About a year ago my son came to me and asked,”Dad, When can I get a road bike?”I scratched my head a bit and gave him the worst answer you could ever give your son who is prepping for his rite of passage. “Well, maybe when you’re a little bit older.”…Wah Wah!
Frankly, it really was one of the more complex purchase decisions I’ve had to make regarding a kid’s bike. What quality level do you pay for compounded by the simple fact that most bikes today would not fit him a couple of years from now. And would a kid really appreciate a quality bike? Sure, I could go down to the local Wal-Mart and pick up whatever was on the rack for 100 bucks. But as a cyclist, I’m supposed to know better. And having done that I would have to anticipate spending an eternity riding a 60 lb, clunky, brake rubbing, saddle chafing, big box store bike through the eternal depths of purgatory as punishment for committing such a vile act. It would be my deserved destiny for allowing my son to take his first step, er should I say pedal stroke, in the opposite direction of the righteous road straight up Mt. Velominatus.
I’m not saying that any kid wouldn’t or shouldn’t be excited to ride a new Wal-Mart bike! But knowing that I would use this as a tool that bonds us as father and son cyclists, I just couldn’t do that to him or myself. Especially knowing that I would be the one consistently wrenching and adjusting a lesser grade machine.
My son never has never had a new bike. They’ve all been hand me downs and he has never complained. He knows how fortunate he is to have a bike at all. He rides all summer, spring and fall, likes taking lengthy father and son rides, and has learned the importance of wearing a helmet. He loves the freedom of 2 wheeled, self-powered speed. He has told me he is not yet interested in visiting the “Pain Cave” but he does show his tendency to be a high cadence spinner. And he has had some spectacular crashes to date which have yet to keep him from getting back in the saddle and back up to speed. So he has already embraced a bit of Rule V. Knowing he still has a few years to grow I wondered what would happen if I fit him on a bike my size. A 52 cm. I can drop the seat post, shorten the stem and move the sale to the fore position. Wallah! An “almost” ideal fitting bike that with minor adjustments, should fit him for at least another 6 to 8 yrs. Or maybe a lifetime, if he grows to (what we short Italians consider) a towering 5′ 9″ stature.
I believe that if he, and many others, are able to experience the sensation of riding a finely tuned road machine, he would immediatley acquire an appreciation for what cycling can be.
So I set my sights on” Craig’s List” to see if there might be any gems available. Knowing that a pure road bike might not be ideal for path rides I decided a cyclocross bike might give the best bang for the buck. Road or light trail all in one. Plus, a change of tires and all set for serious road. As I did the search I found what seemed to be the only CX bike available in his size. Plus, the condition sounded to good to be true. And the price was more than fair. Buying a bike should be a special experience that I did not want to deprive him of. So I told him if he did not want it just say so and we could pass. So off we went for a date with a stranger looking to sell a CX bike.
I figured the seller would be someone who might have gotten some serious use from the bike as the photos did not look so promising. I could not have been more wrong! First off, the seller seemed like a great guy and very knowledgable cyclist. The bike might have just come off the showroom floor. New condition. Plus, a few upgrades. The chain still had the original paraffin coating. My son’s eyes lit up and after a few adjustments he was up and down the road for countless mini finish line sprints. I think the seller felt pretty good about the bike’s new owner. As a final touch he even had a nice short 70 mm stem that he popped on and brought my son to an almost perfect fit. I do believe things happen for a reason. I know this bike was intended for this new owner.
That day we took our first ride on his new steed. It was a bit cold and windy out so we kept to a brief 8 mile jaunt but the whole time he couldn’t be more happy to be out there. As we rolled back onto our home street he looked over at me and said, “Dad, it’s official. I really loooove this bike!”
I’m not sure he will ever race competitively, I don’t know that he will ever know the sado-satisfaction of exploring the pain cave. And I don’t know that we will ever share the same level of passion for the bike. But I do believe that one day, maybe soon, he will find himself in that perfect place where only a flawless ride can take him. The hum of the rubber over the tarmac and that feeling of flight. A slight tailwind, the warm sun, and maybe a good friend keeping him company. Days like that where you really wish you could be on the bike all day long. One day he’ll awaken to the “Force”. When he gets there, I will find satisfaction in knowing that of all the bikes I’ve bought, this was the best purchase I’ve ever made.