Simon Vincent is back with another heartwarming story of the biking life. This time, he takes a trip down memory lane and into the future as his daughter learns to ride independently:
I have many wonderful memories of biking as a kid… but I don’t remember when I first learnt to ride. I don’t recall the pride I must have felt when the training wheels first came off. I know, and occasionally still feel, the exhilaration I got from riding no-handed or popping a wheelie or throwing my bike into a giant skid – but when I actually did these for the very first time, I have forgotten. When I first learnt to fix a puncture, and who taught me, is also lost in the mists of time – probably my dad or one of my Aunties (the formidable “Sisters of Murphy”) or a brother or a cycling buddy…
But I am now getting to relive all of these rites of riding passage with our beautiful daughter.
Barely able to toddle, Miss E spent many happy times waving from her bike seat as Mel (Mum) ferried her to and fro. She loved going down the small dips in the road and would squeal with delight as she caught the wind. “Faster, faster” she would encourage Mel to go, and soon she was selecting routes that would give her the most downhill thrills.
Arriving on a bike at her playgroup was always a grand entrance. I like to think the other children looked on with wonder, as if she had arrived in a helicopter, and wished their parents could be so cool as to ride bikes.
When she eventually outgrew the seat, and then the tricycle, it was time for a real bike of her own. The bike came with training wheels, and so that is how Miss E first started to ride by herself. It quickly became apparent that she was channelling Ivan Mauger, taking corners at heroic angles, defying all the laws of physics with the help of those bicycle buoyancy aids. Something had to change.
Initially, she was reluctant to try to ride without this support, but a couple of trips up to the school playground and she was away – literally. She rode 6kms of Twin Streams the day after the training wheels came off, and she was not the only one bursting with pride that day.
The skills of bike control really came in handy when we put on a Bicycle Easter Egg Hunt in a local park. Miss E and her friends rode around, hunting for clues and solving puzzles as parents looked on from a distance. Stopping and starting and sudden changes of directions were the order of the day – chocolate featured, too. It was wonderful to watch the children all learn from each other, their riding improving simply by being in a group of their peers and having sweet fun.
Teaching our daughter to ride was not just about the skills, but the whole package of having a bike. We have shown her that the shops are within biking distance, and her friends’ houses too. She knows you can ride in the rain and that on long trips you can stop and take a break and start again. Recently, we planned and carried out a weekend ride around our whole neighbourhood – a ‘Great Lolly Hunt’, confirming which dairy has the best selection of $1 lolly bags.
One memorable Saturday, we had ridden to the village shops to do our usual stuff; visit the library, a bit of shopping and a drink at a café. Afterwards, Miss E declared she was ready to go home – by herself. She told us she could ride the normal way and we could go a different route, and we would meet at home. So we did.
Within agreed limits, she is now an independent rider. She is a very proud Quaxer – or, as we think of her, a Quaxling – riding up to the dairy when we have run out of milk or other necessities (lollies somehow always get added to the shopping list). An 8 year old cycling to the shops is the way we want our community to be, and we are proud of our little girl for showing it can be done.
More than anything, though, she is a girl who just loves her bike. It often gets decorated in a “My Little Bikey” fashion. Homemade tassels and spokey-dokeys adorn her bike, and with the tinkle of her bell she is like a parade of one. But when she is out and about with Bike Te Atatu it is a real parade. Riding in the Santa Parade, she made a super-cute reindeer (our antlers stayed on our helmets throughout December).
She delighted in organising the bike parking for Bike Te Atatu’s recent ‘Bike Bomb” visit to a local gelato shop…
… but she also advocates for cycle-friendly communities just by being on her bike, simultaneously demonstrating that anyone can ride, and that we need to be caring of those young and old, new to a bike or those returning to the joys of riding.
Although she loves riding her bike, her future plans for the Auckland road network are multi-modal. She would like all the roads to be replaced with canals so people could “swim, paddle or ferry to school or work”. When I asked why she wanted this watery world, she said it would “just be nicer” – not a bad philosophy to employ in our development of this liveable city.
For Miss E, riding a bike represents uncomplicated freedom and fun. And for Mel and I, as parents, we get to see our daughter doing something that gives her so much joy – and we get to relive those moments when riding a bike was not just an enjoyable everyday thing we do, but a brand new adventure.