Entries in family (64)
The family that bikes together...well, has FUN together! It's that time in our kids lives when we want to start looping them in to our passion...riding in the woods on fat tires. Problem is, the state of (really) small mountain bikes is a difficult one. It's not a very big market and rightfully the manufacturers mitigate their risk by not producing a ton of options. Buying off the shelf bikes for kids who are 'tweeners' (too big and advanced for off the shelf bikes and too small for 'adult' sized bikes) is really difficult but we were determined to get it done right for them. I want to ensure my kids could really 'feel' and control the bikes...so that meant careful choosing of frame and parts alike. WIth the help of Boulder Cycle Sport and some of my great friends and long-time industry honches, we were able to source and build up the following for the youngsters:
- Kinesis 'label-less' frames - 14" for 26" wheels
- Carver ridged carbon fiber front forks
- WTB wheels (tubeless)
- Shimano SLX group set
- 60mm stems & flat bars
- Old seat posts lying around
- Kenda rubber
- ESI grips ('suspension'...yes, these boys will learn tire pressure before suspension use)
- Cane Creek headset
Bikes came in about 17lbs and I can still move into lighter territory, but that will be the fun part. Some porn...
It's time to begin to switch over the engine....both mind and body....to ride long, think hard and put in the time to re-charge. Rides with friends, rides solo...it doesn't matter. Just long and epic.
We started this past weekend...the "RTD' or Ride to Denver. Pete Webber has a phenomenal way to get to and from the 'big city', sending us on a Colorado Road Ride which is mainly dirt road and trail like you see above.
We trekked our way along this route, on our way to visit the NAHMBS which came to visit the Mile High City this year. Tons of eye candy which I'm sure you've seen by now all over the webs.
Most importantly, along with all these long rides, this time of year signifies reflection. And one of those reflections was the Boulder Junior Cycling 'CX Celebration' night where we honor the kids and their amazing season. It never ceases to impress me what they do each fall and winter. They're not like other kids...frankly like other adults! I mean, who in their right mind would intentionally choose to pedal their bike in 20 degree weather with ice and sleet raining down. Well, these kids do. With a smile.
It also deeply re-enforces to me how kids feel success and the role we play in helping them. It's never about the results...only about their personal progress. Did they make mistakes? Was each lap smoother? Did they bobble? Were they able to bridge to another faster group? Progress. It's like a little microcosm of life they're learning and all the coaches are so proud to be a part of that.
On to the spring.
Pride. Immense, glowing, unabashed pride is what I feel for my son having completed his first national cyclocross championship in Madison, WI. Aiden is 10 and did his first Junior Mens 10-12 age group and it was a barn burner. He'll be back again in this age group next yere when the Nationals come visit us here in Boulder CO!
From all accounts, from my teammates to my wife to Aiden's Boulder Junior Cycling team parents who made the trek up north, all descriptions of the conditions were nothing less that epic, if not treacherous. Hearing stories by Tilford and Joe underscore what the competitors faced and experienced and it made my stomach turn not being there to support (and maybe feel like I'm protecting in some way). Black ice, frozen earth covered by a thin layer of muddy slime...adults claimed they knew they'd hit the earth, but had no idea when.
But the conditions are what they are and this is cyclocross. It is all about preparation, equipment and trust in your skills. Knowing my best friends and teammates were there made me extremely happy though...
Brandon Dwight (National Champ) Aiden, Pete Webber (National & World Champ) and Russ Stevenson (long time pro and WA state CX champ)
My teammate and family friend (and fellow BJC dad) had Aiden's Clement PDXs dialed for me. We were texting that AM and he put Aiden's tires in the 16-18psi range. Aiden and the BJC kids know how to drive their bikes in the bad as the coaches and I had taken them
It's an incredibly selfish, self-centered sport this cycling of ours. And we're slaves to it because of what it brings us. The work, the rewards, the fun. But lest we forget how we can do this. Through support. Through love. Through understanding. All graciously afforded to us by our loved ones. Wives, husbands, children.
