Using Your Head

In Ontario, cycling with the helmet is the law.  Anyone under the age of eighteen who rides any type of bicycle must wear a helmet.  But something happens when kids suddenly turn 12 and many feel that they are better than the law, so they leave their helmets at home or ride with their helmets dangling from the handlebars.  It annoys me that this has not been legalized for adults as there are many who feel that they are invincible and ride bikes without wearing helmets; ironically, I often see this when they are riding with their children, who are wearing theirs.  Whether it is the law or not, every cyclist needs to wear a helmet every single time they mount a bike, no matter how old they are, how far they are going or how fast they are riding.

2011 – riding with the dude

When my oldest was 4, he rode his bike everywhere – and always with a helmet.  This was long before the helmet law that came into effect in 2105 but, with parents who cycle and a dad who also rides a motorcycle, not wearing a helmet simply wasn’t an option.  One day, when I watched my speedy son zoom down a 4 year old sized hill, lose his balance and crack his helmet, I was grateful that wearing them was part of our lifestyle.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, a very experienced cyclist, was riding north of the city, training for an upcoming Ironman competition.   The roads were slick that day and, as she crossed a set of train tracks, she lost her balance, slid and hit her head. The damage to her bike was so severe that it needed to be replaced, as did her helmet.   She had a concussion but walked away and started training again a few days later.  Her helmet saved her.

Why people even think about riding without a helmet is beyond me?  Sure, your head might get a little sweaty but wouldn’t you rather have a sweaty head than a crushed skull?   Messy hair can be fixed; brains can’t.

Two years ago, one dark Saturday night, I was driving down a particularly poorly lit street to pick up my son at a friend’s.  At that last minute, I spotted a couple of boys riding their bikes – no lights, no helmets.  My parent  instincts took over and I pulled into a parking lot, which I thought they would cut through, got out of my car and waited.  When they turned in, I called them over.   As it turned out, they were kids from my school, grade 7’s whom I had taught the year before.

“You guys need lights.  I could hardly see you.  There are parts along that road that are so dark that you could have easily been hit.”  Then, I noticed the lack of headwear.  “And your helmets need to be on your heads, not on your handlebars.”

They were speechless, but they got it and it wasn’t long before their lights were turned on and helmets were locked into place. Two years later, on their last day of  Grade 8, one of them said to me “Thanks for stopping us that night.  I always wear my helmet now.”

Yesterday, my own 13 year old left the house wearing his helmet, came back home to change into something warmer and left.  Zeda barked at them as they were chatting on the driveway, which drew my attention to them.  “Where is your helmet?”  I yelled as I ran outside.

“In my room.”

“Go get it.  And where is your helmet?” I asked his friend.  “I’m pretty sure that you have one too.”

“I don’t have one right now.”

“You don’t have a helmet?” I questioned.  I know his mom.  He has a helmet.

“It’s at my house.”

“Then you are going to go home to get it and I am going to text your mom that you are on your way.”

And that night both sons were reminded, by their respective moms, that if they are ever caught without a helmet again, they will lose their bike.

Whether young or old, new to bikes or an experienced cyclist, everyone needs to wear a helmet when riding.   So be warned: if I see you cycling without one, I will call you out every single time.

Keeping Fit in the Family

Last week’s task in the job-jar was a simple one: tune up my mountain bike.  When we lived in Toronto, in our life without cars and kids, I rode it all the time, challenging myself to log 20 commuting miles a day.   Now that we are living in the suburbs, as active as we are, my mountain bike has been neglected.   This summer, though, feeling commitment-free, I decided that it was time to clean off the dust that had settled on its handlebars and spend some active time with my 9 year old.

Tuesday was our first ride.  I got dressed – cycling shorts, jersey, gloves, helmet and sunglasses.  “Mom!  You need to go change.  You can’t wear that!”  When I asked why I couldn’t wear my cycling gear (after all, we were cycling), his response was simple.  “You look too bikey.”

“Too bikey.”  Wow.  That was definitely a new one.  After much discussion and a huge sigh, I reappeared in my jean shorts and t-shirt, not quite as excited as I was before.  “Okay, that’s better.  But do you need to wear gloves?”  “Yes,” I insisted.  “I’m older and my hands get numb if I don’t.”  This time, I won.

mountain bikes

The two of us headed out for what I expected to be a 10K ride.  We got as far as his school when he was ready to turn back.  “Really, that took all of 3 minutes?”  “But, Mom, I’m just getting started.  I don’t want to do too much too soon.  I have to get use to it.”  After some more negotiating and agreeing on riding an extra kilometre, we arrived at our driveway in what seemed like minutes later.   My son was feeling quite accomplished; he had gone out for a bike ride with his mom.  Me, I was feeling a huge let-down; we rode just under 3K.

Before we got inside, though, I realized out great that ride was.  Yes, we only rode 3K… but we rode 3K together- and without stopping.  That was our starting point.  I realized that this was not about me; it was about teaching my son to ride his bike -for his fitness, for our pleasure, and to teach him the rules of the road.   I needed to build on his success and find a way to motivate him.   “Next time,” I said as we went inside, “let’s try to go a little bit further.  Let’s ride a little bit longer every time we go out.”

This morning, my 9 year old rushed into the kitchen.  “Mom!  When are we going for our bike ride?”  Today, there were no negotiations; I knew what to wear.  And guess what?  We rode 5K!