Monday, April 02, 2007


The Big Boy Bike

The Boy has finally conquered the mystery of balancing on a bike without training wheels.

At the conclusion of his first really successful ride, he was so excited that he pumped the air with his fists.

It's easy to forget what a big deal a bike is when you're five.

The Big Boy Bike represents mobility, and a kind of coolness, and actual achievement. It took TB a while to get the hang of it. Last Fall our efforts were simply fruitless, as he wouldn't go more than a couple of feet without falling. The first couple of outings this spring didn't work, either. At one memorable moment, he actually went careening into the side of a building, doing quite a number on one finger. (This is the hazard of learning on a hill. But we found that when he started on a flat spot, he couldn't get enough power to get moving before losing his balance. Starting by going downhill took power out of the equation long enough to let him get the hang of the balance. Now he can start just fine on a flat part.)

Then, mysteriously, he got it. It clicked.

Now he rides circles and figure 8's in the school parking lot, and wants to go biking every night after dinner.

The world has changed since I was his age. We didn't know from helmets or knee pads. Bike accessories back then were basically two things: really high orange flags off the back wheel, and baseball cards for the spokes. I haven't seen one of those flags in decades, and now we have laws about helmets. And baseball cards are far too expensive and valuable to put in bicycle wheels.

(This was also around the time of Evel Knievel's heyday. Evel Knievel plus unhelmeted five-year-old boys with bikes equals big fun! Also, severe bodily harm.)

TB's favorite place to ride is next to a playground, so we can take The Girl with us. One of us watches TB, and the other watches The Girl. On a good night, we coordinate with the family of one of TB's friends, so TB has a kid to ride with and TG has one of her little friends to climb the jungle gym with. Good stuff.

TB is still small enough that the mobility only happens under our supervision, so I'm not conflicted about it yet. He's not biking across town, or asking for the car keys. (Even typing that sentence, I could feel my blood pressure rise.) At this point, he's just having a great time going faster than he could on foot. For a little while, we have the glorious luxury of vicariously enjoying his newfound abilities without worrying about their implications for his safety. I know the moment will pass. I just want to enjoy it for a little while first.

It's so wonderful you can 'stay in the moment' and savour this experience with TB!

Way to go TB!!
Helmet laws: If I were a parent, I might be tempted to be a scofflaw on that one.

DD and I are the same age, although I needed different bike accessories than he did: streamers on the handlebars and lots of reflectors on the wheels. And a banana seat, with sparkles. Back then, you quickly learned not to ride your bike with serious bell-bottoms on, or with flip-flops. Some people learned it the easy way, some the hard way. :) And sure, I came home a few times with injuries that took several days to heal up.

However, I see some kids now, swaddled in their bike helmets and pads, riding in circles in the driveway because the street is too dangerous, and I feel deeply sorry for them. Not saying you're being that hyperprotective, DD. I just wonder if we have, in general, gone too far toward physical protection at the expense of fun.

Does anyone else remember riding in the way-back of a station wagon, in the "tail-gunner" position? The most coveted seats in the car, and ones that would immediately get Mom brought up on charges nowadays.
Sigh. All last summer, any mention to Tristan that maybe we might consider taking the training wheels off his most prized possession, his bike, were rejected outright by him. "When I'm five," he'd state unequivocally.

So now he's five, and it's me who is waffling. Really, we should just get on with it. The momentum from the hill is a good idea that I might steal!

And to the commenter before me - given my blue sparkly banana seat and rainbow streamers, I'd say we're in the same age demographic, and I clearly remember flipping over those high-rise handlebars and knocking myself unconscious on a curb when I was about 10. Thank god for the kindly stranger who picked me up and drove me home.

My kids aren't even allowed to sit on the seat of their bike (or trike) without a helmet. There are a lot of ways we tend to be more protective than our parents were, some better than others, but I think helmet laws are in the same category as car seat laws - a definite improvement.
I read somewhere, in the last couple of months, about a study that demonstrated that helmet laws have been shown to increase bike accidents. This would be for teen riders, not the younger set. Evidently it was a combination of overconfidence on the part of both the cyclers and the auto drivers, who assumed that helmeted cyclers had more competence than they really had. The drivers tended to give a wider berth to the bare headed.

So the helmet laws are not an unmixed blessing, but we use them as well.
Regular playing cards work very well in place of baseball cards for the spokes of the wheel!
We just bought Pistola's first big girl bike this weekend. She'll be using the training wheels until next summer, but this post made me sniffle a little bit already. :) Thanks for sharing.
I bought a Burleigh bike trailer several years ago (to tow the kids around in -- now they ride their own bikes). It can with one of "those flags" that we used to attach to the back of our banana seat bikes.

So while the flags are not cool for kids, they are "standard issue" for bike trailers!
I was in one serious bike accident, and the helmet did not keep me from catching on some gravel, panicking, and going over the top of my bicycle -- then landing on my elbow and dislocating my shoulder.

It did, however, keep my melon from getting dented when the bike landed on me. That would have hurt. So maybe not pads and stuff, but a helmet seems like a sensible middle ground.
In case you get nostalgic, those orange flags on the back of bikes actually can kill kids. One of my husbands student was killed when her sister fell off of her bike, the flag pole whipped around and hit her in the back of the head.

Freak accident, but sad, really sad.
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