Monday, May 23, 2011

Dirt biking

Here's a short movie clip from our ride yesterday, in which our girl was ripping up the trail. Apologies for the low resolution, but it's due to my nine year old camera's failure to die. The camera's longevity is the main reason I don't yet have a GoPro HERO HD. In any case, enjoy!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Big day of running and off road riding

We started the day early with the Gallop at the Grove run in Golden to benefit an elementary school. her friend Joel and his family met us there. Joel's mom Jen and I ran the 5k. I wasn't sure how I'd do, as I haven't yet fully recovered from bronchitis and I had run only one other time in 2011. I'm anything but a strong runner, but I finished only a few minutes slower than I might have if I had been running more consistently. Jen, who is much more fit and competitive had a terrific run and placed second in her age group. Good going, Jen!
Post run Gatorade with my personal cheering section.
After the 5k, the kids ran the 1k fun run, and all had a great time. Like his mom, Joel finished quite strongly. I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot more running events in his future. A 1k coupled with a 5k seems to be an ideal combination for getting kids and families interested in running events. It's good to see more 5k/1k runs in our area.
Warming up before the 1k.
The event was a well organized and conducted, and it is likely we'll do it again. It was particularly fun to do the run with friends. She has known Joel since preschool, and we always have a great time hanging with his family.
Big Dummy in aircraft carrier mode with the squadron stowed aboard.
After we went home, we decided to go for an early evening ride to the park. She has recently been favoring her mountain bike, a single speed Schwinn with knobby tires, so that's what she rode. In an area of the park there are a few interwoven dirt trails and some short downhill sections that she has enjoyed riding with me on the Big Dummy for the past couple of years. Today I asked her if she wanted to try out the dirt section on her own. As a bit of a surprise to all of us, she cruised over a roller, bombed down a hill and never looked back. From then on it was nothing but grins from a girl enjoying the dirt.
She went down with determination...
... and climbed back up eager to go for more.
She spent about twenty minutes going down one track and climbing back up another. Making circuit after circuit, she sought out ever more difficult routes. With every success, she became more daring, at one point exalting, "I didn't even use my brakes this time!"
Today she called this a bump. In not so long she'll decide it's a jump.
Perched at the top with an ear to ear smile.
Pilot's view of one of the downhills.
Whooping it up as she approaches terminal velocity.
I think we now have a pretty good idea about how we're going to be spending a lot of time this summer. In recent years I've ridden bikes mostly for transportation, but this experience has helped me to remember the sheer fun of dirt. Watching her today, I couldn't help but think of how the bulk of many summers when I was a kid were spent riding dirt tracks. With any luck, she'll be able to say the same thing.
Admit it. Sometimes you too wish you could rocket down the trail sporting a meshy yellow skirt.
Celebratory cruise on a chalk bike.

Friday, May 20, 2011

First bike-iversary

The rain let up enough for a little ride. The ladybug boots are there for the puddles.
Today was a big day. It was the last day of school and our girl's first bike-iversary, a term we've decided appropriate for marking the occasion. It was one year ago today that she first rode a pedal bike. In the year that has passed, she's become an ever more accomplished rider. This may be the summer of learning about mountain biking.

Recently I had a question from a reader regarding how we liked the Electra and how it has worked out for her. This prompted me to spend some time reflecting on not only the bike, but the learning to ride process. I thought it deserving of a bit more prominence than to reside in the comments section of an old post, so the following is a brief synopsis of our experience.

We used the balance method of learning to ride, and never used training wheels. It was quick, easy and fun for both parent and kid. We started out with a Scuut balance bike followed by a 12.5 inch wheeled pedal bike, followed by the larger 16 inch wheeled Electra.

For those unfamiliar with the balance method, the gist is to learn to balance a bike first, then introduce pedaling once balancing is mastered. Any bike can work, but smallish bikes are easiest. A cheap second hand 12.5" bike is a good starting point, depending on the kid's size. Just take the pedals off and lower the seat so that the rider can put both feet flat on the ground. The kid pushes herself along with her feet, quickly learning to lift them to coast, and thus learning to balance. The whole process can be mastered in as little as a few hours of practice, but easy, never forced practice spread out over several days or weeks is probably more typical. After balancing feels comfortable, then you can introduce pedals.

