Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The youngest cycling team

The future of cycling has never been brighter!

Today I had the pleasure of riding with my friend Nichole and her four children. Her youngest children are Joanna who has just turned six and Mary who is eight. Nichole had told me how she and her husband ride with her children every weekend and they regularly do 20km.

I rode with them this afternoon. Her oldest children rode at 22-25km/hr with great ease. They rode up hills on their small bikes with no effort at all. Nichole's daughter Mary was reluctant at first but then merrily chatted beside me as she rode comfortably at 17km/hr, her younger sister was not far behind.

The five of them completed 20km, through trails in Barrhaven and some roads without any effort, all of them confident and proud to ride. We stopped near a forest and I unloaded my treasure from my bike bags to give to them...gatorade and what I called my magic drinks. While they enjoyed the drinks, they quickly informed me that when we arrive at Food Basics we will get ice cream. Ice cream is a great motivator! While much ink has been spilled on what motivates us as individuals, be it power or status..I think that deep down inside all of us there still exists the inner child that will do almost anything for a reward of an ice cream cone!

When we rode on the bike paths that encircle Barhaven, I was surprised at how devoid of cyclists they were. We passed one cyclist on a hybrid bike who made a disparaging comment about our little troup within my earshot as she raced past. After she had cycled well past us, I raced up to her..just to make a point that our small racing team should not be discounted!

Rachel, Nichole's eldest told me that in fact they rarely see other bikers. I was saddened by this. A family that bikes together not only grows together and learns that fitness is fun, but it is a wonderful way to interact with children. As I rode with them, I learned that deer visit the farmlands, that ducks in a row can be very funny as they bob in the water, that grasshoppers are friendly but more importantly, I learned how much they love to ride their bikes with their parents. Biking is a cheap and wonderful way to be together as a family. It enabled the two older children, ages 12 and 10 to participate with their younger siblings. They just ride faster! I taught them that the faster cyclists have to wait for the slower ones which they did without hesitation, taking the time to have more of my magic juice from my water bottles.

In addition to the biking, I also found it charming to see children and their parents engaging in an unstructured activity. While they are enrolled in soccer, family biking can be done at anytime and anywhere and it tells children that fitness is for everyone, not just the children. Perhaps families should be given incentives to purchase bicycles for their family and then use the vast array of cycling paths in the city.

I tend to avoid cycling paths for myself as I ride too quickly. Today, I slowed down, I watched the grasshoppers, heard the tall corn waving in the breeze, saw the dappled sunlight in the forest path and learned from my young tutors about having fun.

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