Mountain Biking is the New Tee-Ball

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I’ve signed my 7-year-old up for his first mountain bike race, and he is stoked, in a terrifying kind of way.

Last year we camped at a music festival that billed itself as having a mountain bike race, and it was on his birthday. He was so excited, and very concerned about winning, which are not common emotions for this child. I had a terrible time teaching him how to ride, due to his stubborn nature, but I kept at it because I saw his immense potential in both grace and strength. I’m glad I pushed it, because it’s important to have a childhood love. Biking, and fellow second-grader Emily, are his. Although he didn’t make a special valentine for his bike, he doesn’t go far without it.

Despite his somewhat apathetic view on life, I somehow convinced him last year to at least try hard during the race. I told him that I had a special prize for him even if his strongest effort didn’t take first place. All I cared about was him trying as hard as he could, as opposed to spinning slowly while waving and grinning to the crowd in his usual manner. That boy rode around the campground as hard as his little legs would go. He tucked aside all of the streamers the other kids wore, hoping it would streamline his efforts and attitude. He kicked ass, although nobody realized it, and there was no stop watch or podium.

This year, however, he will race in the Carolina Youth Mounatin Bike League. It looks like a true race. It seems as though there is finally an uprise after a sharp decline in sub-teen riding over the last ten years. Cycling just dropped off of the horizon for a lot of kids. Now that my biking friends and I have started creating the new generation of bike geeks, I think we’ll be back on the up-and-up.

The pump track in our back yard is crowded on summer evenings after cookouts around the fire circle as parents and kids take turns cranking around in various degrees of drunkenness (parents) and exhaustion (kids). We urge our kids over the ramp in the middle of the yard, cheering them on as they catch a little more air with each round. We camp together, schlepping our bikes and gears for rides that go no further than five miles as we lead our offspring along the perfect line down the rock beds. We shuttle to the top of 17-mile trails just to give them saddle-time.

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