August 31st, 2015
Almost 20 years ago now, when Ken and I first started dating, he was always on his bike. I went from just being an English major nerd to being immersed in the cycling community, learning a new language with each race that I tagged along to. I got to see roads in Texas that I never otherwise would have seen and I became a spectator, supporter and feed-zone pro.
Much of our courtship was spent on, near or among bikes. We traveled together to races and got to know each other on the long drives. He got me on a bike again for the first time since I was a kid and taught me to let go, have fun and embrace adventure. We rode bikes together through Acadia National Park on the day when Ken proposed.
When bike racing took Ken up north, he met my parents for the first time, just hours after this photo was taken.
Ken is the one in the red helmet with the fierce look on his face. And while he looks at this photo and sees second place, I look at it and I remember how much I admired his discipline and determination, his bravery and his tenacity as he rode and raced and sometimes won and sometimes didn’t.
Bikes have always been a part of our story, and now bikes are part of our parenting story as well.
A month ago I brought home a Woom 2 bike and watched as Ken and Miles fell in love. Ken sat staring at it, in awe of its awesomeness. He gushed over every part, continuously marveling at the depth of quality on this small bike. Miles looked up at him as he listed off the things that he wished he had had as a kid.
He talked about its alloy rims, lightweight aluminum frame, unique frame shape that allows a lower center of gravity, short 3-piece cranks for small legs, the spot to add a cage for a water bottle, the comfy seat, the short-reach hand brakes, the super-cool reflective tires.
He said bike things like, “The geometry is really great on it” and I asked, what does that mean? Even 20 years later, the bike language sometimes needs translation. In short, it means it fits kids well. That Miles can easily sit on the seat and reach the handlebars and put his feet down if he needs to but also reach the pedals well.
Miles doesn’t call it “geometry,” but every time he jumps on his bike he says, amazed, “This bike is the perfect size for me.” He was proud of how quickly he mastered the hand breaks. He could easily put his feet down when he was feeling wary. He could ring his bell to let his sister know he was right behind her.
And I love that everything about the Woom stands out in its simplicity. It is just a really great bike to look at (no characters or sparkles or other gimmicks kids quickly outgrow). It is a classic – solid colors, everything on the bike is for a purpose, giving it a friendly and easy to use look that helped my timid kid want to jump right on.
When Miles got on his Woom bike for the first time, I thought he might just take off. He had ridden a balance bike for a while, though he never really got the total hang of it, he was really excited about his new awesome bike and he said he was ready.
But he didn’t take right off. I should have known he wouldn’t; he’s not a risk taker, he never has just jumped right in to anything in his life. He is a perfectionist – if he can’t do it perfectly, doing it at all is a struggle.
So he didn’t take right off. And, really, I think that’s better.
It’s not better because he has fewer skinned knees or because he still stays right there next me. It is better because most things in life won’t come easy. Most things will take the discipline and determination, bravery and tenacity that I so admired in his father on a bike all those years ago.
I realized this the first time around when Nora learned to ride her bike, but the hanging on and letting go of learning to ride a bike is just a giant metaphor for parenting. I want him to take off on his own, but I don’t want him to go too fast or too far. I want to hold him up forever to prevent him from falling, but I know I can only teach him by letting go. I wish that it was always easy to balance all of life’s demands, but sometimes that balance is something we struggle to find.
And so we’ve spent time practicing. Riding bikes in the park while Ken and I hold on to him for the most part, encouraging some risks and assuring him we are still right there.
“I want to ride my bike as good as my dad,” he said as we rounded another corner in the park, my hands holding tight to his handlebars, his feet pushing the pedals around and around in circles.
“You’re learning, buddy,” I told him.
He’s learning to pedal and look where he’s going, learning to pull the hand breaks and steer along the paths. But he’s also learning to be brave, to try things that scare him, to embrace adventure and to try again and again when he doesn’t get it right away.
“I’m learning,” he agreed.
And then, for a few long seconds, I let go.
Thank you to Woom Bike for giving Miles the bike and asking me to write about your outstanding product! I am so happy that Woom bike is now a part of our family’s continuing bike story.