23 May 2009

Alberte's Return

I'm finding it necessary to return! Haven't truly been away from cycling but I have from blogging. Now, as my son Alberte's cycling continues to improve and to grow, I too need to somehow keep with his pace.

I suppose that he is now a more serious cyclist -- he's in the boys road team now, just when he's about to turn eleven in a few weeks. Alberte is still small for his age but that doesn't seem to keep him away from trying. He's a good example for me. I got him into this in the first place. It's just great; the way he keeps me pedaling!
Funny how time flies. His bike is already a couple of years old and he's already outgrown it.

21 September 2007

Should've been "Congratulations, Oscar!"

But it has been a sad, soap-opera ordeal best left to be forgotten.

Oscar Pereiro wins the 2006 Tour de France 14 months later. Man, does that sound sad!

Floyd Landis, oh well. Even sadder. And to think that these guys were great friends at one time. More power to Oscar for being so gracious with Landis, never wishing that his friend would have been found guilty. This is no way to win and no way to lose. Bittersweet, indeed.

14 September 2007

Kid's Tandem - Kid you not!

From Fritz. Since we kid around lots in this blog. I couldn't pass this post.

Where there's a will, there's a way.

08 September 2007


Cycling into the wind. That's what I've done lately and not only metaphorically. How may hands seem to hold us back as we pedal and pedal and crouch and try to disappear on the road? And the wind still finds us.

It's been blowing like an eternal fan here. Northeast for weeks, dry, lots of sunshine. And still we complain.

01 September 2007


Little tour with Carme

My daughter and I did a little tour to the local camp grounds...BUT...the heat took its toll. I told the little rider that taking off at 3:30 in the afternoon might pose a problem, especially on the hills. And so it went. Mother experience is a tough teacher. Carme had quite a time getting up some of the 7% inclines and had to make many stops, looking for shade. I even allowed her to take out her helmet -- her face was tomato red -- so she could be a little more comfortable until we hit the downhills and flats. (No traffic in this area -- none at this time in the heat!)

It taught us (her) a few things and I thought it was worthwhile. Now she understands what it means to ride at inopportune times. Patience. Had we ridden two hours later it would've been much easier, but hey it was just some hot fun. The fresh fountain on the mountain descent was a savior. "But, dad, we already finished all our water?"

"Certainly did."

18 August 2007

Riding with Xabi: How to ride safely with toddlers

[Xabi's first ride at 11 months old.]

I enjoy riding with my youngest. Though Xabi will now be two years old in November, we've been riding together since he was 11 months old. (Remember that toddlers should not be riding until they are about 1 years old due to their maturing bones and muscles. Check on your child. See how strong he's getting, how he sits on chairs, how his neck holds up, etc. If in doubt wait. There's plenty of time.)

I still remember that first ride together--how nervous I was, how unstable the bike felt (cause I was so unused to the weight out back), how simply strange it felt to ride with a fragile baby "drafting" behind me. We've learned a few things since then and we'd like to share them with you and your baby:

1. You must practice getting the child on and off the seat, preferably by yourself without outside assistance. This almost sounds stupid but getting children on and off the bike is one of the most dangerous situations you can encounter when riding with children. Many kids get hurt when they either fall off their seat or fall while on their seat with the bike on top of them from a standstill position. This will almost always result in a serious accident as the weight of the bike will fall on the child. (The child is always wearing a helmet, right?! The child is secured with chest straps/belts in his seat, right? And you checked that the seat is properly anchored to the bike, right?) Right.

2. Practice getting yourself on and off the bike with the child in the seat. Feel comfortable and secure. Be careful the bike doesn't slip away from you or beneath you. Remember the weight is now out back and the front wheel may rise, tipping the bike backwards or over. Get on the bike on even, flat ground. Not uphill, not downhill.

3. Ride with a toddler only if you have decent bike-handling skills. Since I don't have the time to explain what common sense should be about in this post just think that if you have the slightest doubt DON'T do it. A stupid fall can be very serious.

4. Dress the child appropriately for the weather. A toddler moves very little on a bike seat and he's strapped in. She's not pedaling so she is neither breathing hard nor sweating as you climb that little hill. So remember that temperature/wind are not the same for both of you. The child may need an extra sweater (or may need to remove it). Stop from time to time. Check how things are and don't forget to offer them a drink.

5. Talk a lot, though people who don't see your child out back at first might think you're a strange cyclist (or maybe they already knew that, regardless!) Communicate with the child. "Oh look at those birdies, cars, flowers!") They love to talk and are amazed by what they see, especially for the first time. Don't forget to stop to let them get a better view of that horsie or that bridge or that big truck parked on the side of the road.