My wife has always been there. Supporting me over the last 16 years in what often feels like a Quixotic adventure. Always propping me up when I've not achieved what I think I can and telling me I can. Cleaning me up when I am broken and bloody. Hugging me when I've done my best.
She is now managing three of us. My sons and me in our quests to go fast. And we owe her so much. Too much to re-pay. Amy thank you for what you do to enable us to do it. And thank you for this wonderful gift you are giving our son. Taking him to his first National Championship. Providing him such an amazing experience.
You are amazing.
It happened probably a lot sooner than I had ever anticipated. It was the moment when my oldest decided to ride his cross bike...on a mountain bike trail most adults find challenging...with his road tires on. I saw his abilities and his joys and how instinctively he negotiated the trail knowing with precision how to stay light on the bike, not use brakes in the corners and just flow away...away and out of site from mom, dad and little bro.
This isn't a story to gloat about my son. He's 9. And God knows what this kid wants to do with his life. He's just a little guy. For now it is all about opportunities and experiences and ensuring both my sons' lives are rich with them...whatever they are: sport, travel, religion, family, friends, relationships, joy, pain, etc. But my child I can see is falling in love with what I know as one of the purest forms of joy: Riding. And he is emanating the same emotions in his words that I often struggle to find for just...how...good....it...makes...him...feel.
But is it time? Is it time for me to full stop make the switch from wannabe uber racer to an athlete who can balance the goals I still feel in my heart I can achieve and pour myself into my sons forays into the sport to achieve theirs? Is it time? Should racing be a proxy for riding...or riding a proxy to racing? What is the blend and on the meter of selfishness, how do I throttle back and balance more for them?
I'm formulating answers to questions I am still finding about these feelings I'm having and this place in life I am at with my beautiful boys. I want to fly and continue to do so...but not at the expense of not dedicating what I know is required to them. For them. More time to teach the lessons to gain more confidence. To learn more history of why we do what we do. Of the promise of where this sport can take a person. To be more relaxed with it all.
I'll continue the search for the right balance. But I know what is right. The torch is being passed. And it makes me so proud.
The influences of a child are maddening in our society…in this era…and in this country. And it (mostly) saddens me. My influences as a kid in the 70's were people…not things. Ron Guidry, Audie Murphy and St. Anthony were pretty much all I knew. Ron Guidry because the guy was a stud and I wished I could grow a mustache at age 7 like he had . Audie Murphy because I just wanted to be like my brother, a real-life army man, and would fantasize in black and white, just like the images I saw Audie blowing up German tanks like this guy did in WWII. St Anthony because if I lost anything I’d pray to that guy and the shit would just show up.
Now…it’s different. Media, sound, imagery, written word…it all gets bombarded into our children’s brains at such a furious pace, it’s almost uncontrollable. And it comes in from everywhere. I’m lucky to be able to drop off and pick up my boys from school…and when I scan the playground it’s like a sea of hunched-over children. Hunched over and consumed by devices. Consumed by the imagery, sounds and eye candy they produce. It’s a connection to the world we never had. And one we didn’t need. These 'things' have become the modern day pacifier for the 4-14 year old set. Given to them by their parents to essentially keep them out of their hair in my completely opinionated opinion.
So how to deal with this? How to combat some of these forces but do it meaningfully...and in a way that applies the focus on REAL things.
Here's that experience of mine...
To the 9 year old, the iPod or iPhone is a toy. A magical, shiny, inexplicably cool toy. But, a $400 toy nonetheless. And their draw to it is unstoppable. Crowds of kids gather around the lucky one who’s got the magical device…watching in silence as the kid hucks birds or other monumentally “important” activities on its HD screen...which is about all they can do at this age as they're too young to open up a social network or email account.
The begging began in my house a year or so ago for one. Intolerable. “PLEASE mom and dad! PLEASE can I have an iPhone??? I’m the only one without one and I can’t play with my friends anymore!”
Play, son? Play how with your friends with an iPhone?
