posts tagged with 'biking'

our newest amazing cyclist

Elijah learned to ride a two-wheeler back in April. One problem with being a third child is that your accomplishments are less marked. When Harvey first succeeded on two wheels he got many words and a video; Lijah had to make do with a three-word caption on a weekly pictures post. But his achievement is no less impressive! Unlike Harvey, he had to work for a while to learn to ride, but he did the work with determination for a good solid week (with some kind and helpful coaching from Harvey's friend Jack). For his first couple months on two wheels he was prevented from taking any long rides by the fact that, you know, we hardly go anywhere—and when we do it's off-road, which is hard when you're riding on 12-inch wheels. So that was my fault. Monday I finally got his 16-inch bike up and running, and he celebrated yesterday by taking a nine-mile ride to the Farmers Market and back.

Elijah biking on the road ahead of his brothers

everybody moving at Lijah speed!

I admit I had some trepidation going into the outing, but I didn't say anything to Elijah! I just asked him if he wanted to ride this time, and when he said yes I just kept things moving in that direction. I fully expected that I'd be putting him and his bike into the cargo bike after a couple miles—there's plenty of room, so that would be no problem—but he kept going: two miles on the flat, then another couple on the gentle rail-trail grade up to Lexington Center. He got there with plenty of energy left to play hide-and-seek around the Old Belfry and buy a baguette for himself at the market, and then to ride the whole way back with nary a complaint, but for a few mentions that his butt hurt. I was very impressed, and I let him know it! His brothers also remarked on how natural he was on the bigger bike. It turns out all his problems with going in a straight line over the past couple months were just because his knees were practically hitting his handlebars.

There's some kind of a lesson in there, I think. I mean, besides the lesson for me that I should have worked harder to get him an appropriately-sized bicycle in a timely manner. Here's this kid who had never ridden more than a mile, who had run off the sidewalk and crashed into a telephone pole the last time he biked off our street, and who was just for the second day riding a bike where he couldn't put both feet on the ground at the same time... and I had him ride on the street and the busy bike path? Am I crazy?! Possibly. But my thinking was that Elijah really wants to keep up with his brothers, and while he also values being the baby a lot of the time he has some real skills and capacity. By just assuming he could do this thing, I showed him that I trusted him to do the work, and he did! And as it happened, his first big ride was significantly bigger than Harvey's. I guess now we need to get him a mountain bike!

(And I promise you that, in that picture above, I was just out of the frame ahead of Lijah. Leah took it. I'm not totally irresponsible!)

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our backyard farm bike park

As I mentioned, we built a mountain bike park in our yard a couple days ago. We were watching some videos, and we wanted a chance to practice some skills without having to go all the way out to the woods, so it seemed like the thing to do. And it was super fun! The only sad part is we couldn't leave it up because it would kill the grass, and we want grass for other things. But before we took it down this morning, Harvey and me shot a video.

You can see that it's made out of a bunch of takes, but I assure you that he cleared the whole course a couple of time during the filming—all but the ramp over the table you see him pass by at around the forty second mark. That thing is terrifying! He fell pretty hard on his one attempt at it, and so did Zion's friend's dad who I encouraged to try the course (I felt a little guilty).

We really wish we owned some woods, or at least a hill. If we had a hill I think we'd have already decided to sacrifice the lawn in the name of better rides. Oh well. At leas the real trails are only a couple minutes away.

[By the way, Harvey has come a little ways since his last solo biking video... to say nothing of his first!]

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further cycling guilt

It's not about driving to trails this time. Yesterday I took a good bike-only outing by myself, while the kids and Leah were away swimming (we haven't yet thought of a way to swim to the pond so that's fine). And today we didn't go anywhere. But we're seriously getting into this off-road cycling, and it's taking up kind of a lot of time. I was out for well over two hours yesterday afternoon when I could have been cleaning the house or baking some dessert (maybe it was a little hot for that, but we're also low on dessert so). Today was supposed to be a rest day in our training, but we thought we might try out a little practice on technical features... and that turned into three or four hours of riding on our brand new bike park in the back yard. Super fun, but maybe my building energy would have been better put to use finishing the deck or making the benches for the new picnic table.

We've got a ride with friends from our homeschool co-op planned for tomorrow morning. We'll do some cleaning first thing—today we did get an hour of solid work in on that this morning before we devoted the rest of the day to play. But then it'll riding in the woods all morning and riding in the backyard (and practicing bunny-hops on the street) all afternoon. Harvey asked this evening when we'd fit in our school work. I told him the cycling was school work. That made sense to him—we're working really hard on it! But I do feel a little guilty that I'm not devoting myself to less-frivolous pursuits. Oh well, at least we might be able to shoot some video tomorrow and make something to show off in our weekly "what have you been working on" co-op Zoom meeting Wednesday morning. And then maybe next week we'll be more productive.

