KATH FOURIE shares her thoughts on why it’s beneficial for kids to start riding at a young age.
When it comes to children, bicycles are perhaps one of the first steps a little one can take towards growing up. There are so many things that are off limits to kids that only adults can touch until kids are quite a bit older (knives, matches, fireworks – all the fun stuff), but bicycles – well they even the playing field a bit. From the time, a child first swings their leg over a black plastic bike when they’ve just learned to walk, they can suddenly do an activity that adults can do, and it is extremely liberating. In fact, kids take bicycles seriously. They mean something to them that perhaps adults don’t quite get. For example, my Godson Jamie was playing with a toy bicycle recently, and to try and join in with his game I made “vroom-vroom” noises. He stopped playing, looked up at me, and in his two-and-a-half- year-old voice said: “Not a motor- bike! Bicycle.” I went red in the face and admitted the error of my ways, while he focused on building obstacles out of wooden blocks to ramp.
My Goddaughter Irie on the other hand is now eight, and last year she got her first serious bicycle. It’s a raw aluminium finish, orange and black touches here and there. At first, she looked a bit unconvinced by the lack of colour and femininity, but after one session of racing around the garden over homemade jumps we heard her explain to someone that “it’s a solid bike, it’s made for racing and proper riding”, purple netting tutu pulled over her black tights and muddy takkies. Both Jamie and Irie get that thing about bicycles, they empower you with the ability to move fast and to experience adrenalin, and most importantly, allow you to be who you really are. They’re awesome in allowing an expression of yourself, whether you’re three, seven … or 35. It’s getting to that point where Irie-Mae, who is now eight is riding more furiously than her mother. Maybe not in distance yet, but the singletrack calls her with a wild howl and she is attracted to rocks, fast downhills and getting over obstacles. So much so that her mom has asked if I can take her to practice some proper trails, because she’s progressing so quickly. Raising rippers requires a few things, aside from a bike, it’s the ability to let go of our children so they can push themselves, and trying not to worry when their Godmother says, “maybe I can find her a fullface helmet that will fit”.
In the spirit of Liv though, that’s #HowWeLiv, a little wildly and adventurously, so our kids can live that way too. Liv have a range of bicycles for girls, that starts off with the Liv Adore, aimed at being the bike a child can move onto after training wheels, in the 16” range. It has some safety features built in like a chain guard and a super comfy seat, and it also has a basket and upright handle bars so it has a bit of a cruiser feel to it. For most smaller girls, this will be a fun bike to integrate into their playtime. The next level up is the Enchant, which comes in 20” and 24” sizes. The 20” comes with v-brakes, while the 24” switches up to disc brakes; however what one also notices with these bikes is the move in colour ways from coral in the Adore, to a majority blue bike in the Enchant 20”, and slick black bike with pink and green accents in the 24”.
Liv have certainly paid attention to progress and on and off switches in little girls’ brains, from adoringly caring for Barbies … and then two years later cutting off all their hair. Back to Irie-Mae, I took her along to the Sappi Scottburgh Classic recently and we entered the kids 10km race together. It took me a while to understand how truly nervous she was, and I felt a wash of all my nervous downhill race starts coming back in a wave. I think (coming from someone who isn’t a parent yet) it’s important to really understand what a child is feeling and to acknowledge those feelings so they can push through their own challenges. We discussed the nerves and decided this race was about having fun first and foremost and seeing how well we can do together as a team. That made things a bit easier in Irie’s head, and once we were off and watching 30 kids pedalling like no tomorrow I quickly said that “the key is to start steady and keep steady, those kids will get tired really quickly”, to which she responded “yup” … and we spent the next hour having a total blast, even watching a fully grown adult high-side off the trail upside down on his bicycle. Imagine our surprise when coming in over the finish line to find Irie was the second U13 girl home! In our post-mortem of the race she said, “I was driven to get back quickly… so we could go on the super tubes and eat ice-cream” which, I feel, is the most sensible reason I have ever heard from adult or child to complete a race ASAP