Friday Group Ride #470

Friday Group Ride #470

My older son came down this morning, nearly ready for school, and complained that his biceps were sore. He’d spent nearly an hour last night working on his wheelies (with little progress). Last week, it was drifting, an abbreviated skid that lets you roll up on a group of friends at speed, scare the hell out of them, and end up standing casually over your bike.

He has arrived.

I don’t honestly understand why it took so long. I taught him to ride when he was three. He’s been riding off and on (mostly off) for more than a decade, but only in the last few months has the magic of it finally taken hold.

You can see it in the way he slaloms down the street. He gives me reports of riding hands free down the bike path. He talks about all the places he could ride, how easy it is. He rides to school now, and to soccer practice.

After years of wondering how I’d been cursed (of course it was always my own fault) with two boys who just didn’t love bikes, I was so thrilled with his progress that I went out bought his younger brother a new bike. This is, strictly speaking, not a rational response, but hey, when is a new bike a bad thing?

The younger kid has had several bikes, each of which he’s regarded like a salad fork, if other people are using theirs, he will too, but otherwise he’s happy to leave it alone. The new bike has bucked that trend a little, but much remains to be seen. Will it finally become the dinner fork?

I am in a different place with all this now. I have tried my way, dragging them along on rides I was sure would light the appropriate fire, only to turn back 20 minutes later. I have accepted that I don’t know how to make someone love riding bikes.

So now I create opportunity, and I wait. Wasn’t that really what Siddartha was doing? He could achieve anything, he thought, as long as he could fast, and he could wait. That book was written by a German guy, so anything is possible.

This week’s Group Ride asks, how did YOU fall in love with the bike? Did someone lead you there, or did you discover it on your own? If you didn’t come to love the bike until later in life, I’m particularly interested in the chain of events/ideas that led you to cycling. If you have an origin story like mine, dating to your single-digit-days, then I’d love to hear how you thought about your first pedal strokes.

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11 comments

  1. Chris Constantino

    I’d been commuting on and off when a drunk driver totaled my parked car. It took awhile for all the insurance claims to clear. In the meantime my only means of transportation was my bike, so I began riding it everywhere. It brought me back to when I was a kid and there was no way I couldn’t go on my bike. The sense of freedom returned, the desire to go fast, the sheer fun of it. My insurance money finally come through but I never stopped commuting by bike.

    1. Steven Down

      I can’t remember not being aware of the freedom cycling gives a person. Rural English life for my villagers and I meant escape on bikes, in packs or solo, to the low level moors here in Somerset. Key events like finding “jazz” mags dumped down a dead end track, riding on my own to my Grandparents house whilst the rest of the family went by car, the summer of playing chicken with each other on the main road, and the chunks on gravel embedded in my arms, knees and lip from various stunts and falls are all part of my personal folklore.

      What really reinvigorated my cycling life was also the MTB in the late 80s. It came with an identity and a whole bunch of unknowns to discover and research. My head and heart rarely strayed from the bike since then.

  2. Tom Milani

    I rode as a kid and teenager, but it didn’t make a big impression. Flash forward 30 years, and a buddy calls, says let’s drink a few beers and ride, and it feel like a mostly harmless monster was created. Went from drinking a few beers and riding to converting an older bike to single speed, to mostly building up a single-speed frameset, to breaking my collar bone and a few ribs in a stupid crash, to actually caring about tire TPI, to being at the back end of our local LBS’s group ride, to contemplating a cross-country ride on our tandem, which my wife unequivocally wants to do (I’m the one with doubts). I’m nearly 60 now; all that’s happened in the last 12 years or so.
    –Tom

  3. Quentin

    I was in my mid teens. I had been doing a fair bit of commuting by bike for several years. One of the last things I did during my involvement with Boy Scouts was the cycling merit badge. I had recently bought myself a new bike (1986 Raleigh Olympian). I honestly can’t remember whether one of those caused the other or not. The badge required a few 25 mile rides, a distance I had never done before. It took one ride and I was hooked, even though the bike was stolen a few weeks later. I bought a better bike the next summer, and by the summer after that I entered my first race.

