Taking the Kid to School
Tue Aug 23, 2005 5:34 am
Kid #1 and I compete at lots of things. Weâ€™ll race each other at eating, we play chess and other games, we play one-on-one baseball, we play Slug Bug, we swimâ€¦we even race bikes against each other.
Call it what you will, but I donâ€™t ever let him win. We do, however, have to even up the playing field to keep things interesting for some games. For example, when we play chess, he starts out with my queen, or his rooks are untouchable, or whatever rule he came up with that sounded fair at the time. Now that heâ€™s getting smarter than Dad, I sometimes lose these things before they even start, but that is just an element of the competition that keeps it fun for both of us without me having to freewheel.
Kid #1 and I go on training rides together every once in awhile. Right now, at ten years old, he likes to race, and maybe he does call it â€œtraining,â€ but weâ€™re really just rolling around playing games on the bike.
If youâ€™ve ridden on the road with another rider more than once, youâ€™ve likely learned the tradition of sprinting for city/town limit signs. Kid #1 and I are no different. But there is only one town limit sign on our normal route, and since he wants to race more often than for that one sign, we sprint for other things, such as mailboxes and critters.
Critter sprints are something I picked up from some training buddies a few years ago. A critter sprint occurs when a critter, such as a squirrel or road runner, runs across the road thereby creating an imaginary line from their path. Riders then sprint for that imaginary line. Sometimes it is a long sprint, and other times it can be a short sprint. The beauty is that you never know when they can happen.
We also sprint for mailbox flags. The original intent of this game was to keep him in the habit of looking up the road, so we came up with sprints for mailboxes with the flag raised. If you see a mailbox flag raised, the sprint is on to be the first person to that mailbox. It is a fairly rural area where we live and ride, so the sprints are spaced out well.
Earlier this summer, we took advantage of a slow morning in the office to grab a ride together. Never, ever pass up a chance to ride with your kids. Ever. So weâ€™re riding along, but we pass and then get caught up in an awkward rhythm with a mail truck, which ends up averaging about the same speed we are going, but of course, the mail truck is making frequent stops.
So, we were riding along, and Kid #1 was really hammering for some reason. Heâ€™s a decent rider for ten, I think, as he can hold a 16mph clip without too much trouble. But on this ride, we were rolling a bit faster than that, and I wondered if heâ€™d had a cup of coffee or something that morning.
As his riding skills are still be developed, I donâ€™t think much about him half-wheeling me or if he bumps into me on occasion. I keep him to my right darn near the gutter, for safetyâ€™s sake, and once in awhile heâ€™ll sort of twitch and bump into me. This doesnâ€™t bother me or him, and it keeps him from twitching out in front of cars.
But he wasnâ€™t half-wheeling me. And he wasnâ€™t riding a caffeine buzz.
I imagine that most parents are proud of their kids, and when pressed (or not), they can think of one or two things that show that their child is something special. That isnâ€™t what Iâ€™m doing here. What Iâ€™m doing is showing you that you can be schooled by an ten year old on a 49cm road bike that is too big for him, even if you are a bogey-shooting cat 2. And to think Iâ€™ve changed his diapers.
It didnâ€™t take my little Doogey Howser long to figure out that in front of the mail truck the flags were up. So he increased his riding tempo to keep in front of the mail carrier. Meanwhile, Iâ€™m worried about holding up USPS and generally worsening government bureaucracy. So I keep looking back to see if we are the hold up and reason for the next postal increase while Kid #1 is half-wheeling me on his way to the Green Jersey of the Tour de Jeterberg.
Iâ€™m embarrassed at how long it took me to figure out what he was doing, especially considering that I make a fair part of my income discussing road racing tactics with cyclists. But once I did figure it out, it was â€œGame On.â€
Two years prior, I had to sprint while pedaling with one leg to even the playing field. Sometime over that next winter, Kid #1 gunned up, and I would get smoked pedaling with one leg. So we made a rule change, and as heâ€™s progressed, weâ€™ve made a couple more. Now he can ride in whatever gear he wants, but I can ride in nothing bigger than the 39x18.
Once I realized I was behind on points, I didnâ€™t mind lifting the pace a bit. You know, put him in the pain cave a bit and take some edge off of his developing sprint. I took a sprint or three, and I was about to, in my coaching and fatherly way, tell him that he was doing a good job sucking my wheel. But he checked me with, â€œDad, I think you are in the 16.â€
Iâ€™m pretty sure heâ€™s still grounded from his Playstation, but it is hard to keep straight, because I think he was grounded from it already when he beat me at checkers.
We then hit the stretch were there are fewer mailboxes, which was just as well, because I think Kid #1 was getting a bit tired from his Durand-type effort. We slowed a bit, and he twitched and drank and twitched. Iâ€™m riding with one of my Kids, so he can twitch and Iâ€™ll still enjoy it.
After just a couple miles of rolling easy and squirting each other with our water bottles, we settle into a decent rhythm again.
A squirrel ran across the road not more than 30 yards in front of us. Seeing as I canâ€™t ride in anything bigger than an 18t (without cheating), and he being able to ride in way too big of a gear, I was able to get the jump on him. It was time for Daddy to score some points.
Squirrels are about as twitchy as ten year olds.
Maybe you wouldnâ€™t throw your victory salute if you were sprinting against your Kid, but I still donâ€™t think it is worth calling CPS about if I do, OK? Anyway, I had that critter sprint locked up, so I was very comfortable showing the Kid what it is like to be taken to school and shown the report card.
And then the squirrel decided to make it a round trip. That critter, may he rest in peace, took out my front wheel during my parade. My front wheel jumped up in the air and took a hard right, but did so about two feet to my left. My bike was now a bucking bull, and I had both hands in the air. Not a single hand on my rigging at all.
For whatever reason, I didnâ€™t go down, but instead, corrected my fall by shooting almost directly to the right. My initial thought was that I was probably going to miss track racing on Friday. My second thought was that even at hook-up prices, this was going to be expensive. My third thoughtâ€”and I donâ€™t mean that Iâ€™m proud of thisâ€”was that Iâ€™m about to show Kid #1 what it is like to sprint in the 4â€™s.
I headed right at Kid #1â€™s front wheel. I got a hand on the tops of my bars, and I squeezed for a brake lever. Of course, my road bike doesnâ€™t have brake levers on the tops, but at that time, I guess I was expecting there to be some sort of divine installation. I did get the bike whipped around, but now Iâ€™m high-siding to the right, and my rear wheel looks like it is trying to take Kid #1â€™s front wheel out from under him.
We did hit with my rear tire clipping his front tire as I straightened things out, but I guess his twitching practice paid off, as he didnâ€™t go down. At that moment, I felt cold and hot and like my soul had left my body for a second. The sensations and thoughts that I almost took down Kid #1 in a two-up sprint and the possible results of him tumbling at race speed along the pavement made me consider for .4 seconds that this sport should be banned.
Then Kid #1 relegated me with, â€œDad, you took my line.â€