What the Bike has Taught Me

I’ve been wanting to write about the bike, about what I love (and don’t love) about it. I’ve wanted to write about how much I’m using it and whether I think I’ll use it in the future. I’ve wanted to create a list of the pros and cons of getting around this way. I’ve wanted to outline the (endless) dialogue in my head about whether or not a cargo bike is a sound investment for our family. There is so much I’ve wanted to say about the bike, but in the end, other posts always hijack my interest and I write about those.

And that is exactly what is happening today. Well, almost.

You see one thing I’ve wanted to write about the bike is what riding it (with one kid up front and one behind) has taught me.

The first thing it taught me is that I’m capable and strong. I can haul those two kids–all 70+ lbs of them, along with their heavy ass seats–up some pretty unforgiving hills. I can push my legs until they burn like fire and then I can push them some more. I can maintain forward momentum even when my heart feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest and my lungs are screaming for air.

I am capable and I am strong. I can do almost anything. Almost.

The second thing I learned is there are some hills I just can’t climb, not with 70+lbs of kid weighing me down. I learned this the hard way, when I chose to avoid a longer, more gradual incline by attempting a shorter hill with a sharper grade. Even when switchbacking across the road I couldn’t maintain the required momentum. This was the first time I tipped the bike with the kids on it.

{Spoiler alert, we were a little shaken, but fine.}

I have always been the kind of person who prefers the shorter, harder ascent to the more gradual and forgiving, but ultimately longer route. If I’m hauling stuff I’ll take three things that I can barely carry to save myself a second trip. If I can hike up the steep, shorter hill to avoid the longer way around, I’ll do it. I’ve never been a slow and steady wins the race kind of girl. I’ve always wanted to get there, and get there fast.

It was a rude awakening, that day on the bike, when I realized I couldn’t do it. I was furious with myself for making such a stupid mistake and putting my kids at risk. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I learned it. I have never attempted a steep grade again; I’m learning the round-about ways I need to get somewhere so I can avoid the hills I can’t climb.

Ultimately I was kind of glad I tipped the bike. I had been so terrified of it happening, to know it wasn’t actually that bad was a relief. I’ve tipped it once more since then (I’m really not sure why it happened the second time) and it was even less upsetting than the first. You can actually get better at tipping a bike with two kids on it. You can get up and you can keep riding–that was the third thing I learned.

I’m doing a lot of research about sensory processing disorder and how diet can affect kids with behavior difficulties. There are changes I want to make, but they feel overwhelming, especially when I consider doing them all at once. But then I remember, I probably couldn’t tackle them all simultaneously. I probably would fail in my attempt, spectacularly.

Of course, I don’t need to attempt the shorter, steeper hill, I can opt for the longer, more gradual incline. It may take a whole lot longer, but I’ll get there in the end. That’s really all that matters.

So I’m starting slow, reading books and articles, taking notes, brainstorming solutions, considering possibilities, evolving a plan. All the while the bike reminds me: I’m capable and strong; there is a longer, slower, safer way; and I can always get back up again if I fall.

Do you like to take the shorter, harder route? Or do you prefer the longer, more forgiving option?

12 Comments

  1. I think there’s something to be said for both methods. Sometimes it is better to blitz through quickly and hardcore. Sometimes it’s better to take a longer gradual route. I think there isn’t a hard and fast rule that one needs to be one way or the other. It probably varies by task and personality.

    1. I am still partial to the quick blitz method when I can manage it, but I think it’s important to recognize that it isn’t always the best choice. Sometimes slow and steady really does win the race. Not always, but sometimes. I think without acknowledging that I might not attempt things that I think I can’t achieve quickly. It’s important for me to remember there is another way.

  2. Babies keep trying to do new things. Somewhere along the line we learn/are taught shame for not instantly accomplishing new skills perfectly. Not helpful at all. Really, fall 7 get up 8, remains true all our lives. Giving ourselves the same grace we show babies learning new skills is REALLY IMPORTANT to model for our children!
    Cheers.

    1. This is so true. As we try we build and strengthen the neural connections making it easier to do the next time. We just have to keep trying and we’ll get there.

  3. I’m so impressed by you! Strong, capable, AND resilient (seriously, a fall off my bike kept me from biking for YEARS and that was just ME, way before kids). I agree that both methods are valid, and you’ve got to pick the one that makes most sense to the particular issue at hand. Maybe grading papers is better blitzing through, vs. something delicate like changing your daughter’s diet (in general, I think, things with other people require a slower/steady, long runway approach, because you can’t expect THEM to have had all the same preparatory thought processes that you have had to allow yourself a quick push)

    1. What an important point, that when you’re dealing with someone else you need to take a different approach than you might if you were only dealing with yourself. This is true for me with my daughter (food) and my husband (money). Luckily these are both topics that I find completely and utterly overwhelming, so I don’t mind taking it slower than I might have if I didn’t have other people to consider.

  4. Yet another advantage to biking- life lessons! It is a bit out of character for me but I too seriously covet a cargo bike. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this one:
    http://virtuebike.com/bicycles/2014-virtue-schoolbus-0

    I think Ana hit on something very important about this particular struggle. It’s only partially yours. You can (and no doubt will) do a lot to affect your daughter’s diet but ultimately it will be about her.

    I am in awe of your efforts in this area and, being a mother of a kid with sensory issues, I hope you might be inclined to share some of the things you are learning.

    1. I have seen that bike in action. It’s very nice. It’s not the one I’m coveting (it’s a little wide for my taste) but I was impressed when I got to check one out up close.

      I will definitely pass along anything that I learn as it relates to my daughter, her sensory differences and behavioral challenges. Passing knowledge along is my favorite part of learning.

  5. I love this – and am super impressed by your biking abilities. I tried a cargo bike once but I’m too short, so I will just have to gaze wistfully at all the tall, strong mamas who can ferry the kids about like that. Great work! I appreciate the analogy you are drawing here and I love seeing how this has affected your life.

  6. What I learned from my cargo bike is “sometimes, I have to get off and walk up the hill” and it’s OK. It really is! And sometimes, I get to leave kiddo home and go be my old, fast, self.

    You’re already on the steeper hill with 2 kids to haul, anyway. Though it’s pretty glorious when they get big enough to haul themselves and you arrive at your destination with kids as tired as parents, instead of tired parent and energetic kid.

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