This morning I woke up feeling like a Lego man; limited arm movement and yellowing skin around my battered shoulder. It’s just over a week since I crashed out at Rockingham and fractured my collarbone. The road rash is healing and the scabs are disappearing (hopefully mostly down the shower plug hole…), but the break means I’m still off the bike and will be for a while longer. It is intensely frustrating. It’s frustrating because the sun is out and the weather of late is unusually fine for riding; it is frustrating because I’m missing a bunch of races that I’ve been building up to for a couple of months. More frustrating though is that the week which ended with me in casualty started with my eldest daughter finally dumping her stabilisers.
Pretty much as soon as she could walk, or that’s how it feels, we got her a balance bike. She loved it and it wasn’t long before she was flying around, legs lifted in the air and freewheeling. When her fourth birthday came along we were confident she had the balance to jump, without for stabilisers, straight on to a proper bike and be flying on that too. For a week she was, but then something changed and her confidence took knock. She decided she wanted stabilisers and it was proving difficult to get her on the bike without them. The few attempts we did try ended in tears for her and frustration for us. In the end, dispirited that she would ever want to learn, we relented and bought some.
She could ride now, but the enthusiasm wasn’t there and the stabilisers weren’t the hoped for solution. She would have moments of interest, but they wouldn’t last; before long she would be back on her scooter and the bike would spend another few months gathering garage dust and cobwebs. This pattern lasted for over two years. We weren’t quite despairing, but I found it especially frustrating; being a keen cyclist I was desperate for her to learn to ride properly and discover the kind of joy and freedom only a bike can give, but it just wasn’t happening.
In early May she asked again if she could ride her bike. She didn’t want her stabilisers off, that, she told us, could wait another year. We didn’t press the point as that usually ends up putting her off riding altogether. However, one evening I suggested we raise the stabilisers a little and, to my surprise and delight, she agreed. I set them so that the wheels sat a couple of inches clear of the ground. She wanted me to hold on to her saddle and I did but, once she was going, I silently let go. She carried on for a while, getting her balance right, then must have realised I was no longer holding her and stopped. She looked back at me and asked if she had just done that on her own, I confirmed and a cautious smile crept across her face. She asked if we could do it again. A couple more times and I asked her if she wanted the stabilisers off. She thought for a moment then said yes, she did. I was faster than Billy the Kid drawing out my wrench and had the bloody things off in a flash! I gave her a push off and once again she was riding. She stopped and the next time pushed herself off.
She’s riding her bike properly now and loves it and I love that she does – hearing her tell me how much she loves her bike and loves cycling (sometimes even more than ponies) has been a proud moment for me as a cycling obsessed father. Thinking of horses, she has had a couple of riding sessions this year, and I do wonder how much that rubbed off to the bike – she could confidently turn a horse before she could a bike.
Now she wants to go further afield and use her bike to explore. This is a desire in my children that I’ve been looking forward to for over two years and now the time has finally arrived I’m invalided off my bike. With the summer ahead, I really cannot wait to be back on it.
Her little sister has the balance bike now and, she seems even more confident and quicker than her big sister was. It’s her birthday soon and she’ll be getting her first bike – she is desperate to follow in her big sisters footsteps. As before I’m hoping we can avoid the stabilisers, the difference this time is that she’ll be starting out with the benefit of our hindsight. For our eldest I think we made two mistakes; I think the bike we gave her was both too big and, being a fairly mediocre steel Halfords job, too heavy. The bike her little sister is getting is smaller and we’ve spent a bit more for a lighter alloy frame. Overall it is a technically better bike, so I’m hoping that will make the difference and get her riding from the start. And, if it means the bike doesn’t spend the best part of two years languishing in the garage then it will be money well spent. In the meantime I’ll just have to live out my riding through the girls and hope my clavicle heals fast so that I can join them all the sooner.