Maybe some of you parents can relate. One day your kid is on training wheels or a balance bike, the next they decide they can ride no hands.
It starts out simple enough–one hand up for a split second (see “the beginner in the video). Then two (for a split, split second). They start stretching it out. Longer and longer. The wobbles get bigger, and more dangerous because they aren’t going too fast to start out with and usually stop pedaling as soon as the hands come off. But still they wait even longer before returning to the safety of hands on. Eventually, they’ll realize speed is a good thing. It stabilizes the bike. But until they do … yikes.
The boy right now is in the early stretching-out stage. And it scares the crap out of me.
You see, an incident on the playground last year cost him most of his two front teeth. Keeping the remaining tooth structure is already getting pretty expensive, but sort of necessary. So every time those hands go up, I cringe.
That this is even a worry of mine is more than ironic. I crashed a LOT as a kid. Call me the poster child for the accident-prone life I’m not exaggerating when I say my mom spent days of her life waiting for X-rays in the emergency room. Thirteen casts. Countless stitches. You name it, I broke, cut, spindled or mutilated it.
Mad Paperboy Skillz
Still this didn’t stop me from riding no-handed like any other self-respecting kid. In fact, as a proud, bicycle-paperboy, one of my go-to skills was the no-handed paper-fold and toss. To add difficulty, this was done astride my royal-blue Schwinn Varsity (purchased with hard-earn paper route money), toting 40lbs of Seattle Times in my newsprint-stained, canvas, double-shoulder bags.
Maybe it was more dangerous steer around my suburban route no-handed, but the route was faster when I didn’t stop to fold. And speed was the name of the game when you were trying to beat the rain and get home before the Banana Splits started and my cereal got soggy.
Of course, that life is gone. Kids aren’t allowed to be out on bikes without their parents. And certainly not in the rain. And don’t even think about eating sugar cereals and watching junky TV after school. Even if you could get past all the bad for you stuff (freedom, TV, and junkfood), the classic paperboy no longer exists: the Seattle Times only wants adults with cars.
I actually feel pretty terrible about the loss of the paperboy. No doubt about it – the job sucked and those greedy newspaper circulation departments took advantage of child labor (I probably made $40/month. The Times advertises up to 40x more for adults today). But really, what’s wrong with little suburban child labor?
Freedom and Failure as Learning Tools
Earning the money for my Varsity was a very big deal. Having the freedom and the responsibility of the bike route helped me gain essential life experiences, some of them even useful. (if it looks like it’s going to rain, go deliver your papers instead of hanging out at the paper shack talking about girls. If you don’t, you’ll get wet. And… when collecting for monthly paper bill, if a creepy guy answers the door in a bathrobe holding a cantelope, come back later. That kind of thing).
With so few opportunities to try, fail and learn on their own, the least I can do is let my kid ride his bike no-handed. Let him learn and let him fall. They’re making advances in dental technology all the time, right?
Heck, maybe one day, he’ll be rocking all 50 of these no-handed moves.
(hat tip to the always awesome adventure journal)
Or maybe that’s exactly what I’m afraid of.
So how ’bout you. Any riding fears (real or imagined) you want to get over? Feel free to share in the comments and maybe we can do some cheap group therapy.