cycling · fitness

Just like old times: kids, bikes, and small pleasures

On Saturday I volunteered for the first annual KIT for Kids Bike Day, held in Boston. KIT (Keep it Tight bike club) partnered with Hope International MA to create an event where Boston kids got instruction on basic and important bike skills: starting from and stopping at intersections, riding in a straight line, cornering, balance, and coordination over changing conditions.

At the beginning of the clinic, they were all fitted with new bikes and new helmets. At the end of the clinic, they were told that those bikes were theirs to take home.

That’s right. Hope International raised $7K USD to purchase more than 20 bikes. The kids and parents were thrilled. As were all the volunteers.

All the COVID-19 precautions were in place: there was ample hand sanitizer on a table, lots of extra masks for those who needed them, gloves for all the volunteers, and parents were around to help with activities that involved touching the kids (like adjusting helmets, etc.) Everyone wore a mask. Absolutely everyone. Here are some happy and totally mask-compliant kids, modeling good public health hygiene and massive enthusiasm at the same time:

The fun, the frolicking, and the joy of being around a lot of other people felt so, well, normal. Just saying that word feels like a relief, a respite from all we’ve been going through and are going through still.

Back to the clinic: I was partnered with Doug to teach bike balancing skills. That translated into running slow races. If you’re not familiar with this concept, a slow race involves leaving the start line, and then riding as slowly as possible (without touching a foot down on the ground). You don’t have to ride in a straight line, but running into the other cyclists is a no-no. The last person over the line wins.

This is harder than it sounds. But Doug and I demo’ed it, and had the kids try it a few times. Then we lined them up in groups of four to run heats.

Two of the kids were early strong contenders, and were neck-in-neck for the championship.

We had a winner, but the kids weren’t focused on the competition. They were just happy to ride their bikes around and talk to each other. The atmosphere of fun, of normalcy, enveloped everyone there.

For the kids and parents, taking part in this event meant learning some important bike safety lessons, in addition to the infinite delight which a brand-new bike confers. For me and the other volunteers, we got to play our parts in supporting the activities, but also enjoy the mundane and precious pleasure of hanging out with a bunch of kids, doing what they do on a Saturday morning. Yes there were masks, yes there was social distancing. But there was also that feeling of ordinariness, which has been missing from my life for the past 7 months. I really enjoyed that feeling.

Readers: have you had any experiences of this kind of respite from pandemic consciousness lately? I’d love to hear about them.

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