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becoming that which I despise

In the past I've felt a little superior to people who put their bikes on the car to drive to the trail. Why do that?! A bicycle is a way to get places, I thought. Before the pandemic we went lots of places by bicycle, with some of our rides being fun and exciting and others just a way to get somewhere more quickly than walking. Now, though, there's basically nowhere for the kids to go, so all our rides are recreational, and we're kind of tired of the routes around here. So we're doing this.

two bikes in the trunk of the van

at least they both fit easily

That was yesterday afternoon, when Harvey and I drove to the Burlington Landlocked Forest. It's our favorite place to ride these days, as we develop our techical off-road skills. We're lucky to live near lots of varied and beautiful forests, but all the paths in our neighborhood are made by walkers for walkers (except for the ones made by four-wheelers, but that's another subject). In the Landlocked Forest we found a whole network of trails laid out by mountain bikers to follow delightful swoopy lines over the small hills. There's challenge too, since lots of the paths pick out the most tricky routes up steep slopes or along ridges. The forest isn't that big, but the landscape is wonderfully varied: smooth-floored pine woods, meadow, swamp (with long boardwalks to ride on!), rocky deciduous forest... and lots of little hills, up and down, up and down. On of our favorite spots that we did yesterday is a tiny valley where you ride a switchbacked path down one steep side, cross a bridge over a stream, and switchback right back up the other side. I wanted to stop and take a picture but it was incredibly hot and humid and, when we stopped for a second, crowds of bugs descended instantly. Better to ride than document, anyways.

Of course, we could ride there from home. We have done, once. But driving lets us really push ourselves on the trails: I could barely keep moving forward by the time we got back to the car. That's how we mountain-bike bros do it! I did tell Harvey, though, that we're working on getting stronger so we don't need to do the drive. It might be a while though... car-biking is so much fun!

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going out

We've actually been leaving our house a fair amount over the last few days. Harvey and I, and sometimes Zion, have been enjoying early-morning bike rides a few times a week, and mid day rides a few times a week when we're not out early. Off-road, because we don't need to be masked deep in the woods. The other day we even put the bikes in the car to try out some new trails that wouldn't otherwise have been reachable in the hour and a half we had available.

But car trips still aren't easy. I had to go to the store the other day, and it was a major production. First I had to try and jump the minivan because the battery was dead, and then when that didn't work I had to go buy a new battery and put it in. But before I could do that I needed to find my wallet, which I hadn't used in at least a week, and my mask. Locating those two things only took ten minutes, but it was a desperate and frustrating ten minutes that almost removed from me all will to live. Certainly all will to drive away from home.

But it was worth it, because with a working car I could visit some real bike trails with Harvey. And then since that went so well, today all four of us boys took our first automotive outing in a long time. I'll write more about that tomorrow; for now, suffice it to say that finding four masks—plus water bottles, shoes, and whatever else we needed—was more than four times harder than finding my one had been. We've never been really good at getting out the door in any smoothly organized fashion, and I think any skills we did manage to develop evaporated completely in the 2+ months since we've driven anywhere together.

Two months?! Yes, March 30th to June 4. I had to count three times before I believed that number, but there it is. Ok, I guess it's fair that we'd be a little rusty. The boys had fun; we're looking to do it again soon. Maybe next time the engine will only be running for ten minutes while everyone is running around trying to find their stuff. I don't dare turn the car off after I start it because I no longer trust batteries. But don't worry, we could idle for a very long time indeed and still not offset all the driving we didn't do in April and May!

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a ride (and walk)

In pandemic days we get to do a lot at home, but not as many adventures. I want to try and fix that, so yesterday we went out for a bike ride. It had good parts and bad part.

I wish I had taken more video of the part where we died, but we were a little busy trying to find a path that kept getting smaller and wetter, and also trying to convince ourselves that we would be able to get through if we just kept moving forward. Well, two of us were doing that: Zion knew from the beginning that we should have just turned back. Eventually we did, after getting soaked up to our knees and scratched with thorns and bitten by mosquitoes and ticks and maybe poisoned by poison ivy. It was a little dispiriting retracing our steps through all that horror.

But the riding part was great, and we're excited to go out again soon. On the big paths.

