Daydreaming of the Ride Ahead
by Charlie LaNoue
As a former bike messenger and later an elementary teacher, perhaps it was inevitable I’d find myself at the intersection of bikes and kids. Nowadays, as a senior copywriter at woom, I often write about other parents and their cycling progeny. This year, I'm excited to have my own story to tell.
I became a father in May of ’22 and celebrated my first Father’s Day, a month after the birth of my son, Jack. While I admittedly felt a bit like an imposter celebrating Father’s Day with an infant last year, this time around, after hundreds of bottles and diaper changes, I feel the part.
At the time of this last edit, my son Jack has just celebrated his first birthday. As he crawls and stumbles into his second year of life, I eagerly wait for the day he’s ready to mount his shiny new woom 1 on his own and experience the joys of two-wheeling.
As an avid cyclist, my excitement mounts when I consider years of father and son rides. I daydream of early morning rides to school, weekend pedals to the park with a detour for ice cream, and maybe an occasional bikepacking trip to get away from it all.
But I have to check myself and wonder: am I setting myself up for disappointment? What if he doesn’t take to riding a bike like I did? We’ve all heard the adage: you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Sure, that makes sense.
But if you gently lead the horse to premium, cold, filtered water – and then totally don’t even pressure it to drink – perhaps the horse would be more likely to give it a try. So while most parents agree you shouldn’t force a particular hobby upon your children, you can certainly give them the best possible chance to enjoy it.
Cycling is more than a hobby
Many people can relate to a passion their parents had that they didn’t share. For me, it was the guitar — my father loved it and wanted me to play, but despite his well-intentioned efforts, it never stuck. However, you can’t ride a guitar to school, so they’re inherently different. Not all hobbies also have a practical function; that’s what makes bicycling so unique.
My plan? Teach Jack that cycling can be much more than a hobby. That, and of course, supply him with a series of fantastic lightweight bikes made specifically for kids to make learning to ride a cinch.
In the U.S. especially, cycling is often seen as — at best — the hobby of affluent Lycra-clad elites, or maybe, a second-rate form of travel for those less fortunate. Since our public infrastructure is often built primarily for automobiles, this perception of cycling should be no surprise.
However, upon closer inspection, a bicycle is a tool – perhaps one of the most profoundly useful tools ever created. Whether conducting errands or simply getting from point A to point B, bicycles are far simpler and cheaper than driving a two-ton metal box for short trips, and also far faster than walking on one’s own two feet.
Finding this efficient “middle ground” where bikes make the most sense is critical. Of course, not all errands can easily be done on bike. But going to the post office one mile away with a small package or doing the daily daycare commute a half mile from home? This is where bikes shine, and these will be opportunities to include my son and normalize “utility biking” in his worldview.
A soft intro to bicycles
Maybe I’m getting too far ahead of myself. First things first – how and when should I introduce cycling to my son Jack? For starters, I think it will go over best if it is “his idea.” My son is already 31” tall, so technically already the right height for his woom 1 balance bike, but lacks the stability and motor skills at this point.
Weighing in at just 6.6 lbs, the woom 1 packs a lot in a small package. Featuring child-sized brake levers, ergonomic grips, real pneumatic tires, and an innovative bottomless seatpost design to accommodate the tiniest Riders, it is a beauty to behold.
Once he finally starts standing upright on his own, I aim to keep his shiny new woom 1 balance bike sitting up in its DOCK Bike Stand, carefully placed in a well-trafficked corner of the house where he will be sure to see it.
From there, I plan to let his curiosity lead the way rather than allow my parental expectations to nudge him along. By allowing Jack to approach the bike on his own terms, right from the start, I hope to pave the path for Jack to fall in love with biking all on his own.
I can’t wait to see him figure out how to grip his handlebars, push himself along “Fred Flintstone-style,” and eventually coast when he lifts his feet off the ground down a slight incline. But these accomplishments will occur when he’s ready and willing. He is, after all, his own human being, with his own predispositions and feelings.
Let kids be themselves
One of the greatest gifts a father can give his child is independence. So while Jack may never geek out and plan a cross-country bike tour, become the Local Legend on a new Strava Segment, or expand his Wandrer map — he will have the chance to learn why bicycles are a viable, common-sense means of transportation. And he will have the know-how to ride safely when he chooses to.
Whether Jack ends up shredding the singletrack on a woom OFF, hitting ramps on his woom OFF AIR, commuting to school on a woom NOW, or simply cruising around with his friends on a woom ORIGINAL, that will be entirely up to him. After all, it’s important to allow our kids to be themselves, whatever that looks like as he becomes a Rider.
My job is to simply afford him the opportunity to test the waters, teach him how to ride a bike safely, and provide him with the foundational knowledge that a bicycle is a powerful utilitarian tool.