Everyone remembers learning to ride their first bike. Little girls proudly peddled their pink wheels with streamers on the handles and the little dudes zoomed back in forth in the driveway already dreaming up jumps and obstacle courses. It’s a rite of passage, a mode of transportation and a great way to spend time with your kids and get some exercise.
We started our kids on balance bikes when they were two years old. Balance bikes are very simple two-wheeled bikes with no peddles. Kids used their feet to push themselves around and learn about steering, balance and stopping. Our kids used theirs indoors only all winter long and quickly transitioned into a tricycle that spring.
The tricycle phase was short-lived. The agility and freedom of the balance bike made both kids long for a two-wheeler with training wheels so we bought one tricycle for the oldest and reused it for our second child. If it hadn’t been a gift we would have opted for an inexpensive version or a hand-me-down. Ours had a long handle on the back allowing us to push the bike in the days before peddling, which was nice when we had to keep up with the older sibling on her two-wheeler.
So now both kids are loving their two-wheelers and we are able to bike as a family. It’s funny the milestones that mark time when you are a parent—first steps, potty training, first day of school and four bikes hanging off the back of your car. Luckily, living in New England, we are close to many safe biking options. In nearby Lexington, there is the national Rail-Trail Hall of Fame legend, the Minuteman Bikeway. Eleven miles of flat terrain from Bedford to Cambridge, this safe, beautiful bike path is ideal for family biking. While we are able to walk our bikes to one of the many bikeway entries (being Lexington residents), it is definitely worth a drive from neighboring towns. I have friends from Waltham who do it regularly.
As we set off on our first family bike ride, both kids had decided to fill their backpacks with “essentials." For me, that means water, a cell phone and some cash. For my kids it means water, books, paper and markers and a few toys. I am not exactly sure when they thought they might be playing with these toys or reading these books but they had them nonetheless. After a quick trip to the potty, their backpack “essentials” secured and their helmets adjusted, we were off.
As we walked our bikes to the bikeway entrance, we reviewed the rules of biking. Since they had already commented many times on the rules of the road, we decided to use that as a jumping off point. I am not sure if it was the power of finally being able to control a set of rules or the fall air but they kids were attentive and ready to roll.
We entered the bikeway and right into our first situation. My daughter crossed right into oncoming bikers and it caught her off-guard. We re-reviewed the rules and started peddling down the leaf-covered path. In front of me were my husband and two children and a memory that will last a lifetime. The banter that took place as we rode took me by surprise. The kids chatted like they were riding in the car asking questions about the houses and people we passed and making observations about their biking experience. OK, so my son almost rode into a ditch, got tired quickly and ended up being pushed by Dad, but he just turned four last week, so let’s go easy on him.
After a while, my daughter found a little piece of grass to stop and rest for a moment. Out came the “essentials” from the backpacks and while my husband and I drank some water, my daughter drew a picture of herself picking apples and my son just sat and smiled very content with himself. On we went and, after convincing my daughter not to ride all the way to the end of the bikeway, we headed home feeling accomplished.
As my husband hung up the bikes in the garage and placed the helmets on the hook, we looked at each other and realized that another family milestone had been marked.