As the grip of winter's chill is replaced with the gentle embrace of a warm spring breeze, a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love.
A love for biking, that is.
What? I'm already married, my fancy has been resolved to a devoted love for a long time now. Believe me, I love my ever-patient wife like nothing else, but, shoot, she's here year-round.
The biking season, on the other hand, is a fleeting mistress, a lady of the night who beckons its loyal followers as soon as the loamy trails allow for some flirty indiscretions. From the beginning of spring and well into late fall, she busies herself in leading riders through unforgettable dreamscapes laced with physical and spiritual highs, ensnaring the passion of cyclists who's wills are slaves to the seasons. It is an affair which, for all the accomplishments and discoveries of inner-peace, inevitably ends in heartache as the season comes to a close with the arrival of snow and bitter north winds.
Just before winter began, the biking season, as always, slipped from under my tires in late October. But, she has arrived once again, calling for me to join her. There are no hard feelings, just immense joy at her return. She taunts me with rays of sunlight through my living room windows, warm and brimming with the promise of singletrack ecstasy. Her pull is so strong, I cannot resist.
I glance over my shoulder. Perfect. My spouse is distracted with the little guy. He's filled his diaper once again in defiance to the authoritarian rule he has the relentless misfortune of living under. His mother (my wife; do keep up) had asked him, not 10 minutes earlier, if he needed to empty his bowels (she's a nurse, she really does talk like that). Now he is being completely uncooperative in going to the bathroom to get cleaned up, somehow managing to transform all his bones and joints into an unmalleable liquid, a skill which my mother takes great pleasure in pointing out that I used to possess when I was an insufferable little shit, decades ago.
My loving wife, distracted with duties that come with being a responsible parent, is oblivious to my slipping out the back door to the sanctuary that is my garage. Shoes tied, gloves on, helmet strapped, I saddle my beloved aluminum steed, bent on putting as much space between my rear tire and the noxious substances created by my young son's derrière.
I feel a wave of anticipation surge through me as I engage my bike's freewheel, locking the pedals into position, ready to launch. My mistress is calling, and I am keen to answer.
From the corner of my eye, a bright flash of green stops me dead.
It is my little guy's new bicycle; a tiny fixed-gear machine with training wheels, painted a bright lime-green with black accents. It sat, almost forlornly, to one side of the garage, light from a warm spring sun bathing it in a golden glow through the window.
Guilt swept over me. Some for my wife, sure. To just abandon her while she tried to negotiate with a stubborn force akin to a distant nebula's collective gravity was, well, a bit cowardly. Regardless, I could still have done it. Ride away, I mean. I am weak, I admit it. When the cycle season, my mistress, comes to me with the intent of seduction, I am powerless to her desires. Though my wife brings me immeasurable happiness of which no other woman can compare, there are some pleasures that only she, the Goddess of Spring and Singletrack, can provide.
Nay, the guilt was for my son. My little guy. For years, I had dreamed of a time when I could share countless biking adventures with my children, sharing with them the one true love that has endured with me for as long as I can remember.
The idea of stealing a quick ride on my own suddenly no longer had the irresistible appeal it had mere moments before. Here was an opportunity to invest in a very lucrative future, where dividends would be paid out in priceless bonding adventures with my son. My lady of temptation would just have to wait.
I tucked my bike back into it's respective corner, giving it an apologetic pat on the saddle. It understood; one of the things I love most about that machine is its sympathetic nature. It's important to look for those kinds of characteristics in a bicycle, trust me.
With the kid all cleaned up and poop free (nice work, wife), I brought the kid out for some gentle schooling in the fine art of cycling. Unfortunately, the little shrimp had no intention of learning anything, regardless of how cool it was.
"Bring to park the green?" he promptly asked once outside. My heart soared at the ques...Oh. Nevermind. He was pointing to his toy lawnmower (also green) which he'd recently been pushing abso-frickin-lutely everywhere.
"No, kiddo, we're gonna try your bike!" I exclaimed happily with as much enthusiasm as I could. This was greeted with instant wailing and crying, pleading for his mower, the whole works. Fan-tastic.
This wasn't the first time I tried him on his bike. We bought the silly thing a couple months back when springtime was but a teasing tickle in the wind, hopeful for an early season. Between bouts of winter, when warm Chinook winds would make way for t-shirts and light sweaters, we would try our little man on his bike, if only to keep the feeling of pedals under his feet as a familiar sensation. Every time, he would resist feverishly at first, eventually putting in a marginal effort at learning the craft, only to promptly dismiss his bike as soon as the pedals were on the verge of making a complete, unassisted rotation.
If the store where we'd bought that bike was closer to us than the six-hour drive that it actually was, you can bet a refund would've taken place.
Yeah, right. My heart was set on raising a little mountain biker, and that's what I was going to have, dammit. Besides, I realize he's just two-and-a-half years old, I'm not a complete cad. There's lots of time yet for him to learn. I'm just too eager for him to get there.
So, here we are, with spring most definitely unpacking her things for the season. It was time. I made it clear to my darling little imp that the toy lawn mower was most assuredly NOT leaving the yard, and the only way we were going to the park or anywhere was through the magic of biking.
There was a lot of crying, moaning, pleading and whining. When I finally stopped, my kid relented. I put him on the saddle, and guided his feet through the motion of the pedals as the training wheels kept him upright. Left, right, left, right, left, right...no, this right. THIS right!
And then, all of a sudden, he just...got it. It was like watching young Forrest Gump breaking free from his leg braces and stride flawlessly like a champion sprinter. He was pedalling, one full stroke, two, three; he was frickin' doing it, yeah, baby!
I let go of his seat I was gently pushing in order to keep his strokes moving, and I watched him go. My heart soared; my little guy was pumping away, seemingly losing himself in the moment, feeling the same immense sense of accomplishment and freedom that I savour every time I go for a ride. He was smiling, one of the purest grins I've ever seen on his happy little face.
Then I realized he was very near the end of our side road, about to roll right into the main street which goes by the front of the house. He was doing so well that I hesitated for a moment, not wanting to break his rhythm but of course fully aware I had to stop him from going into the street. I hollered at him to stop, which, thankfully, he did, and I rushed to reach him as quickly as I could.
As I approached him, I couldn't help but smile inwardly at the idea that someday soon, my son and I would be enjoying wonderful cycling adventures together. We'll plan epic weekend journeys in the mountains, enjoying unforgettable not-approved-by-mom snacks by the trailside as the sun begins to set against the hills, searing memories into our brains for decades to come.
I reach my little guy, bending down to catch his expression of what I'm sure would be only pure joy. "Wow! Way to go, kiddo! Was that great, or what!?" I ask hurriedly, unable to curb my excitement.
My kid, my amazing little son, who positively just rocked biking for what was really his first real effort in the activity, just stared at me, completely deadpan.
"All done bike," he said. He slid off his steed and walked back to the house, leaving me to explain to his trusty bike why some kids will just love 'em and leave 'em. That fickle little shi-, I muttered to myself.
Oh, well. There's always tomorrow. I guess.
Though I can't make any promises that I might not give in to my mistress's calling the next time around. Sorry, kid.
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