Do you remember the first time?
You may recognise this question as the title and lyric of a song taken from the 1994 Pulp album 'His N' Hers'. The funny thing is, unlike many life 'firsts', I can still vividly remember the first time I rode a bike without help. How about you?
Nowadays I take riding my bike for granted and have done for a very long time. That sense of freedom everytime you sit on the saddle, push down and make that first revolution. Same feeling everytime - going wherever you want to - and getting to your destination under your own steam. I think there's still something intensely satisfying about getting to somewhere that you've pedalled to. With the number of bikes about these days, this is clearly a feeling that many others enjoy to! But there will have been a time when riding on two wheels seemed like a mystery.........
The reason I ask is that a friend and colleague of mine recently told me of his pride when his nearly 3 year old son had demanded that he take his stabilisers off so he could ride 'properly'. His Dad was understandably concerned that his son was getting alittle ahead of himself, but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. So off they came and they trooped to a grassy hill close to home. One gentle shove and he glided gracefully down the slope. Can you remember the wind in your hair, that sense of speed and crazed excitement at being able to ride, safe in the knowledge that now you could come off at anytime? After a few more descents of the hill he had soundly proved to his Dad he had mastered the art of balance - and began on what hopefully will become a lifetime of cycling. What's more, William was three a couple of days ago. When he woke up he had a brand new bike waiting for him. According to his Mum he was utterly blown away. Your first bike. A seminal moment in anyone's life - regardless of your age. I am sure he will remember that moment for many years to come. And no matter how many bikes he has in the future, I bet he'll never forget the bike he's just received.
I can still clearly remember the first day I rode a bike unassisted. It probably helps that I did so around a friend's house - with 'support' of him and his older brother. I think they applied the sink or swim technique. It was a really sunny day after school and we were playing outside their house. We were doing backie's when Steve (the older brother) said "Jonny lets see you ride it," So I sat on and he pushed me down the hill. I wobbled a bit, but that was it! I sailed down the pavement without a care in the world. I then repeated this amazing feat a few times before I was kicked off the bike and it was someone else's go. But much more to the point I had learned to ride a bike! And it wasn't even my own one! Anyway my Dad came to collect me later and I told him the news, insisting he take me home and immediately take my stabilisers off. I remember my Mum not being sure about this, but my Dad removed them and off I went. Actually I think I then fell off - but it did'nt matter. The stabilizers were off and there was no way they were going back on now. The rest is history.
So the next time you see someone at the park, wobbling around on their bike take a moment to reflect what it was like to learn to ride your first bike. And I will be astonished if you don't have alittle smile to yourself when you do. Afterall, the world became your oyster thereafter.
For more information on teaching kids to ride a bike, try Sheldon 'Two Wheeler' Brown's website, www.sheldonbrown.com/teachride. He also has advice on just about every facet of cycling, so it's a useful one to know about. The UK based site, www.whycycle.co.uk/learning_to_ride_a_bike also has some useful tips if you are a parent who wants to particpate in this experience as opposed to letting some older kids brother teach your child!
Thumbnail photo credit - http://parenting.families.com