Ride or die

One of the unique joys that I’ve found with fatherhood is the ability to relive experiences with a fresh perspective, almost as if it’s a chance to reconnect with my own childhood. My oldest son graduated to a 21 speed mountain bike today and this evening we went on a five mile ride.

“I didn’t know you could ride a bike like that dad!” he says to me as I casually speed out in front of him. The truth is, we’ve never taken a real bike ride before. I’ve always walked, either pushing one of his younger brothers in a stroller or helping them learn to ride their bikes while he rode on ahead. Tonight we each rode big boy bikes and we were on a big boy ride, not some meandering jaunt to the park and back.

I was probably showing off a bit, desperate to impress my 9 year old son. I don’t care though, if I can win the approval of my kids, that’s all the cool factor I need. We crossed the bridge into McManus park where I could take him on some little dirt trails.  I stopped abruptly on the path thinking about how I was going to coach him in trail riding and forgetting that this was still his first time on a mountain bike. I pointed towards where we were going to ride and began to say something when I heard his panicked shouting behind me. He collided with my back tire before I had time to react, shoving me off the path and flipping himself over his handlebars.

He was wearing his helmet and now he knows why we don’t let him ride without one. Never miss an opportunity to turn a catastrophe into a teachable moment.

He bolted upright and immediately dusted himself off. Not a tear nor drop of blood was shed so we high fived and carried on with the ride. The next couple miles was mostly uphill so it was an education in how to shift his new bike as well as an appreciation for the level of difficulty involved. I told him to pay attention to how hard the ride felt now so that by the end of summer he could think back and see how much stronger he’s become.

We rested at the halfway point and then carried on where the ride was mostly flat or downhill. It was the golden hour, when the sun sinks low and the very air around you seems glow. We could see the mountains above us and the valley below and for a moment, life couldn’t possibly be more perfect.

We made it home without another collision and he is eager to go out again. He grew up a little more today, which means he’s a little bit less of the little boy he was yesterday. But I’ve gained a new riding partner and I’m looking forward to the trails ahead.