child's bike used in City of Albuquerque's mountain bike class

itty bitty bike

“That’s a small bike. I thought I had a small bike, but your bike is smaller than mine.” –a fourth-grade girl to my fourth-grade boy as I pulled my son’s diminutive wheels out of the trunk of our minivan


hen the mention appeared in the school newsletter about a free mountain biking class being offered by the City of Albuquerque to fourth- and fifth-graders, I ignored it. It wasn’t until Roy returned from school the next week, making personal entreaties to join the class ranks that I e-mailed the mother graciously organizing the two-day program.

I’m already on the record regarding my ambivalence about my children and bikes. They make me nervous, probably the same way Bonnie and Clyde affected bank tellers in the

‘30s—exactly the same way, now that I think of it. And yet, I’m certain that I didn’t feel this way about my own bike when I was a child. Maybe it’s the introduction of helmets in the intervening 30 years that did it. Sure, things are safer now for the nine-year-old cyclist than they were in 1980, but back then I didn’t know there was anything I even needed to protect my head from while I pedaled around the neighborhood.

Ah, the innocence of childhood.

My lack of personal enthusiasm in regard to children riding bikes (my deficiency of concern in this area is far greater than the word ‘lack’ conveys; think of it more like a vacuum) bleeds out from between the cloistered space between my ears with real-world consequences. Nothing like depriving my children of a bike, oh no! That would be weird. Think more along the line of getting them each a kind of token bike several years ago and then promptly forgetting all about them until 12 hours before the bike safety class.

“Why’d you do that?” Scott asked, when I told him I had signed Roy up for the class. He was genuinely puzzled. “He’s going to get himself killed.”

He didn’t, though! At free mountain biking class, Roy came away with no injuries and the knowledge that pretty much nothing was right about his equipment. His helmet couldn’t be adjusted and so the city furnished him a new one. Also, he’d outgrown the bike we’d gotten him at that garage sale three years ago, news at which I couldn’t even begin to feign surprise.

We’re totally going to have to buy him a new bike.

Although, it seems like a bit of a shame. I like to think his tiny bike had more than a little to do with his safe completion of that bike class because, really, what kind of injuries can you sustain pedalling four inches off of the ground?