Like Riding a Bike

You can blame my absence on Steig Larsson. I've been wrapped up in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for two days, my time set aside for blogging. It has all the good elements of a great page turner without any melodramatic tangents.

Another very exciting undertaking in the last two days has been teaching my 7-year-old daughter how to ride a bike, her first ticket to independence. I can remember learning to ride a bike myself when I was 5. It was back in the days when parents didn't go out and show you things; in other words, you learned on your own. It took me a week everyday after school to learn. I had plenty of cuts and bruises to attest to the learning curve, but I was nonetheless proud of myself.

On my way back from a doctor's appointment, I happened upon a new and used bike shop, Guarantie Bicycle, at 857 Marie Anne (corner St. André) on the Plateau. Not only did I find a great used starter bike for my daughter at $40, but I also discovered that this shop repairs bikes and recycles them for scrap metal (Pinkie got dropped off there today). It also had a free tire pump outside (See picture below).

I took my daughter in the afternoon to show her the bike I had set aside. Luckily, it was the same shade of red as her helmet and the new Canadiens shirt that she just received from Tante Sophie, overshadowing the fact that it was a girl's bike without a crossbar. My daughter doesn't go in for anything girlie. Her smile reflected both excitement and nervousness. The man running the shop gave her a few lessons to get her used to the bike, its steering and hand brakes. Instead of trying to pedal, she used the balls of her feet to push herself forward along the sidewalk to work on her balance. Her shaky steering told me that her nerves were getting the better of her, but she wasn't about to give up, especially not in front of the man from the store.

Reader do you remember your first bike? Do you have good or bad memories of learning to ride?

When he went back into the shop to get the tool to adjust her seat, my daughter came over to confide in me.
"I don't want to do this right now," she said.
"Just sit down and take a break," I said, knowing that she would want to try again.
And sure enough not even two minutes later, she was back in the saddle. Her father showed up a few minutes later, and we took her to a back alley with no traffic. Still using the balls of her feet to push herself forward she did a few lengths of the alleyway and then started to pedal. I watched as her nervousness changed to enthusiasm and then beaming pride.

"Look mom, I learned to ride a bike in one day," she said.
"That's right. You've learned the basics, but there's still more to learn," I said, not wanting to mention that she had to fall down at least once to really know what it was to ride a bike.

The day was not without tears and frustration. My three-year-old son was green with envy when he saw my daughter with a new bike. His scooter was quickly cast aside. And then after dinner my daughter discovered that invisible force called momentum and how hard it can be to turn on an incline. She had her first accident alright, and I had to remind her that she was off to a good start but that it takes at least a week to learn to ride a bike.

I'd love to hear about your first bike.

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Heather | June 26, 2010 at 4:40 PM

This first comment is from my father, who for some reason cannot leave a comment. Even though he is half-way through his seventh decade, he still cycles along Vancouver's seawall everyday.
Here's his comment. BTW, I don't expect anyone's to be this long.

My Dad taught me how to ride when I was ten years old and finally after five years of war time rationing bicycles were available to civilians. Dad had just been released from hospital and the Army. We were living on the North side of Portage la Prairie and the family was back together my sister Charlotte was wee babe and for the first time in five years we were all together.

The story of how the bike was introduced to us was about a Xmas present on the first post war Xmas. The day before Xmas Eve was a time that Mom and Dad gave my brother and me seventy five cents to go to the films and have a pop and a box of Cracker Jacks.

Brother Bob and I would always take a tour of the Eaton's mail order store to look at the toys and the bike that was there. Our hearts sank when we saw the "sold" tag on the handle bars until we read the tag and saw our name and address. Needless to say we were walking on air when we got home. Mom and Dad had thought that leaving the bike at the store until Xmas Eve would prevent us from finding it and ruining the surprise.

I loved that bike and in the spring and summer of 1946 would disappear right after breakfast and wouldn't return until the street lights came on. There were times when I would get as far as thirty miles away from home, a freedom not allowed for kids these days.(I was ten years old)

François-B. Tremblay | June 27, 2010 at 1:09 PM

J'ai eu un premier vélo, rouge pompier, qui avait des petites roues à l'arrière pour m'empêcher de tomber. J'étais terrorisé à l'idée de rouler sans ces roulettes protectrices, d'autant plus que nous vivions à la ville et qu'il fallait aller sur les trottoirs où à chaque entrée de maison il y avait une pente pour permettre aux voitures d'entrer dans des garages que personne n'utilisait vraiment. J''habitais Saint-Léonard, quartier majoritairement italien, et plusieurs utilisaient cette surface fraîche et à l'ombre pour entreposer un vin généralement imbuvable.

Mon père a beaucoup insisté pour que je retire enfin les roulettes lattérales. Je ne me souviens pas d'avoir été prêt, mais une bonne journée, il a sorti les "vise-grip" et nous avons passé l'après-midi a essayer de me faire faire du vélo "sans tites-roues". Après avoir passé des heures troublantes, j'ai fini par aimer rouler avec ce vélo. Les roues n'étaient pas sur pneumatique : elles étaient pleines. Je sentais chaque petites bosses.

Mon premier grand amour fût mon second vélo. C'était un CCM Mustang 3 vitesses avec siège banane. Brun foncé. Qu'est-ce que j'ai adoré cette bécane. On en voit rarement aujourd'hui des comme ceux-là.

Heather | June 27, 2010 at 4:39 PM

Wow! Great story. I, too, had a bike with hard tires, and of course, what girl did not have a bike with a banana seat and high handle bars. Thanks François.

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