Kids on Bikes!

Those of you who have taken a camp with me or simply been riding with me when we pass a group of kids or a family out riding know how happy I am when I see “kids on bikes” as I usually shout with glee, “Kids on bikes!” Ever since my first my first purple bike with big banana seat and ape hanger handle bars I have loved riding bikes. My bike was my ticket to adventure. It exponentially expanded my universe my allowing me to leave my block and explore unknown territory and gave me an out let for my boundless energy. As our country has gotten more in to consuming and spectating than actually doing anything (shopping is not a hobby, neither is watching other people play sports) it has really saddened me to see so many kids who have never discovered the freedom and adventure of riding a bike. Seeing kids on bikes gives me hope, makes me smile and brings back great memories. The kids on bikes are always smiling too, what a great toy!

After a fun (but way to short) stay with my family for Christmas I had to rush back to Tempe to coach the NOVA junior mountain bike team. I was looking forward to coaching the kids but mad at myself for volunteering to coach so close to Christmas. I was also honestly feeling a little resentful that I was sacrificing family time to coach a clinic (how is that for Christmas spirit! hopefully I won’t feel like such a scrooge next year). Well I woke up Thursday and rushed to get to South Mountain on time and was further upset that there was some confusion as to when the clinic was going to start. I was thinking, “I left my family so I could coach some late, ungrateful kids?”. Well the crew arrived not long after that and we got started. My attitude quickly changed as any time you get “kids on bikes” it is a good thing and this was no exception. The kids were fun, smart and good riders. We all learned a lot and had a lot of fun despite a chilly and breezy day. The kids were grateful too, the all thanked me and said that they were looking forward to next week’s clinic.

On Friday I was lucky enough to teach a younger group of kids than on Thursday and really relearned/remembered the differences in teaching younger kids and how much fun it is. Three 11-13 year old girls learned how to do wheelies! Like the older kids we had a lot of fun and they thanked me at the end of the day.

After the camp I had a little energy left so I went out for a ride. I was hoping to go up Mormon loop and down National trail but ran out of energy near the top of Mormon and turned around. Not long after turning around I ran into more kids on bikes! From the size of their smiles they were clearly excited to be out riding. I stopped to chat with them and they were pressing me to turn around and do National with them. Turns out that they are from Golden, Colorado and we ride a lot of the same trails at home. Their enthusiasm for descending National almost got me to turn around climb back up with them but I was just too tired. I did my best to focus on what I was doing on they way back to the car but I kept thinking about those two kids. What a grand adventure they were on! Unlike a lot of kids I see today they were in excellent shape, had great self-esteem and were quite happy.

For years I have thought if we could just get more kids on bikes we end so many problems. A kid with a skinned knee or even a broken arm has a story to tell and will heal stronger and even more confident of himself. A kid that is 30 pounds over weight by the time he/she is 13 years old and has never accomplished and/or failed anything isn’t really prepared for what life is going to throw at him/her. Life involves stress, physical, mental and emotional and riding a bike is similar to life in this matter. Riding a bike can teach a child a lot: that they can do more than they thought, that they have some control over their life, that exercise is fun, how to handle failure and through all of this increase their self esteem. I am doing what I can to encourage kids to start riding and I hope you will do the same. Stay tuned for more information on “kids on bikes”.

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11 replies
  1. DOUGLAS says:

    I love kids on bikes. I have three and take them to the races with me. My oldest is 8 and loves to ride. He’s gone on a few epic rides with me in the Los Angles area. My 6 year old daughter is diabetic. She lives for the weekend races. She loves riding around and checking out all the vendors, ringing the cow bell for the racers, and riding in the kids race. My littlest guy is 5. He goes wheels in the air on his 12 inch bike. What fun!!!

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Wow, I love to hear that! The three of them must bring a lot of smiles to the crowd. Keep up the good parenting!

      Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Douglas,

      I highly recommend the new kids bikes that don’t have pedals and no training wheels. Training wheels don’t help the kid learn balance and they teach him/her to steer like they are on a tricycle which is not how to turn a bicycle.

      Reply
  2. Danny ellison says:

    I can’t wait for my 4 and 5 year old girls to be able to ride the trail with me in my hometown. Any advice on overcoming training wheels so they can ride off-road?

    Reply
  3. Ben Smith says:

    Great Story Gene,
    I have three Daughters 7,9,and 14 all riding bikes with me. They even ride single track when I beg. My favorite memmory was coming home from a store one day, Out of the blue my middle daughter who was three at the time says “Dad I don’t want training wheels on my bike.” I told her “ok but if I take them off I’m not going to put them back on.” She agreed and I took them off as soon as we got home. She jumped on and I gave her a push to get started. To my amazment she rode all the way around the house before she stopped and never asked for the training wheels after that.
    Now days our typical ride is a paved trail for five miles to an icecream shop and back which I don’t like as much as single track but they love it and I love spending the time with them.
    Keep up the great work.
    Ben

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Ben,

      I love to hear that! I would gladly trade some single track time for a ride on a bike path with my three daughters (if I had any kids). I bet the four of you are the happiest dad and daughters in your area. Nothing like a bike ride to get you in the moment and smiling.

      Keep on being a great dad,

      Gene

      Reply
  4. Amy says:

    I can’t wait for my 4 and 5 year old girls to be able to ride the trail with me in my hometown. Any advice on overcoming training wheels so they can ride off-road?

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Amy,

      Get rid of the training wheels and either convert those bikes to a pedal-less coaster design or buy one/two of these cool bikes. They help you child learn balance and how to ride a bike much quicker than training wheels. Trek, Specialized and many other companies make these bikes.

      Reply
  5. Rick says:

    Hi Douglas,

    I highly recommend the new kids bikes that don’t have pedals and no training wheels. Training wheels don’t help the kid learn balance and they teach him/her to steer like they are on a tricycle which is not how to turn a bicycle.

    Reply
  6. nick says:

    Hi. I teach 6th grade at a middle school. We have been blessed to have an extensive single track trail system across the street from our school. I picked up mountain biking about three years ago and and soon after made the obvious chioce to start up a mountain bike club with the middle schoolers. In the fall I have 20+ kids that ride and have always focused more on goal setting then competitive riding. I personally am not competitve and do not race, however this year MMBA (Michigan Mountain Bike association) as organized a scholastic bike league and will hold three races this fall for middle schools and high school teams. I guess I like to pick you brain on how you think I can add a competive piece to the club while not scaring away those reluctant riders that come out to have fun and just ride. Thanks.
    Nick.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Nick,

      First congratulations on starting a club for your students! We need more teachers like you. If only Shimano, Trek, Specialized, etc would support getting recreational cycling into schools. I share your fear about the competition aspect as one of the greatest things about cycling his anyone can enjoy it and when we start creating winners and losers it can sour the the experience (for the 99% who don’t win).

      Off the top of my head I would make sure you separate the team from the club (students should be welcome to do both and you can have combined rides) and make sure the club is still based on having fun. When you do club rides make sure it is all about fun and learning, not a high speed training ride. If a few students try and make the club rides training rides tell them they are welcome to be on the team but not on the club rides until they change their focus. On club rides you can also stop to let the slower riders catch up and focus on skills while waiting for them (stop at a challenging section of trail).

      As you know I am for anything that gets a human being on a bike. Most of today”s biggest problems (obesity, health care costs, depression, etc.) could be fixed if everyone just rode a bike 3-4 times a week.

      Keep up the good work and let me/us (the readers) know how it goes.

      Create a great mtb club and team!

      Reply

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