Every parent has their secret horror, the words their child might utter, words that would make a mockery of everything the parent has tried to teach. Here are the most common parenting fears:
“Dad, I need to talk with you about my retail heroin operation.”
“Dad, would you still love me if I voted for Trump?”
“Dad, I’m having an affair. With mom.”
But for me none of those awful scenarios is nearly as frightening, terrifying, or depressing as this one: “Dad, I’ve gotten into cycling.” Because that’s what my daughter said.
Where did I go wrong? I thought I had showed her the folly of bicycles, how riding them would, in the words of the immortal Fields, “Lead to the bottom of a dumpster.”
I had talked with her about my friends who had pursued “bike racing,” “bike touring,” “grand fondues,” and worst of all, “the bicycle industry” only to wind up washed up. The list was endless. Cyclists turned Buddhists. Cyclists turned bankruptcy lawyers. Cyclists turned brewers, politicians, consultants, adult video actors, yes, even cyclists who had sunken to the worst depravity of all, triathlons.
And it seemed like my efforts had worked. I even took her on a couple of “fun” 40-mile rides on a bike with no gears and 4,000-feet of elevation to make sure she hated it, and she did! For years the mere mention of the word “bicycle” made her angry. Best of all, I could look her in the eye and say, “Do you want to be like me?” and watch the color drain out of her face before adding, “then be a cyclist.”
So I slept soundly for twenty-eight years, safe in the knowledge that another kind, decent, well-adjusted person had been saved from the mindless insanity of madly dashing hither and yon in search of new ways to waste more time and even more money.
Until a couple of months ago, when I noticed the warning signs, which for me were roaring, screeching, sirens. “Hey Dad, I went for a bike ride today!”
After that it was only a matter of time before she began wearing something other than her husband’s six-year-old hand-me-down shorts, baggy t-shirts, and leggings with skeleton prints on the outside. THE LAST TIME I SAW SOMEONE FALL HOPELESSLY, INSANELY HARD FOR CYCLING WAS WHEN MMX RODE WITH A SKELETON-PRINT JERSEY. WHAT IS IT ABOUT SKELETON PRINTS????
We rode together. The first time up Silver Spur, she walked. The second time, she walked half-way. The third time, she rode.
A month passed before she broke the terrible news, with a smile of course. “Hey, Dad! I’m on Strava!”
I sobbed softly, hand trembling for the beer I wished was there. “Yes?” I asked quietly.
“Yeah! And I got 2nd on the Monero segment!! Behind some girl named Frenchie!!”
“Oh,” I mumbled.
“Do you know her? Is she really good?”
“No,” I said. “Yes.” This was what it felt like to have a child go off to war and never come back.
“I’m only a few seconds down,” she said excitedly. “I’m gonna try hard to get that QOM!”
I looked at her tennis shoes, her MTB handlebars, and her 35-pound chromoly bike. Here was my dear child, coming to me with a Strava problem. How would I tell her the insanity of it all? The madness? The addiction? The waste of a young and beautiful life? How would I tell her to burn her bike and buy a Range Rover?
Our eyes met. “Look, honey,” I said, taking the deepest breath of my entire life.
“Yeah?” she said.
“You gotta approach Monero from Granvia and Hawthorne on the downhill. Slam the right-hander, rail the turn and let the momentum take you up the first quarter of the bump before you have to dig. Then hold about 90% to the crest, but save your last 10% for the flat after the top. That’s where people bog. You’ll nail it.”
She looked at me, giddy. “Thanks, Dad!”
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