning. Despite knowing the outcome, I was hooked and riveted to my iPad until I got through the first year. So happy for you that he’s doing well and you’re able to enjoy his growing love of the bike.

    Once our financial winds shift in a more favorable direction, a Chaos T-shirt will be an early purchase. Appreciate reading the product reviews and catching up on changes in the bike world. Having worked in a shop that sold GT’s in the mid 90’s, also appreciated what you wrote recently about Richard Long. I’d been off the bike for way too long, currently the stable consist of 3 nearly 20 year old bikes. Kind of fun being the novelty at the weekly gravel ride on a 26″ GT LTS that is effectively New Old Stock!

    1. Author

      Thanks for the kind words Michael and for enough curiosity and interest to go rabbit holing through those old posts. Welcome back to the bike.

  6. Chris Streight


    I cringed upon seeing this picture of the boy with an ill fitting helmet. I work for a helmet manufacturer so I tend to notice these things. His forehead should not be that exposed and it is lopsided. I would say an adjustment is badly needed, or possibly a better fitting helmet.

    The Helmet Police

    1. Author

      I knew sooner or later someone was going to call me out for that. I’m not particularly defensive about this because he has yet to hit his noggin in a fall, but I want the helmet on to teach him the habit of wearing a helmet now, while the lesson is easier to teach. That said, that Giro helmet does a poor job of staying adjusted. I have adjusted it several times in the past and it doesn’t hold. I agree that he’s outgrowing his helmet; another, nameless, helmet company has promised to send one more appropriate to said growing noggin and I’ve been waiting for its arrival. I’m not opposed to going out and buying a helmet for my kids, but I tend to take folks at face value and if they say they are going to send something, I give them that opportunity. As to keeping the helmet straight on his head … seriously? He’s a kid. I have trouble getting him to put his shoes on the correct feet.

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