Bike Riding with the Boys

Yesterday, we took the boys to Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver for a bike ride. The sky was blue. The temperature was perfect for a ride – not too hot. The dirt path is wide enough that a child with limited control over steering cannot cause trouble. Critical for a four year old speed demon on a very small two wheeler with no pedals. And a concerned mom inexperienced with mixing riding and kids.

My husband and the two older boys took off. They are training for a 7-mile loop of the well-known 100-mile Elephant Rock ride, which my husband rode last year alone. With the middle child finally bribed into learning to ride (with a Wii Skylander game as his prize) and quickly growing confident, their Dad was initially planning to push them for the 30-mile loop. But wiser friends with older children advised him to go small for a first outing.

Our ride yesterday proved they are able. Minimal whining. Big smiles. Lots of boasting afterward. Typical boys.

While they darted up ahead, I coasted with our four year old on his Balance bike. It is an amazing concept that I wish our other two had benefited from. No pedals forces little ones to learn the balance of a two-wheeler when they are small enough to learn it only about a foot off the ground. The four year old rode for some time, talking all the while, before deciding to walk his bike for a stretch.

As we wandered the trail through the dramatic canyon along a gurgling stream, we talked about all the different bird sounds. We defined “rapids” and rated “waterfalls.” We imagined riding our bikes along the top ridge of the canyon and what it would feel like to fall. We guessed many times how far we had ridden. He claimed he saw George Washington’s face carved into the rocks, and made special note of George’s curly white hair. We saw three different colors of butterflies. He rode his wheel purposefully over a beetle crossing our path.

Tiny sips of lemonade were enough to rejuvenate the sweaty boy when he tired, and we kept a slow but steady pace while we talked. More experienced riders stared at the happy little guy on his red pedal-less bike. Some laughed. Others called him “tough” and his bike “cool”. He seemed to add to their day as he did to mine.

And then when his Dad and brothers had turned back and caught up with us, he boasted as much as they did about all we had seen and done while they were up ahead. He was not disappointed when they again rode ahead to the parking lot. Instead, he initiated a game of follow-the-leader in which he cut me off, laughing, any time I tried to pass. Several scratches on the back of my leg are evidence of my repeated attempts not to crash into him and cause injury.

Just less than 5 miles later, we were safe off the trail and driving home. A small adventure on our bikes. A victory for Dad who likes hanging with his guys. A success for the boys. And an afternoon with a four year old to be remembered always.

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