Trust me I’m not a crust or an old curmudgeon. I know how they can play together with iPhones (e.g. pier to pier web-gaming). Maybe I do not want to see my children’s innocence sullied yet, which I’ve seen happen thus far in lots of instances of this dilemma from getting obsessed with 1st Person Shooter games through to accessing smut. Or maybe ‘it’s just me’ in all of this…but imaginative, hard, sweaty, in-the-dirt, on-their-bikes-and-scooters, with Legos, hair-raisingly spectacular PLAY is what they need. With other real kids. In the flesh. Not hunched over. In silence. Staring at screens. Laughter, arguments, dialog, creating real things…all in the analog world..is what they need.
On the countless rides I do with Pete, he has been the brunt of my rants on this subject of how to handle this iPhone thing. Pete's generally acted as a great sounding board as another dad. My plan was to make my son realize that there is more to life right now than being heads-down in a device playing games. There's (limited) time for that but being outside, playing and school are it for their little lives at the moment. But while this seems logical, it still is hard for a child to understand ‘why’ they are being denied this eye candy. Saying, “Because I said so” or “You’ll understand when you’re older” just doesn’t cut it. And frankly he deserves better than that.
So I needed a deflection…and a teaching lesson. And that’s where Pete truly comes in. I decided that Aiden needs something to work for. We’re not just going to drop a $400 phone on him…one that will be destroyed and lost (the kid can not stop losing Legos every day for chrissakes). His greatest joy is riding. Yes, I love that as a nerd-biker and dad, but now is the time for him to go down the rabbit hole we all go into as cyclists. Learning about your equipment (bike and body) and having fun when all that equipment is dialed and you flow.
A bike! A bike is what will be the deflection and he will work to earn this. It will have to become the 'bright and shiny object' and demonstrate what is real for his mind, body and soul.
Back to the Champ. Pete is surgical. I mean medicinally surgical in his approach to bikes and racing. Everything is thought through and meticulously taken care of. How else can you repeat winning national championships and take a Worlds? He offered as part of this ‘earn-in’ into the bike a "Daddy, Pete and Aiden bike building lesson." Amazing. (I hope Pete will be ready in a year to work with Seamus!) It’s this level of ‘community’ and friendship that we cherish here and in every way, this felt like a baptism of sorts for Aiden…really showing him the details of ‘the bike’. The quiet moments of cutting cables and the Zen of getting everything to work perfectly.
Pete is the type of influence I want my children surrounded by. A Champ to look up to. One in our back yard and one who shows the type of quiet work that’s needed to succeed.
I’ll start by saying this: Clearly no child who is growing should have a bike of this caliber. It’s all a bit strange to me as well. But with the support of Boulder Cycle Sport and Ridley, this particular frame became available and ready for a young (small) pilot. That frame and essentially all my old parts made this an extremely cost effective endeavor. And thankfully yielded a bike that a 10 year old can actually lift over barriers (all the parents how have gone to great lengths like me to lighten Redline Conquest 24’s know EXACTLY what I am talking about).
Aiden and I worked on assembling the parts, getting to know each kind and how they worked. From my old SRAM group to how bigger wheels could get him up to speed quickly…it was an entirely new biking experience for him. We scheduled with Pete some working lessons over a few days, taking the bike from its skeleton until its completed state. Here's a pictorial of that build out...
Aiden getting greasy with Pete and Dad.
Pete demonstrating the surgical details...like eliminating that annoying space between the hoods and the bars. It's all about focus on the race.
The fully built whip. 14lbs. 41cm Ridley X-Fire. Grommet-sized.
One of Turbo Pete's 'super mods' A bottle cap chain watcher.
C'mon. Did you think the kid would ride anything else? #oldschool
Yup. He'll be outgrowing this bike (but little brother already licked it for 2nds.)