6. Make the rides short, especially the first ones. Let the child get used to his new environment. Short rides also allow you to see if the toddler is comfortable. (Recently, for example, I found that Xabi's chest straps where a bit tight -- how children grow from week to week.) Increase the length of the rides accordingly and don't ride too far from home in case the child insists on finishing the ride NOW. This may happen on first rides and you don't want to punish the kid for an hour while you try to make it home. Besides, they may not want to go with your again.

7. Ride for fun and for fun only. This is not part of your training or your recovery ride or your August mileage. This is a stroll with your child. If you can't make it fun, don't do it.

8. Stop in locations of interest. This is "dangerous" but necessary at some point. Stopping in the park, having a go at the swings, etc., just makes the trip all that more fun and the child will remember it, believe me. Dangerous because the child will not know when to stop playing and may not want to go home, not on the bike, not in the car, not no-how. Plan accordingly. Stop in those strategic places when you have the time and the patience to do so.

9. Change your route often, if possible. Children have tremendous memories. Looking at the sea and the gulls flying is cool for a couple of outings but may get old quickly. Spice it up. Point out differences to the child: colors, shapes, wind in your face. It's amazing how they appreciate and how quickly they learn. (When Xabi gets a little tired he likes to go through his list of peoples' and animals' names that he knows. I chant them along with him.)

10. Celebrate the completion of the outing once you get home. My wife and I clap and cheer and encourage him the minute we get through the garage door. We take off the helmet and clap. We unstrap him and clap and we cheer when he gets off the bike. He seems as satisfied as a congressional speaker (and he didn't even have to lie about the importance of bike paths)!
[A more experienced Xabi, August 2007.]

Enjoy your bike and your toddler. It makes for a great family activity. Do so carefully. Ask about the correct and proper equipment you need. Inform yourself. It's one of life's hidden pleasures.

Some must reads:

15 August 2007


[My daughter on tour, age eight in May 2006]

Every time we ride on the road – and sooner or later we must – we must be aware of the DANGER cars represent. Many tip givers recommend that children ride only on bicycle trails or sidewalks. That’s normally decent and well-meaning advice. However, I don’t recommend this practice in its entirety and I don’t necessarily like people riding on sidewalks as that can represent a trap to the innocent. I warn my children (or any new cyclist) that driveways on sidewalks can be very dangerous; unlike road riding oftentimes you do not expect cars to enter driveways from the road (they may not be in your line of vision or they may be hidden by bushes or what have you and, what’s worse, as a cyclist you are not in their line of vision!). Also, when driving on sidewalks your guard may be down since you’re cruising down what appears to be a safe sidewalk with no traffic. Beware!

Of course, no rule is absolute. Not all roads are the same and not all sidewalks are created equal. I believe that children may/will try different things despite our warnings and best wishes. I know I did. Hence, I prefer to teach my children (and now my wife) how to ride on the road. I do so on little-transited roads, obviously – we live in a rural community – but I do know that sooner or later my children will want to cycle on their own, with their friends, and I won’t be there to supervise their every move.

Road riding will require an understanding of basic bike handling. One must be totally comfortable on the bike, must be able to ride straight as an arrow, stop on a dime, etc. This we must do before riding on the road. (Basic safety issues, helmets, gloves, etc., must be a given. No child should ride without a helmet, regardless of what parents think of how they ride themselves. Safety when in doubt first, philosophical issues of freedom and well-meaning self-expression second. My respectful opinion, of course.)

One technique I’ve used with my children is the Spy Behind Your Helmet Trick. This was inadvertently developed by my son. Sure enough one day he wanted to ride our normal road route – which we had done together hundreds of times – all by himself. He was eight years old. This was the safest route I could find for my children, with little traffic but always with some cars passing us, etc. (But remember that it only takes one careless car or one careless cyclist to cause an accident, so we must never let our guard down despite what may appear to be a safe road.) I let my son ride thinking that he was unsupervised while I simply spied on him from my own bike back in the distance without him knowing it. It was not comforting to me at all, believe me. "What if something goes wrong?" "Am I sure that this is right?" If anything had happened there would be nothing I could do, but then again I had to convince myself that there would be little I could do if he had wanted to ride around the neighborhood with his friends.

And so it went and I was able to verify that he not only remembered what we had gone over and over, but was in fact very respectful of traffic when he was unsure, stopping his bike on the edge of the road if need be and waiting for cars to pass safely. This worked well and we continue to practice it on different routes, expanding the distance and the responsibilities involved. (My daughter, who is less the cyclist, also went through the same routine though she claimed she had a “feeling of being watched”.) Oh well.

Eventually children and beginners must venture on their own. It is a fallacy to think that we can protect them from the world. And over-protecting, well, let each parent make those decisions. We cannot do the impossible so we might as well face reality and give children the knowledge and tools to enjoy life with the greatest safety available to them.