J has resisted any attempts I've made to get him interested in bikes ever since I first taught him to ride without training wheels. We've done a few 'round the block loops and one trip to our Y to swim (2 mi each way) with a stop for ice cream on the return trip, but coaxing was involved. Not wanting this to turn into something he resisted because he was being forced to do something he didn't want to do, I pretty much left it alone. I still invited him to go for rides but didn't push it. This spring I hit on the idea of an overnight on the Katy Trail. There's a trail shelter that's about 10 miles from Jeff City. Ten miles is a reasonable distance for a nine-year old to cover if we're open to taking as long as it takes. When I brought this up to J, he was interested. Excited, even, and we spent the next several days talking about what to bring (chances are, polar expeditions have been undertaken with less crap than I'll be lugging), what we'd do, etc.
His enthusiasm for the plan was even better than I'd hoped, but an added benefit was that his desire to be ready for the ride has translated into a new willingness to get out on his bike. Admittedly, that willingness was initially fertilized with the offer of ice cream on our ride, but still...last weekend he was up to ride home from baseball practice. This being our first actual ride together, I was pretty worried about how it would go. I've always run next to him just in case, but even with him being unsteady, his bike speed has outpaced my run speed. Last time he rode, I had taken a friend's advice to lowered his seat, and his new ability to easily put a foot down did wonders for both of our confidence. We didn't set any land-speed records, but J got noticeably better as he stuck with it, and we made it home without tears from either of us. This past Sunday was another baseball practice, this one just a few blocks away. We rode to it together, and though he opted to stay and play longer rather than ride back, he was disappointed that I wouldn't take him out after he got home (making dinner). As a consolation prize, I offered him a ride after school Monday. The on-road portion of our ride was moderately terrifying, but I was able to relax (a little) when we hit the paved bike trails.
J once again did great, and I think the kid corners better than I do. Granted, my friends will tell you that's not anything to write home about, but still. He was a little nervous on the downhill, but he rode up the other side like a champ.
We rode around 1.5 mi before he started getting uncomfortable, so we turned around, stopping to
As we rode back home I was telling him how proud of him I was, what a great job he'd done. "This was really fun," he answered. "The only reason I didn't like it before is because I was bad at it." Maybe some of us are wired to avoid things that are hard for us without the right motivation. I can remember Daniel, my oldest, refusing to ride a bike because "it's just not my thing", when we knew he just didn't like doing things that didn't come easily. For him, it was a bike ride to the pool that did the trick; for me, it was adventure racing that forced me to stick with mountain biking. In J's case, all it took was the promise of an overnight trip. And ice cream. He truly is a boy after my own heart.