I've been thinking recently that I might be the worst sort of motorcyclist there is. A hypocritical one. One who is nervous of letting his kids ride motorbikes.
When I was growing up the desire to ride bikes coursed through my veins with surprising clarity and conviction. I don't know where the passion and desire came from, I'm not from a biking family (I'm from an anti-biking family), but there's no doubt it was there.
At the age of eight I secretly had a blast around a neighbour's expansive garden on a tiny Puch somethingorother, and after three years of nagging my parent's finally succumbed, and bought me a Suzuki RM80 for my eleventh birthday on my solemn oath that I would only ever be an off-road rider, and never transfer my passion to the roads. I lied.
Now karma appears to have caught up with me, and I'm the parent observing the fire in my children's eyes whenever they're near motorcycles. I regularly have to peel them off whatever I ride home on, and deflect the 'daddy, how old do I need to be to come out on the back with you' question on a weekly basis.
The sights, sounds and fumes of the spectacular Goodwood Festival of Speed did nothing to dull their excitement last weekend, and when I stopped to have a chat with Mark and Tracie Shippey of 'The Bike Volt' (www.thebikevolt.co.uk), who were running rider training experiences for kids over the Festival weekend; the inevitable happened.
My children's eyes immediately locked on similarly aged children riding around the test area on electric Kuberg and Mecatecno trials bikes, and the question took no time at all to form on their lips. "Can we have a go?"
And all my natural fears flooded to the surface – I knew this day would come, but I'd been kind of hoping circumstances wouldn't facilitate its arrival so soon.
I couldn't say no, then I'd be the very worse sort of rider – one who doesn't encourage non-riders to get on two wheels. My kids are avid cyclists, and good at it too, so I knew I had to let go.
Letting go was exactly what the instructors did too, after a gentle few words of instruction and encouragement, and getting them rolling at walking pace, Mark and Caroline (Sandiford, of Sandiford's fame – www.jimsandiford.co.uk – and the importer of Mecatecno) stood still as my kids rode off with all the confidence and fearlessness you only have when you're six and seven years-old.
They did so well that within three laps of the grass circuit, they were bouncing over the wooden sleepers with beaming smiles, and surprising control.
I'm not sure whether I was happier that they hadn't shown me up, or that they were having a life-defining experience in front of my eyes.
At the end of their session they were ebullient, their only complaint that they wanted faster ones next time. Great. The feeling that Christmas will be expensive this year hasn't left me since.
But at least I took the leap of faith, I've let them experience a small part of something that has defined my life, my career, and my happiness for the last 28 years of continuous bike ownership.
The nerves will doubtless reappear tenfold when they want to start riding on the roads, but there's a few years to go before we cross that next milestone of resolve.
If you've got kids, siblings, partners who want to ride, then help them – it warms the soul to see them enjoying it too, and helps us to provide a future for motorcycling.
Have a look at the Volt website (www.thebikevolt.co.uk) if you want some tips on how to get your kids riding – they offer the bikes and the facilities as part of the awesome Wheeldon Off-road Centre, which in turn can get people of all ages riding, and will keep you entertained while you're there, too (www.wheeldontwo.co.uk).
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