Growing up in an adventurous family made me lucky in my opinion, though I know some parents did not agree with risk, even back then. My parents started out as starving motorcycles dealers trying to provide for the 10 children. A big family had it's ups and downs especially since we didn't get seconds much at dinner, somehow I still managed to be the chubby one. Dad worked a lot and we all had to work a lot, being a retail family meant there is a job for everyone. We did play outside as much as we could in order to mostly avoid doing house chores. I vividly remember thinking that it was much more fun to be with the boys than the girls, it meant I got out of folding socks, which can be a nightmare in big families. I was a pretty big tom boy, not really afraid of much, I'm sure the neighborhood boys remember. I blooded my knees crashing bikes in the gravel. Broke my arm racing a 4 wheeler on the iced over lake and more than once burned my leg on the exhaust of a motorcycle. My point here is that yes, sometimes things can be dangerous, learing about risk and taking them is a huge part of life. I never stop my toddlers when they are about to walk into a swimming pool, I let them fall in and learn that they won't float. When kids learn to fall and get up they are equipped to fail and continue trying which is truly the only way to succeed at anything. What I do find scarier than anything is the amount of kids not riding bikes or not even active in nature at all. Life for some time now has turned towards conveniences and devices. Coach Tilden was just telling us how concerned he was over the studies that are saying 85% of 15 year old today will be considered over weight by the time they hit their thirties. Hopefully I didn't butcher the numbers but I know it was extreme, this is the high school athletic director where my kids attend and he has dedicated his life to equipping students with the nutrition and a knowledge of body fitness with a goal of having it stick with them for life. Pretty incredible when someone cares this much about other peoples kids.
I know parents have to work, cook, clean and run around non-stop but trust me when I say that the value that will come to them from enjoying nature with the wind in their face is priceless. Riding bikes is for life, you never forget how. We can probably all remember the sense of freedom and independence we felt as kids on bicycles, sometimes just escaping from a bad day. The St Louis Cycling Community has tons of family bike rides and Big Shark is always putting on races for all ages. It is always a good time, free and a great way to create a good habit for life and your kids. There are used bikes for sale if the issue is money, give your kids an incentive and help them buy their own bike. Offer to pick up the neighbors trash or feed their dog. Get creative, let them do a lemonade stand or start their own go fund me. As parents, again, in my opinion we have 2 jobs, number 1 is to help them get to heaven and number two is to instill value. They really go hand and hand, your own confidence, choices, contribution and work ethic are tied to your values. Not only is cycling in my opinion the best way to increase fitness and mental well being but it's good for the heart and soul. Think about it, you ride bikes with friends, you have full control of your movement, you take in what nature has to offer and you develop skills and reactions that come from this experience. I bet if they did a study on good drivers and cyclist they would find that most cyclist are way above average drivers. You learn about respecting other peoples space, seeing what's in front of you and knowing when to react. I know personally that my street bike and car skills are so much sharper because of my bicycling. Sharing the roads, another hot topic of mine, we all need to advocate for 2-wheel awareness as a part of a teenager getting a drivers license and drivers education. Chris taught me on a bicycle and my dad taught me on a motorcycle that you always assume the driver of a car doesn't see you or isn't going to stop at the red light. Basically you should ride like no one knows how to drive, this isn't a stressful mindset but one of being in control.
So back in 2010 when we started the Team, this is when I really got into the sport. I actually watched my first Tour de France in July of 2000. I knew nothing about the sport and kind of thought the clothes were weird, just being honest. I had no idea the intense team work that was needed as well as the high level of strength and fitness needed. Also the attire is necessary and comfortable, thank you Verge! We started riding consistently together 4 kids and 10 years later, a couple year before we started the Gateway Trek Cycling Development Team. I would say we have had some of our best meetings about work and alone times, while rolling on the back hills of Jefferson County. Couples that ride together stay together! Bicycling is a family activity that is like no other. On top of the road cycling races there are also races called Cycle Cross that are held at parks for the most part and Dirt Crits! If you are afraid of your kids being on streets there are tons of opportunites to enjoy bikes on closed course situations or on bike paths and in parks. An organization called NICA is working hard on spreading cycling accross the US. NICA sees a future where every American youth has the opportunity to build strong body, mind and character through interscholastic cycling, this is their vision statement. Chris Mileski is responsible for getting MO on course for introducing Mountain Biking as a sport for high schools. You don't have to be competitive, there are social rides and events offered all over the place as well. A quick google search will point you in whatever type of cycling you could imagine. Plus there are tons of great bicycle shops around that can help you fit yourself of a child to the perfect size bike, Trek Arnold is the closest to me. If parents participate in riding bicycles with their kids it raises the level of the experience entirely. Kids want to do things with their parents even if they act the opposite. If you need help finding places to ride, something to ride or helmets just shoot me a message and I can try and point you in the right direction. If you want to hold a big used bike exchange so you can trade the bike your daughter outgrew for one bigger let me know and maybe we can all plan something together. I am putting on Strider Camps for downs syndrome kids but if anyone would like something like this for other special needs kids then reach out and if there is enough interest maybe we can pull it off. If you don't know about balance bikes and you have kids with special needs and just kids you want to teach how to ride and balance you need to check these out. 2 of my boys started on Striders and one on a Trek Kickster when they were around 20 months and they went straight to a pedal bike by 3. In closing I just want to try and persuade parents to not be afraid and to take their kids out for bike rides!!
Special thanks to all of the photographers out there that capture all the magic that happens while #livinglifeontwowheels like SnowyMountain Photography, Dan Singer Photography, Biff Stephens, Dean Warren Photography and all of the others