In all of this, what am I saying here? What is to be concluded? Well,
a) That I think kids with all of this digital media influence are missing some spectacular shit in life.
b) It takes a village to raise your kids. A village you create with friends built on trust and the same core values.
c) If it takes some money and some effort to positively distract your kids and enable more time with you, do it for your kids.
That's it Amy and I are learning to be better parents every day, thankfully having learned lessons from our own parents. Am I trying to turn back the hands of time to force my kids to be a child like I was in the 70's? Hell no. Am I trying to buy time and preserve some innocence where I can. Yes. Unabashedly yes. They can not be 'protected' forever...and I don't want that. I just want more time with them. As innocent young boys.
And yes, little brother is waiting to slay...
I’m noticing I can inhale deeply lately. Always a sign to me that I am at peace. When the teeter totter is listing to any given side, I can never get that deep belly-breath. The kind that you can feel literally cool the very bottoms of your lungs. The kind that you can feel in your toes. The kind I can take in now.
Life is irony personified. At least that is how it feels to me as I am getting older, watching my hands turn into my fathers and finally seeing the forest for its trees. Building an image of a future that was predicated on historical lessons my father taught me on how to build a life, while valuable, needed to be changed in order for my family and I to find happiness. And the greatest of these ironies is that it ain’t about pursuing the nut. It is most certifiably about pursing what provides you the greatest joy and living very much in the moment.
Making the switch from ‘salaried guy’ to start-up guy and essentially attaching the siphoning hose to the bank account to start a business has been…enlightening. And yet while the struggles are present to do the best we can, the moment I am living in, within this period of my life and that of my family’s, is priceless. In my former life, I would not be able to make breakfast and see my children off to school. I would not be able to create my own schedule to coach my boys in this fall’s cycling team. Help my wife with the things she’d normally bear the brunt for our family while she is in school. Simply put, it’s the antitheses of what lessons my father taught me…working for the same company for 40 years as an example…but the mission he laid out is unaffected: being there for your family.
I am attempting to learn the basics again a year and a half into building my first business. What is real and meaningful. What drives happiness. How it can be repeated and keep us safe, happy and healthy. Just like what we all do when we bring out the barriers and practice. We do this for perfection. And so I am doing this as an analog for my life’s needs. Practicing patience, trust and repeatability. This is not our father’s era. Yet it can be rooted in the same principals. Just achieved orthogonally to the path he chose.
It is time.
Since their birth, literally as newborns being held by their mom standing by the tape at races in Podunk CA to Nowhere CO, these kids have been raised with the sound of cowbells, freewheels and power-washers as the audible back drop to their weekends.
By intent, I’ve never pushed these little guys into biking. In fact, quite the opposite. I wanted them (still want them!) to continue tying everything: soccer, rock climbing, swimming, hockey. You name it.
But ever so subtly over the last year, my oldest started the inquisition: “Daddy, how old do you have to be to race?”. “Daddy, is there a Ridley I can fit on?” “Daddy, am I going to break my collar bone?” (I swear this was said…d’oh!”). He is 8 and he says he’s ready.
And so methodically mom and I started to get him prepared over the last few weeks. Racing license, bike, Boulder Cycle Sport jersey…and now most importantly how to go fast and have fun while staying safe. I want him, and his little brother when ready, to feel the joy I feel when I pin a number on. I’m not suggesting that I can ‘make him’ feel the same emotions fire in his brain as I do. Everyone is unique in that way, but I want him to feel that community spirit and maybe, just maybe, have him feel what his daddy feels and has devoted a major part of his life to.
Hup, hup. little buttercup. I’m proud of you and the little man you've become.
We all work so hard and manage our own versions of the three part teeter totter. It’s who we are and what we do. Week in and week out. Round and round…or up and down as the teeter totters. We…eat, work, contrive a smile, work, eat, am i getting a cold?, try to stay sane, be present with our kids and loved ones, work, stress, don't eat that cookie…OK just one, work, sleep, wake, eat…and so it goes all week thinking of the weekend ahead, the weather in the forecast and the venue that will allow us to release ourselves and purge the demons over barriers, up hills, on sweet trails and on great rubber.
