I could tell something was wrong, just from the way he was walking. I’d just come home. He’d greeted me out front, riding small tight circles on his bike. I walked up the stairs and into the house to put my stuff down and let the wife know I was back. After a minute’s chat, I turned to the window and saw him walking back up the street toward the house, walking his bike with his left hand.
His shoulders were hunched and his steps were clipped. The simple fact he was walking instead of riding rang alarm bells. I went back out to see what happened.
He’d just been riding around the block, practicing taking corners while riding no-handed, and he clipped a pedal and went over the bars. He was bleeding from a few spots on the back of his right hand, which he was cradling in close to his body.
How many times has this been me? How many times did I lose my rear wheel on the red clay of my Alabama youth and go tumbling into a rain culvert or thorn bush? How many times did a jump go wrong? How many corners, as an adult on a mountain bike, did I take too hot? How many seemingly innocuous obstacles didn’t I clear?
We went in and iced his wrist, dug him out a brace from the cornucopia of various compression and immobilization devices we’ve collected over the years. Two days later we sat in the walk-in urgent care clinic for an x-ray whose results were inconclusive, but at least it took an extra long time not to tell us much.
I had that part coming I guess. My son said, “I was trying to ride the corner no-hands, because you said that’s how I’d know if I could really do it or not.”
A ripple of remorse passed over me, and then it was gone. At root, I’m ok with falling off the bike. I think falling off is just part of the process of becoming a better rider. I don’t know anyone who is good on the bike who hasn’t paid into the pain bank along the way. And I want my kids to be good riders.
This week’s Group Ride asks, am I a bad dad? More broadly, how important is safety? I persist stubbornly with the idea that we’ve fetishized safety, denying ourselves the joys available out there on the jagged edge of prudence. The crashes hurt more now. I’m older than I was. But I’m good with that. Are you?