She rode her balance bike on and off for a couple of months. I slapped together a balance bike for myself out of an old frame I had, so that we could ride bikes together without her being too inquisitive about the differences between our bikes. One day, on her own volition she asked to try her pedal bike of the same size, and immediately took to it. Within an hour, she was riding reasonably well, starting, stopping and turning with increasing confidence.

It should be noted that during this whole process and for at least a year prior to this experience, she rode on the back of the Big Dummy many, many miles. It's possible that riding on the Dummy helped her internalize balancing skills and assisted her body and mind to absorb what it feels like to be moving on two wheels. If this hypothesis is correct, then a child riding on the bike of a parent before learning to ride on her own could contribute to the learning process. At some point I may investigate this in more detail. At any rate, we continue to enjoy riding together on the Big Dummy as well as on separate bikes, and hopefully she picks up practical skills and an understanding of safety on the road.

Below are a few short movies from a year ago on the first day she rode a pedal bike, taken within an hour of her first attempt. My favorite is the second clip during which she announces excitedly, "I made a heart." Here's to the first year of a long lifetime of riding.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Field Day

It was a tremendously funny inside joke. Unfortunately, you wouldn't get it.
Today was Field Day at school, an event revolving around outdoor fun at a series of games and competitions. The kids of her class seemed to really enjoy the day, helped along considerably by some very enthusiastic and capable fifth graders who marshaled the games for the younger kids. When I was a kid in rural Wyoming, I remember a similar day near the end of the school year, although it was much more embedded in traditional track and field type activities. As it has been about three decades since I was last at a grade school event, I was keenly interested in how things have progressed in the interim.

After an abbreviated morning of classes, Field Day kicked off following a picnic lunch at a park near the school. We topped off the fuel tanks, then warmed up with some play time at the park, and enjoyed a little bike ride back to school.
She rode what she has dubbed her mountain bike today, a hand-me-down courtesy of Chloe.
The events were many and varied. I learned a lot about some skills that we should be practicing more at home, like distance jumping and frisbee throwing. She earned a good sportsmanship ribbon following a minor foam noodle related mishap in one of the tag-based games. It was good to see how well her group of nearly-finished kindergarteners get along, and I was impressed with the care and encouragement extended to all the kids by teachers, parents and the older kids who were helping out.
Mid-air at the standing broad jump.
Sporting ribbons, a popsicle and a smile.
The events kept the kids busy and engaged all afternoon. By the time the activities were over, I confess to having been tired, and all I had done was to walk around and take photos. At the end of the day, the kids were rewarded with popsicles, but from a parental perspective, my reward was the streamlined bedtime process that occurred tonight. I'm already looking forward to Field Day for next year, and thinking about how we can train and have fun over the summer.
West bound and down, loaded up and truckin'.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day weekend

The loss of a second tooth has made corn on the cob more of a challenge.
Even the most casual reader may have noticed that this blog has remained dormant for some time. The lack of activity herewith closely coincides with a recent tenacious string of illnesses that I have endured, culminating in sinusitis and bronchitis, neither of which I can wholeheartedly recommend. However, I am starting to feel better even as I continue to hack phlegm and eject mucus. On that happy vision, I present the following photos to show some of the highlights of this weekend made possible by terrific weather.

Following the first backyard barbeque of the year, the perfect Saturday evening called for an after dinner ride around the neighborhood and a local park. The day had reached in excess of 80F, which seems fairly hot for this time of year.
The air temperature was perfect; the only detraction being intermittent clouds of gnats at eye level. After a brief stop, we decided to venture away from the lake where the gnats seemed to concentrate.
Vamping for the camera.
The view from the reverse features the setting sun over the lake.
For this ride I chose my Surly Cross Check, a bike that has been under-ridden in recent years, mostly because my Big Dummy is usually just too convenient. However, it's worth the effort to grab the Cross Check, because it is a great bike in its current configuration as a very clean and mild-mannered single speed. It being a single speed placed me on the same footing as our girl on her bike, and in my depleted state I struggled to keep up at times.
The blur in the distance is our little hot rod.
This morning, she and I presented Mommy with breakfast in bed. I think it was appreciated. Afterwards, among other things we had a nice ride, although the 85F heat seemed to melt us at times. In all, not a bad way to spend the weekend.
Carrying carefully.
The clock is in fact displaying double digits. Good for us all.