My first bike ride came in 1956 when I was five years old. Back in those days “free play” was the rule. Mom sent us outside, then called up and down the street when it was time to come home for dinner. On this particular day, some of the older, scruffier kids in the neighborhood decided it was time for me to learn how to ride a two-wheeler, so they put me on the seat, showed me how to steer, and got me going. No training wheels. I don’t remember falling at all, although that’s entirely possible. What I remember is when my Dad came home from work in his two-tone 1954 Chevrolet and observed me riding up the street. He scratched the back of his head and said, “Well, Billy, I guess it’s about time to buy you a bicycle.”
Flash forward several decades.
When our son was about four, I decided to get him a little bike with training wheels. My ace support crew and I took him down to a local bike shop to see what was available. The salesman came over to discuss the possibilities. Just as he said, “Well, four is still a little young even for a bike with training wheels,” young Benjamin hopped on a bike, started pedaling, and—as the automatic doors opened in front of him—rode out into the parking lot and headed for the street before I could catch him.
A few months later, he was ready to ditch the training wheels. I decided the best place to learn was on the soft dirt running track down the street at the elementary school, so my ace support crew and I took him there. I went through the usual routine of holding the back of the saddle and trotting along beside while he figured out how to balance. After a few tries, he decided he was ready to go on his own. Sure enough, he took off like a bat out of hell. After a minute or so he stopped, panting. Then he caught his breath, flew down the track again, but stopped and panted. After repeating that a couple more times, I caught up to him. “Benjamin,” I asked, “are you breathing?” He looked at me and panted. “No, Dad. Was I supposed to?” From that point, he was good to go, and ever since we’ve had a family mantra that gets used on many occasions: “Don’t forget to breathe.”