I have two kids. A 7 year old girl who is beginning to show signs of teenage-hood and a 4 year old boy. They watch me closely, picking up the guitar to see if they can make it sound like I do, grasping at cameras to document days (the girl is actually super talented, I have to constantly check if my ability to take a photo was all down to the camera after all!) and more recently cycling!
Charlie got his first bike when turning 4. He chose a lightening red, quirky frame, free air horn and bottle attachment machine - quite the looker! He asked me if we can go to the local track to race "like the time I watched you Daddy!" and here is where his cycling life begins and my sudden realisation that bikes can be bloody scary!
We woke on ride day with eager anticipation. Porridge to fuel the ride, bottles filled to the rim with energy juice (plain water obviously). He was eager to replicate what he has seen at local cyclocross races. Adjusting the strap on his helmet, making sure it is secure. Double checking his shoes are tight for the sprint. Sipping at water to make sure he doesn't get thirsty and possibly his favourite part, munching Haribo just like Sagan.
We set off on a our race track, a non traffic course used by local riders for evening training and family rides in between. He quickly notices there are two different coloured lines towards the inside of the track, "What do these mean Daddy?". What happens next makes me realise how we are born with the underlining ability to want to push limits. "The outside line is for slower riders, this is where we will be staying to make sure we do not collide with any fast riders on the track - they stay on the blue line.", "No way, that is rubbish! I want to go in the fast lane!!". He applies pressure to the pedals and shoots off, stabilisers can be heard picking up an impressive speed from the go.
He is now experiencing that 'Flying' feel we all get on a bike. You can see his eyes are locked on the 'fast' line and he begins to notice he is getting faster and faster as the track begins to slope downhill. "Don't forget to use your brakes, there is a corner coming...brake...brake...BRAKE!!!"
There is a sweeping right turn, he takes it at full speed! He is technically now only on one stabilser and only just maintaining rubber on the tarmac. He swooshes round the corner and eventually finds the brakes. "WOAH!! That was awesome!! I nearly fell off but did you see me manage to stay on my bike"
My heart was racing! I nodded nervously and complimented him on how well he did but maybe we should save some energy for the last lap, before I could finish my sentence he was off - on the fast line of course.
We managed three laps in total and I'm proud to say we stayed on two wheels for the rest of the ride. He learnt to dig deep on the hills and left with the cycling bug. I quickly became aware of how amazing this sport is, watching a child learn so much in one ride but also what I must have put my parents through.
As a parent you want your child to learn new experiences that help shape their future, small life lessons to prepare them for what is to come. Falling is a key part of childhood, it is neatly designed to ensure we begin to learn where limits are, how far we can push things and how to get back up and move on. It is our job to make sure we apply the limits we have already learnt to their learnings to be sure they remain safe. Cycling is remarkably hard to control when you do not have physical access to their brakes. There are countless moral lessons encased within the world of cycling, so many can be translated into everyday life and I honestly believe they assist with shaping a well rounded individual and yes there is a fear element involved, a lurking danger that always remains but truth be told most things we do have that element of danger.
The hardest part of my job, as a parent, is learning to slowly release the reins and letting my kids learn for themselves as they become more curious about life. There is a lot I can learn from watching Charlie embrace that swooping right turn at full speed. I think it is safe to say we will be riding again!
Next stop, the Tour de France... apparently,