In which the Reluctant Cyclist gets overtaken.
Prompted by the arrival of a Frog children’s bike on loan for review, it occurred to me that I really ought to teach my very nearly eight-year-old daughter how to ride a bike. This was a bit of a pity for me, as ‘we can’t come as my youngest can’t ride yet’ has been serving me particularly well as an excuse not to get on a bike in this warmer weather.
I read Jo Somerset’s article on ‘how to get your child to ride’ and started her on some bike familiarisation exercises with the pedals off. I was hoping to string this out over several weekends, working slowly up to any actual riding taking place.
It took a good twenty minutes before my daughter got thoroughly bored of scooting around and insisted that she ought to have pedals, ‘because all bikes have pedals’. Pedals were duly installed and I started the dreaded part of teaching a child to cycle, the running behind the child whilst holding their saddle part.
However, much I may try and avoid cycling, it is fair to say that I avoid running a significant amount more, so jogging up and down the road, whilst bent in half holding on to a small bike was not my preferred way of spending the afternoon. I had been here before, last year, much of which was spent doubled up in this fashion to no avail.
The lure of using the brand new bike must have touched a chord in my daughter, as after around 20 meters she yelled at me to let go and took off, at speed, up the street. Suddenly filled with maternal concern for her welfare and that of any cars, cats or children she might hit, I took off up the road after her.
“Where are you?" I panted down the phone at my partner, who was supposedly at the park my daughter seemed intent on reaching on her own. After establishing that I wasn’t having a heart attack, and that those were actually the noises that I make whilst running, my boyfriend told me that he was sat at home, having completely missed the new rider on her way past.
Once the whole family had regrouped, it was time to put the newly acquired skills (hers, not mine) to the test. Daughter number one had been asking for a while to try out the route she would be taking to secondary school in September, so we all set out down the quiet roads and paths she would be cycling daily.
I didn’t realise that I was quite such a slow cyclist, or rather, I realised I was slow but thought that this was only in comparison to regular cyclists so it didn’t count. Nothing, however, quite conveys the lack of speed I pedal at, quite so much as a small child, who has not been on a bike independently for more than an hour in her entire life, calling out ‘hurry up mummy, go faster’ and promptly overtaking me. I was going at what I thought was a perfectly acceptable speed, and as my bike has two sets of completely undecipherable gear twisters, one for each hand, I had no idea how to speed up apart from simply moving my legs a lot faster. Which I did. Even this was not speedy enough for little Miss ‘I’m Victoria Pendleton’ so on the return route she took the lead and I followed her home, stopping at the park to treat myself to a well-deserved ice cream and a rest.
I rather think that this is the beginning of the end; as my daughters are both now independent riders it’s one less excuse to stay off the bike and two loud reasons to go out on it. With my youngest asking, “Mummy can I eat the jelly so we can run out and I can go on my bike to buy some more?"
I think that we are going to be cycling rather a lot from now on.