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practice makes progress

Despite many moments feeling really busy lately, when I reflect on it we've also had more time to work on some things than we do in our regular life. We're all practicing music. Last week Harvey put in all sorts of work on cycling no-handed, and now can do it quite casually. Zion doesn't want to be left behind, so he's practicing too: he can now turn no-handed, though he's not solid on pedaling. Today Lijah also joined the bike work, though his hands were firmly on the handlebars as he practiced coasting on a bike with no training wheels. We're also doing ball sports. Several days of intensive run-the-bases games improved Harvey and Zion's throwing and catching quite a bit (in that case the competitive aspect led to lots more improvement than many hours of casual catch). The last couple days the lawn was too wet to run on, so we played in the street with the playground ball and practiced basketball passes and dribbling, and volleyball serves and passes (we have a long way to go on volleyball!). It's all very exciting!

today in the pandemic

This morning Leah sewed up masks for all the family—or, as the boys like to call them, templates (the templates were a couple days ago, but the name has stuck). Only they're wondering how much chance they'll have to wear them, because they're not allowed in stores or anything anyway. I've been hinting that before too long they might need them every time they go outside past our fence. Because yes, they are getting out—even seeing friends from the neighborhood from an appropriate six-foot distance. How can you not, especially on days as beautiful as today? Today some of their time was spent sitting some distance apart on the street and chatting, but Harvey, Zion, and Jack also did some cycling.

That's my favorite, because it means they have to stay safely apart from each other and their hands are busy and likely away from their faces. There's not really anywhere to go, but they didn't let that stop them. Harvey and Jack went around the block seven times, which by my calculations is over five miles of riding. Not bad! Harvey tells me he spent much of the time working on riding with no hands. I'm proud of him, but I kind of hope he doesn't get comfortable enough with it to be able to, I don't know, pick his nose while riding. See, those masks may get some use yet.

maybe I should get a bell

Yesterday it occurred to me that three out of the four "altercations" I've had on the bike path in ten years of cycle communing came when people got mad at me for passing them without warning (the fourth was when someone called me out for drafting behind him, and he was totally right to do so—I don't do that anymore!). There was that "on your right" guy, and then another time I almost got in a fight with some office bro who yelled at me to get a bell. I was thinking about all this because the fourth incident happened yesterday morning.

I was riding along on the bike path just east of Arlington Center. Just by Spy Pond I caught up to a gentleman wearing street clothes and riding a road bike, who was moving at a moderate pace at the far left-hand edge of the lane. There were a few walkers on the path and we were coming up to the crossing at Linwood Street, so I slowed down to stay behind him (at a reasonable distance, as per the previous paragraph!). He must have known I was there; the bike I'm riding these days has an audible ratchet noise when coasting, and I as slow as he was going I was mostly coasting. Far from moving over, though, he moved even more to the left: a foot or so into the opposite lane. So I didn't pass him. After we crossed Lake Street he was going slower than ever and I saw my moment—since he'd rung his bell when passing a walker I knew he was that sort of person so I gave him a quiet "on your left" as I started to go around. I guess he didn't hear me, because as I came up on him he moved even more left and yelled at me in an aggrieved tone, "let me know when you're passing!"

As I went by I told him that I did, and I apologized that he hadn't heard me, all in kind of a rush since I was already leaving him far in the rear. And I'm not good at saying things fast. Which made me wonder. What was his behavior all about? I had thought at first that he just wasn't paying attention, which is why he was taking up the whole path in the manner of a six-year-old out on a two-wheeler for the first time. But he hit me with the angry comment so fast I couldn't help but think that he must have known I was there the whole time! That made me wonder... was he trying to keep me from passing? Or trap me into passing without letting him know so he could make a remark? I don't know.

I do know why I don't ring a bell or say "on your left" every time I pass someone: it's super annoying (that, and I don't have a bell). When I'm riding I stay over on the right hand side of the path, and I trust anyone who's going faster than me can pass without comment and without any problem. I want to say that at least half of the people who do say "on your left" do it just to point out that they're passing you, and therefore are better cyclists. Not necessary, since their superior speed shows that on its own. The only time any notice might be necessary is when the rider being passed is coming up on an obstacle that might make them swerve—but in that case, it's clearly the responsibility of the overtaking rider to hold up until the way is clear. Without any verbal communication needed. Especially not yelling.

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my strong young cyclists

Yesterday we biked up to the farmers market in Lexington faster than we ever have before. Zion was pushing hard in the lead the whole way, not letting us pass him and even trying to stay on the wheel of some unrelated adults who went by him. I'm sure Harvey could have gone in front if he wanted too—he has a lighter bike and more gearing—but he was feeling pretty relaxed so he didn't see a need. No, the one who was suffering to stay in the pack was me! These boys keep getting older and stronger, and while I'm certainly getting older the strength is more of an open question.

Of course, if I wanted to I could offer some facts in my own defense. Namely, I'm still carrying Lijah, who is also getting older and stronger and, more to the point, heavier. So maybe I should be proud of myself for keeping up with the youngsters on a 20 lb bike carrying has to be 50 lbs of kid and gear. That sounds reasonable.

Every second Tuesday of the month is Bike to Market day, when everybody who rides gets a two dollar coupon to use anywhere at the market. I gave mine to Lijah, and all three boys topped up the coupon with some of their own money to buy giant sweet pastries. Two of them really deserved that treat!

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