I grew up in the 80’s in Dunn Loring, Virginia. It was the last stop on the train and not too distant from more rural Virginia towns. Granted it was not the Shenandoah, but the Old Dominion Trail was the road to freedom for me, my brothers, and pals. We rode our bikes everywhere–on woodland trails, down gullies with fantastic jumps, alongside creeks where we often stopped to find salamanders and snakes, and even down to DC riding side by side with the Potomac River.
Those were the BMX days, when a simple dirt bike was the ticket to freedom and adventure. All we had to do was tell Mom that we were going to ride our bikes and off we went–sometimes 20 miles from home. We weren’t exactly the Mongoose owning crowd, standing on pegs and doing tricks–but a bunny hop here or there and of course epic jumps were always part of the journey.
Those were the days of Spielburg, when boyhood adventure was in our blood. The fantastic ET bike race scene was ripe in our imaginations. A whole world of epic narrative was possible for us on two wheels and handlebars. We knew the short cuts, the neighborhoods, where we could buy old baseball card packs with stale gum in them, and where the best jumps were hidden in forests far from home. Our imaginations went wild–chasing communists with the secret disk, crafting a plan like the A-Team, hunting monsters down in dark pine forests, or riding up to the old sewer that gaped wide like the Temple of Doom beckoning us to ride through.
The bike is a wonderful invention for boys. Just like getting those car keys is the ticket to freedom for teens, so too a bike opens up a whole world of possibility for boys. These days biking has become quite professional and we often see more Lance Armstrong wannabes, or yuppies with the one pant leg roll, riding along city streets, than boys racing along on epic adventures. More boys are in basements watching adventures on screens than actually carrying them out!
Parents are nervous these days to let their boys roam far from home, sometimes for good reason, but a little more freedom of the road would be great for boys. They need that space to engage in creative play and imaginative exploits. On their bikes they can be the knight errant going off to kill the dragon, or the voyagers sent back in time to change history.
I am still a biker these days and occasionally a good long adventure still refreshes my soul. Bikes are definitely part of renewing the Art of Boyhood!
So how do we as parents and educators renew this love for biking adventures in a responsible way? In some ways it will depend on where we live. For instance Monanta is a bit different from the Bronx. However, feel free to send ideas on how you have found ways for bike adventures for your boys.