Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Harried With Children

I went on a ride with an eleven year old on a mountain bike. This noticeably affects the character of the ride. The eleven year old isn’t interested in cadence or pace or tempo or even riding in a straight line. This is what riding your bike is all about when you’re a kid – having fun, swerving all over the street, riding with no hands, trying to stand up on the bike, going to the emergency room with a concussion, all that sort of thing.

There are adults who take all the fun out of riding a bike. I like to pay attention to my distance and my cadence, but I still have a good time riding. I have met people, not professional riders, for whom riding the bike is a deadly serious affair. I have met entire cycling clubs for whom riding the bike is a deadly serious affair. (If you have read many of these blog posts – assuming you have the constitution for so grueling a task – you will have noticed that the club I belong to, the Seyboro Cyclists, is not one of those clubs where the members think cycling should be all work and no play.)

I was talking to members of another club, and they were discussing their club rides. “Every Thursday we do hill intervals. Tuesdays are sprint practice.” and so on. Don’t you sometimes just want to ride your bike? Sure, we’ve done some hard rides, but we’ve also done some sofa rides.

Main Entry: so-fa ride

Pronunciation: \sō-fə rīd\

Function: noun

Meaning: a ride which requires approximately the same amount of effort as sitting on your rear end on the sofa eating cheez nips and changing channels with the remote control.

Etymology: We made it up one day

It isn’t a real dictionary entry, but it ought to be.

But I digress. I was talking about riding with an eleven year old on a mountain bike. We did a loop of approximately one mile at a pace gentler than that of a sofa ride. It was seriously cold, with temperatures on the upper thirties and a good stiff wind blowing. It was just about cold enough to make my teeth hurt, but I was not inclined to call it a day after just one mile. The eleven year old refused to go in before I did, so we went around again.

It was during this second loop that the eleven year old expressed a desire to go for a real road ride some day. Well, why not? Well, mostly because the prospect terrifies me. Why? Well, go back and reread the first paragraph. That’s why.

Being a cyclist on the road doesn’t mean quivering in abject terror at the thought of cars, but it does mean having a healthy respect for the potential risks. Let’s face it, cars are bigger than we are. In an impact, Newton is not on your side. (Not the fig guy, the other one. Sir Isaac.) Can you make an eleven year old understand the seriousness of the undertaking? I don’t know. We’ll have to talk about that one. Young riders should be encouraged, after all. Maybe she’s a potential US champion. Maybe she could win a medal at the Olympics. Maybe she could just have years of enjoyment ahead of her. Either way, it a good thing.

For the record, we stayed out and did three miles. She was very proud of herself for finishing a ride of that length, and I was proud of her, too.

Well, I’m out of here. All of this talk of riding has made my feet itch to spin the pedals.

See you on the road.

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