Encouraging children to race bikes would make the country—and the world—a better place
Growing up, I was never one for traditional sports. Sure, we played ball in the street, but apart from bowling parties and camp color wars, I never engaged in any formalized athletic competition until middle school when I started racing BMX bikes.
Now I’m a parent with an elder son entering sporting age. Kids need to be active both physically and socially, but like me, he seems mostly indifferent to kicking, hitting, catching, or otherwise basing his movements around the trajectory of round projectiles. Instead, also like me, when it comes to physical activity he’s mostly interested in riding bikes.
In one sense it’s harder to raise a cyclist now than it was when I was a kid. For one thing, there are way more cars on the road and the concept that drivers should be extra-cautious in residential neighborhoods has largely gone the way of doffing your hat. For another, I grew up in a particularly idyllic age. While we had access to a full array of sugared cereals, our breakfasts were not yet haunted by the specter of missing kids on milk cartons. This meant you could get jacked up on Sugar Smacks and then run right out the front door to burn them off without your parents assuming you were going to get abducted. It also meant I was able to hone my bike-handling skills by tearing around the neighborhood, either alone or with friends, riding fast and far on that sugar-induced high.
Yes, it was a wonderful time to be alive.
Things are different today. Letting your kids run around and be kids is called “free-range parenting” and fraught with controversy. It seems like they can’t even kick a ball around together unless you lease a minivan and enroll them in a soccer league first. And forget cycling unaccompanied; even riding with your kids is increasingly difficult in many places. Decades of mounting traffic and increasing sprawl means you’re either confined to the cul-de-sal or else forced to undertake a lengthy car journey in order to do a multigenerational ride.
As consumers, however, the parent of a budding cyclist has never had it better. Sure, your kid may not be able to ride to elementary school, but it’s easy to get her set up on anything from a road bike to a fat bike. (Note I said “easy” and not “cheap.”) My son’s bicycle—a cyclocross bike with integrated 10-speed shifting and a dazzling two-tone paint scheme—is so awesome I kind of resent him for it. Sure, I also had a pretty nice bike when I was his age, but it had a coaster brake and weighed almost as much as I did.
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