  4. Miles Archer

    I rode as a kid and loved the freedom. We also had a dirt lot full of “moguls” that we’d ride around on. We’d jump anything – and given that we were riding old schwin steel bikes with no suspension, it wasn’t much. As soon as I got a car, I stopped riding.
    I started again when the first wave of commercial mountain bikes appeared in the late 80s. I bought, and still have a 1987 Diamondback. I loved it – particularly how far the technology had come. I no longer had to work on my bike all the time. I could just ride it. Plus, I had money to take it to the shop if something needed tuning.
    I ended up commuting on that bike for a while. Not like you hardcore commuters – I was living in Alameda CA. Completely flat and almost entirely good weather.
    Anyway – it was the freedom to go far and fast that got me started.

  5. MattC

    Living in the country as kids, bikes were freedom to get out of sight of the house. Then my 1970 Schwin Sting-ray-5-speed (that stupid shifter was in a VERY dangerous position for a boy is all I will say on that). Street slicks, jumping (we were only 60 miles from Butte Montana, the home of Evel Knievel…every time he jumped something we’d move our ramps further apart). Then dirt riding (still on street slicks, bmx bikes were VERY new and we thought they were dorky). Then came high school and I got into dirt bikes (2 stroke)..and that was it for bikes for a while. THEN the mtb revolution started…my little bro got me riding on his Diamond Back…steel, fully rigid, but oh what it could do! It’s been ON since then, and I delved into road riding after my big bro was hit by a car and I got his old bike (he got a new one paid for by the inattentive driver). Didn’t take long for me to move up from the newly repaired Dave Scott Ironman (downtube shifters, 6 or 7 speed, can’t remember) to a Cdale CAAD-7 Team SAECO edition (Campy Record 10 speed, Zipp tubular wheels)…what a rocketship that was! And my Santa Cruz Blur, XTR, tubeless wheels…(both were bought 1 year old used btw). It’s been ON ever since…though I am pretty afraid of cars after too many near-misses( Cell phones are what I blame but it could be just plain old inattention). I road ride in groups but am totally free on the MTB, just like I was all those years ago in my Schwinn! And OH can I cover some terrain on my carbon Scalpel, Enve wheels, Eagle 12 spd w/ 10-50 cassette…gosh the mtb world has gone SO FAR it’s like science fiction! And my gravel bike fills in all the other gaps w/ 3 sets of wheels…28’s, 35’s and 45’s. Only 2 bikes I need to do pretty much anything. Life is GOOD!

  6. Chris

    I love the salad fork metaphor – I think my 9yo is about the same. We just moved to a new city and had a friend over for the first time yesterday. As we sat around the table eating grilled cheese, the friend said, “I love biking, especially mountain biking” and started telling stories of doing jumps of the swollen ground at the base of a tree in a nearby park. Here’s hoping…

  7. Jeff vdD

    I had bikes as a kid–we used them to get around. Did a 5-day camping trip from Boston out onto Cape Cod in grad school. But didn’t fall in love with bikes until I hit my 40s ten years ago. No Eureka, just kind of slid into it and was hooked before I knew it.

    I started road, dabbled a bit in MTB, but really came into my own with CX, gravel, and fat.

  8. TomInAlbany

    I fell in love in stages. As a 7th-8th grader, I used it to explore my small city. As a high-schooler, I used it to go visit that small city after we moved to the country. Then 16 came and that was it. But, in college, when I came home for the summer, started following Greg Lemond’s trials and tribulations of supporting the badger’s 5th, and then the following TdF. I began riding a loop for exercise and fun.When I got to grad school, I bought a bike for the exercise. And I’ve never looked back. I’ve loved the sport throughout and for all of its many uses and benefits!

  9. Willis

    I can vividly remember helping my dad take off the training wheels on my gold Schwinn Tempest? that foggy morning in September. Then feeling the magic of floating free of his steadying hand…only to fall when I went to stop. That was 50 years ago. The progression of bikes and injuries to follow were awesome. Even a fractured skull a year after I learned to ride couldn’t hold me back. The blue Schwinn Sting Ray 5 speed that eventually got turned into a single speed “chopper” courtesy of a hollow Huffy fork that I trash picked and sawed off the fork blades to slip over the Schwinn’s own fork blades. Viola! chopper. After the chopper it turned into my “jump” bike that I used with ramp that my friends and I made on the sidewalk in front of my house. The White and Orange Raleigh Record. I crashed it into a parked car the first day I had it and broke the fork in half. The Cannondale Crit bike that was so quick but rattled the fillings out of my teeth. The Specialized Hard Rock at the dawn of MTB’s. The Trek 9000 MTB after that. The Lynskey. The Niner (one of my favs) and finally the Open U.P. Oh, man. They have all been great.

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