575254_10150880367659936_633117567_nToday was the first day of the year that I rode to school with the kids.  While the ride isn’t very far, about 2 miles, it’s a great reminder of how important bicycles can be to a young child.  My son, William, is at that age where he is looking for personal freedom and the bicycle is a great way for him or any young man or girl to get a sense of freedom riding to a friends house or to school in the mornings.  For now, I’ve been riding with him to make sure he is staying safe but I can see the writing on the wall that soon enough he will be cruising all over Lake Highlands without Dad following a few yards behind him making sure he looks both ways at intersections.

Thinking back on my experience with bike riding at the same age as my son right now (10 going on 11) I can remember riding my bike everywhere and it was at that age I began to develop a new sense of freedom and discovery only provided by a bicycle.  Growing up in Northern Virginia, Annandale specifically, I would sometimes ride up to the Wakefield Chapel Recreation Center and the nearby mountain bike trails or just ride on the sidewalk between Little River Turnpike and Braddock Road, the two major streets I knew I wasn’t allowed to cross.  These were my borders and I can remember riding almost every day around the neighborhood and having a great time just being a kid.  Most of the time I stayed within my “approved” boundaries but I can fondly remember a few of the times when I ventured outside these boundaries to explore and have  some fun.

Some of the time I’m not even sure that my parents even knew that I was out riding my bike since I spent a lot of time out of the house at this age and at friends house.  One of these times when I decided to explore a little bit more I took off on my bike to head up to Kmart to spend some of the money that I had saved up over the past few months.  What was I looking to get? Even after 30 years or more, I can still remember specifically why I rode my bike what seemed like about 10 or 15 miles each way on the sidewalk next to some rather busy streets. I bought two cassette tapes of my favorite bands at the time, Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry” and Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health”.  Yes, these were the first two cassettes I had ever bought with my own money and the fact that I rode my bike to the store to buy them myself made me feel a sense of pride.

Did this early love of bikes lead me to spending hours in the saddle training for the Hawaii Ironman and setting endurance cycling records later on in life? I’m not sure of that… but I can sure tell you when I listen to Pandora and put on my Hair Bands station, my pace picks up a few miles per hour and the hair on the back of my neck stands up a little bit as I remember those days of riding to Kmart and buying my first cassette tapes.

One of my hopes for my kids is that they will be able to grow up enjoying riding bikes as much as I have even if they don’t make a career out of it as I have.

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