But there has to be more. There is life beyond our self-centered universes. Right?
For each day you spend in this vicious cycle, a bit of distance grows between you and what is important. For me that is obviously my family and friends. How many times are you driving or on the bus and you have your cell phone in hand, see a name of your friend in your contacts list and don't hit ‘call’ to say hello. “Ahh, I’ll give him a buzz tomorrow.” And tomorrow turns to weeks. How often are you avoiding obligations that could ‘interfere with your legs-up time’ and before you know it, opportunities to connect with neighbors is wasted. It’s a tough balance.
This Thanksgiving week brought a lot of that to the surface for me personally. Our dearest family friends, the Balls, came into town to celebrate what is becoming our collective ‘tradition’. We all looked forward to this for weeks if not months. Joe is the one responsible for my ‘cross fixation having effectively taught me everything I know back when we lived in SF, pre-kids, careers just starting. So lots of talk of ‘cross would happen this Thanksgiving. Lots of beers downed. Lots of laughs had all the while our children getting to play together like cousins. But alas, we virtually ALL got sick with a vicious flu. Down like dominoes we went one by one. You could imagine how the moods would spiral into the darkness. I found myself going there fast. Bitter. Snapping at my boys. Patience completely lost. Bummed that I am going to finally go down the sickness path I’d been avoiding like a hypochondriac all season so I dare not miss a single one of my races. Digressing into a vinegar-filled little boy.
And then it hit me: Stu Thorne is not waiting with baited anticipation for the ‘right moment’ to call me and beg me to come race with TJ and JPows on his team with a large six figure contract and free Dugasts for life.
Life happens people (and yes, I’m telling myself this too). My friends being in my house this Thanksgiving, spending priceless time together even while we’re all sick, was such a great reminder of ‘life’. Real honest to goodness life. Laughs still happening even while vomiting in syncopation because you’re in such proximity of your close ‘family' having such needed time together.
Relax. Try your best in everything you care about and do what you can to maintain happiness. Holding on too tight merely strangles the life out of anything good. I generally do this….but I have to remind myself (or get reminded) of my idiocy from time to time. It’s hard though, because I love it all so much.
So with that diatribe known above, the weekend had some great racing action and I needed to let things roll off my back. I was simply out of commission and I relaxed and simply…forgot about racing! While Friday was spent in bed almost the whole day, Saturday was spent resting and re-entering civilization. If I felt semi-alive Sunday, I’d go and race in Golden at the RVV race.
Sunday came and when my eyes cracked open while still in bed, I did one of those full ‘body scans’: Do I have that fever? Is my stomach still in knots? Do I have to rush to the toilet? Luckily, I felt fairly alive.
I made the drive down to Golden and figured I’d do a hot lap and then make a decision. The gut still sort of ached but the legs felt decent yet the course Clay Harris and the RVV crew created was too irresistible to pass up. Honestly, it was too fun to say no to. Thus the decision was made to stay and go and race in the blissful sun.
I won’t bore you with the blow by blow of my 35 A’s race. It was another top 10 (10th), fought hard for, with not enough power to stay with the chase group trying to nab Jon and Timmy, but enough power and flow to keep the wolves at bay trying to take me back. No complaints.
What I will spend time on though was the course:
Grass, sand, perfect grade climbs and fun rolling and flowy paths to put the hammer down on. They also injected a set of steep man made stairs to get your Belgie on which was super fun.
So, the ‘official’ season is almost done. CO States is this coming weekend. I’m feeling better and still excited to race…albeit with a reminder of what I am doing and why I do it. I pan across my group of racing compatriots…virtually every one of us…with more-than-full-time gigs, a gaggle of kids, tons of obligations…all of us balancing. And I smile. I can’t be the only knob stressing about these things, can I?
Nah. I’m not the only one who overlooks the obvious on occasion.
OK, maybe I do a little more…
Oh, and if you made it this far, here's a vide encapsulation of EXACTLY what I am talking about above.