A guest post by Steven Clark.
|Ready . . .?|
My oldest daughter has cultivated a new passion this summer: riding her bike.
As a bicycle commuter, I could not be a happier father than to have my girl be as enthused about cycling as I am.
Every opportunity she has to ride, she'll take it.
I used to ride my bike with her, but found that I could keep up with her just as well by walking.
Earlier in the season, she did quite a bit of walking over riding because she had a paralyzing fear of hills. Didn't matter if the hill was a steep grade or slight enough to barely get a marble rolling on its own, she had to walk down.
After a couple days of this, I went over braking with her and then encouraged her to try braking to slow her descent.
She still persisted in walking down hills.
Before I chided her disbelief in her own abilities, I remembered someone else who had trouble with hills: my sister.
Summer of '86 or so.
We were living in Petawawa, Ontario at the time and bikes were our vehicles of independence. Wherever we wanted to go, we went.
One of the destinations of choice was Petawawa Beach, renamed Black Bear Beach. For some odd reason, whenever we went there, there was never a lifeguard, which added an element of adventure, but the ride there was what made me think of my daughter.
Comparing my memory to Google Maps, the final turn to get to Petawawa - sorry, Black Bear - Beach went down a fairly steep hill. The adventurous - and scary - part was close to the bottom of the hill where the road transitioned from paved to gravel.
My step brother and I had no problem getting down the hill. We just alternated between coasting and braking, never letting our speed get much beyond a crawl.
My sister went much quicker, and not because she was a daredevil with a death wish, but simply because she was frightened and froze up.
In retrospect, I'm surprised she survived since this was the time before bicycle helmets were common and mandatory for youth.
As my sister put it when I asked her about the experience, she only remembered going down the hill and then waking up in the hospital.
My sister made a full recovery, and soon we were off to the beach again.
When we reached the hill, she was still shaken, but determined to try again. I demonstrated the safe way to go down the hill, and told her what I was doing as I went down. Coast, brake, coast, brake, coast, brake...
She zoomed past me at the bottom of the hill and I realized her biggest mistake. Closing her eyes when she got scared. This led to another crash, but not quite as spectacular as the first.
My memory may be faint, but I don't remember any other bicycle excursions to the beach. I seem to recall we went with my parents every time afterwards.
After this recollection of blood and dust, I figured it would be best to let my daughter take hills at her own pace, and not push her to ride down them regardless of the grade.
I am happy to report that my girl now delights in riding down small hills, but still dismounts for steep ones.