This is an apologetically self-indulgent child-related blog post, so be warned - dadblog imminent...
Since my eldest daughter was about 1.5 years old, she has been right into cycle touring. I spend a lot of time at home looking at maps and reading bike books and things, and she usually joins in saying she wants to ride here and there with me. Every time I leave the house she's always saying "I want to come bike riding too".
One of the great things about being a parent is I can force my views of how the world works onto my children and they don't know any differently - in this instance I indoctrinated her into my belief that training wheels and / tricycles are counter productive for learning to ride a bike, and therefore have no place in a child's life. So since a young age she's been burning around on one of those timber balance bikes, and rides one of those little alloy scooters the 3.2km round trip to kindy each day.
Now that my wrist has been fused solid and healed, I felt I finally had the stability in my hands to get her out on a little BMX (donated by Rudi, who frequently appears on this very blog) to get her pedalling around solo. I had a burst of extra motivation from my mate Dave (who writes the MAJESTIC cycle adventure blog "A View From Above"), who I discovered had ridden the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail with his daughter. Teaching kids to ride seems like a sweet little investment in a lifetime of getting out on cycle adventures while simultaneously looking like Father Of The Year. Daughter was super keen too - I asked her if she wanted to learn to ride all by herself today, she said yes, and off we walked down to the local park.
Before the ride she declared "I'm going to ride my pedal bike today - don't help me!"
I live about 100m from a large park that joins onto a convoluted series of reserves that includes creeks, bushland, playgrounds, sports fields and bikeways. We walked down there, got to the edge of a sports field, she sat on the bike and I gave her an almighty shove to get her moving. And she just kind of did it straight away, pedalling 39 metres on her first attempt! I thought it might be a bit more complex than that, and I'd have to run around for days holding onto the seat, thereby providing me a lifetime of fatherhood memories I could later recall while tearfully listening to "Cat's In The Cradle", but no - she just pretty much rode off like it was no big deal.
Off she goes! By her third attempt she was getting about 80m in the grass before stopping. On her fifth attempt she started riding around in tight circles and weaving in and out of trees.
We were riding around on the grass of the sports oval, which must have been pretty tough going for her little legs, so after a while she wanted to tackle some downhills. I asked her if she knew how to stop, and she said "just pedal backwards" - she already had the intricacy of the coaster brake sorted out it would seem. We walked up a slope overlooking the sports ground and off she went - down the slope, across the sports field, off the edge of the field, weaving through the trees through a patch of scrub, before tackling the hill up to the next sports ground. After that marathon ride she suddenly stopped, and declared "my legs are tired. Tired from bike riding!". As readers would well know there's nothing I enjoy more than taunting my riding mates mercilessly when they show the first sign of weakness - and my riding mates would have no doubt be disgusted when I today said something like "that's OK, you've done a great job. Let's have a little rest." According to my speedo she had done around 2.7km of solo riding on her first time out.
Pleased with herself. Note I have also indoctrinated her into my belief that adjusting the seat so feet can rest flat on the ground is an insult to pedalling efficiency - to quote her "I need the seat up high so I can go fast!"
As we pushed the bikes back home, I asked her where she wanted to go cycling next. Without hesitation she said "I want to cycle all around the world, on a rail trail!". I have no idea where a 4 year old girl could have picked up an idea like that...
...kids these days!