Stories

Drivers License Be Damned

January 17, 2020

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Drivers License Be Damned

“As a kid, my experience learning to ride a bike can be summed up in three words: trust, but verify.”

Paul Wolf

I grew up on a dead-end street that had just enough of a hill to make my first pedal push a bit easier, but no so much that I’d immediately speed out of control. 

Plus, there wasn’t any traffic. A perfect setup for learning to ride my brand new red and black BMX bike, which I thought was the coolest.

My dad helped in the same way generations of parents had before: he held my seatpost, ran alongside as I pedaled, and made sure I never tipped too far in either direction. 

Fool Me Once

I quickly gained confidence, but I mentally relied on my dad’s helping hand, even going so far as to look down and check for its presence periodically. And if you’ve ever tried glancing at your seatpost while riding, you know that this led to some spectacular crashes for my inexperienced self.

To help me get over my compulsive need to look, dad would run alongside his hand positioned near my seatpost, trying to fool me into thinking that he was still holding on. This way, I wouldn’t freak out and lose control after I was balanced and moving on my own.

I refused to be fooled, to my detriment.

I knew he’d catch me if I fell, but I couldn’t resist the urge to verify that he was helping me balance.

Honestly, it took me a long time to banish that ever-present doubt from my mind. Once I did, however, I rode my bike every moment I could.

A Loved That Waned But Was Never Lost

Fast-forward ten years and my relationship with bikes met the same fate as it does for many teenagers: it fell by the wayside in favor of a driver’s license and a car. 

In fact, during my late teens and twenties, I could count on one hand the number of times I rode a bike.

Around my 30th birthday, though, based on a combination of desires to save money and get more exercise, I bought a friend’s hand-me-down bike and began commuting the four miles each way to work.

It was then that I rediscovered the joy of cycling that had once taken hold of me as a child. Now, I couldn’t get enough of the wind in my face, the sights and sounds of my surroundings, and the immediate reward of going faster after pedaling harder.

What added to my experience as an adult, though, was the instant connection I felt to other cyclists I encountered. 

While drivers frequently became pseudo-combatants, I felt like anyone I saw on a bike was an old friend from the moment we made eye contact. It’s something I carry with me to this day.

Taking My Cycling Into the Future

Since that rediscovery, I’ve spent the intervening years expanding my cycling radius, and dragging my family on biking adventures whenever I can. 

My wife is a good sport who hauls whatever weight’s necessary in one of our bike trailers, while I tow the other.

My son, who’s three years old, learned to ride a pedal bike this summer in less than an hour, thanks to spending the previous year riding his Strider balance bike.

Credit: StriderBikes.com

He grows stronger as a cyclist every day, and he’s always up for a new adventure, so I hope I can keep sharing my love of cycling with him for many years to come.

Even after he gets his driver’s license.

Waiting for the Island Line Bike Ferry on the way home from a 50-mile roundtrip overnight bike-camping trip.

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When he isn't cycling, Paul Wolf enjoys snowboarding, gardening, and playing hockey, soccer, disc golf, and pinball. He’s counting down the days until he can no longer keep up with his son on his bike.
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