Fostering a love of cycling, like riding itself, requires balance
During a fantastic period this past spring, my four-year-old daughter asked to go to Joyride 150, an indoor bike park. There was no prompting from me, which is often the case. Then we had a fun day at a local outdoor bike park. She was also riding her balance bike almost every day to daycare. Oh man, was I ever pleased. Previously, she had been ambivalent about her bike, but she was really enjoying riding. And then, she stopped. “You want to ride your bike to daycare today?” “No.” “Huh. OK,” I would say. I found it perplexing, maybe even a bit agonizing, but I kept my cool. She would instead stand on the pedal of my commuter bike as we’d talk during the walk to daycare, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but…
Years ago, bmx coach Brendan Arnold advised me not to push cycling too hard on my kid. It was something I knew intuitively, but it often helps to hear such things reinforced by an expert. Arnold – who gets many kids riding at Stouffville bmx, about 30 km north of Toronto – appears in Molly Hurford’s stellar feature, ‘ Inspiring Girls to Ride,’ (p.50). It’s a story I read with keen, keen interest.
Hurford was definitely the right writer for a story about encouraging girls to take to two wheels. I’m a fan of her novel for young readers, entitled Shred Girls. An advance copy sits on my shelf as I wait for my daughter to hit the right age for the story. Also, Hurford has been featuring real-life shred girls on her website of the same name for almost two years. The site is just one of the many projects she has that can pique a girl’s interest in cycling. As Hurford writes in these pages, examples of women riding bikes can help girls to embrace the activity. When I watch World Cup cyclocross races at home, my daughter will ask the gender of the riders on the television. She’s always a little disappointed if it’s the men’s race. But if it’s the women’s, she’ll ask, “Is that one Sophie?” or “Is that Sanne?” wondering if de Boer or Cant is in the race.
At the risk of giving too much away, I’ll tell you about one point that Hurford makes in her story that really gave me an “ah-ha” moment. A love of cycling doesn’t just come from parent/daughter time. It also comes from riding with friends. I’ve been so keen to ride with my girl that I didn’t really consider this part of cycling. I do have some fond memories of riding with my parents and sister back when I was a kid. But, I probably spent more time on a bike riding with the other kids on our dead-end street. As a teenager, I still got around a lot by bike with my friends, even with fresh driver’s licences in our pockets.
I remember one ride date my daughter had with a friend at the local bike park. They rode the pump track a bit. Then, they put their bikes down and collected pine cones. And arranged pine cones. I think they might have even made stick houses for the pine cones. I now consider this off-bike activity as a four-year-old’s version of a long mid-ride espresso break.
As I write this, my daughter has recently started insisting on riding her pedal bike instead of the balance bike. If I help her get up to speed, she can pedal, and you can imagine how happy that makes me. But getting the bike going is still a challenge. She gets frustrated, gets off the bike and refuses to get back on. (Geez, I wonder where she gets this stubbornness from?) I want to say to her, for the hundredth time, that she just needs to push down on a pedal and push off from the ground. But I keep my cool. I know she’ll come back to the bike, when she’s ready.