Steampunk Jr.: Le fils grimpeur

Steampunk Jr.: Le fils grimpeur

Guest Article: Reflections on Parenthood

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Steampunk Jr.: Le fils grimpeur

Steampunk Jr.: Le fils grimpeur

If @steampunk can’t take much credit here I guess we can’t take any. We can take pleasure is seeing someone’s kid hauling ass on a bike, a Velominatus spawn, even better. We all came to cycling by different paths, seemingly few by our parents. It is impossible to outguess one’s children; they are clever little bastards. Hoping to get them interested in cycling one rides a fine line between possible acceptance and absolute rejection. Steamy seems to ridden that line rather well. 

Your in Cycling, Gianni

I have some vested interest in youth, not least because mine is an ever-shrinking blip on my (non-existent) helmet mirror. La Vie Vélo tempts me into believing that I can resist the march of time even as that blip recedes even further. But I offer up the image above as proof of my investment in youth. This is my son: his room is untidy, his grades could be better, but he can ride. Il est le fils grimpeur. 60kg, 178cm, too much hair, and always at ease on the bike. I recall a light mountain bike ride with him and his sister, four or five years ago. His sister had a Schleckanical on a hill. After helping with the chain, I told her I would go ahead and get her brother to wait at the top of the climb. I raced off to catch him. After 30-40 seconds of hard effort, I realized that I wasn’t gaining on him. That was the first sign. He spent several years carving up the single track with the LBS’s Thursday night ride. Neighbours on the ride would drop by and ask me to keep him home: he was embarrassing them. A year after his sixteenth birthday, he still showed no interest in getting his drivers’ license. He had a bike, he reasoned. Who was I to disagree?

What I’m getting at is at the very heart of my reading of the ethos Velominatus. You can call it an “Anatomy of a Photo,” but I think this is also “Rule Irreverence.” I love the humour and the sage advice rolled into one within the Rules. I adhere to more of them than I break. And I break those few knowingly and/or impishly (I’m looking at you, Rule #50“”clearly conceived by some mannish-boy who couldn’t grow facial hair). But study them a little more carefully and their collective wisdom starts to fade. Rule #91 can be flat out dangerous. Rule #12 never works in whole numbers (I’m currently hovering around s-0.1). I won’t judge a rider by the colour of his/her bar tape or Rule #33 compliance. If you are on a bike and can demonstrate a little Rule #43, we can get along. But allow me to cogitate on Rule #11. Family comes first. It just does. A happy family frees the legs and the mind to ride better. Much like fitness, this requires time, work, and effort. Riding is not an escape from responsibilities. To me, it is a privilege, or a reward for having successfully navigated family tempests into safe harbours. And if you’re very lucky, a rejection of Rule #11 can serve to cultivate your own train. Our youngest, only six, has been riding on two wheels since she was three, and she can hammer. I see a 24-inch wheel Argon 18 in her near future. The whole family goes to school and work by bike. The marriage of family and bikes””and family on bikes””provides me not just with the pleasure I derive from riding, but also the pleasure of sharing this passion.

The picture above is Exhibit A in my case against Rule #11. This spring, le fils grimpeur bought himself a road bike. Basic stuff: a Specialized Secteur with a Tiagra group-san. His money, not mine. His decision, not at my behest. A deal presented itself and he jumped on it. And started pedaling. It’s a fine starting point. There’s that magical moment when the eyes light up and you realize just how fast and how far you can go. I saw that in him after his first few rides, but I also realized that Steampunk Jr. would be encroaching on my tarmac turf. As the Tour climbed the Tourmalet and finished at Hautacam, my son joined me on the weekly group ride out of our local café. The ride is moderate with some climbing. He sat in, but the pace didn’t faze him. I suspect the only reason he didn’t take to the front was out of respect for his elders and being new to the group. Among other qualities that extend well beyond the bicycle, he is kind, unassuming (to a fault), and respectful. On the climbs, he was always with the front group””barely winded as we crested the hills. And living in the big ring.

I’ve not coached or coaxed him bikewards. In teaching and in parenting, I’ve always been drawn to the Zen koan: “Someone showed it to me, but I found it by myself.” Here, too, with his interest in the bike: his discovery. The father cannot be the sensei. The Luke/Darth relationship was always awkward. But I’d like to think my rejection of Rule #11 had something to do with offering up la Vie Vélo as an appealing burden to my progeny. He rides for himself, not to impress his father. No adolescent rebellion has led him to reject the bicycle as the quintessential feature of Steampunkian patriarchy. He’s not an aspiring Velominatus, he doesn’t follow bike racing, his machine can be a mess, but he’ll learn. And he’s only getting stronger. Feel free to chastise him if you can find the breath while trying to hold his wheel. You’ll not find me in the annals of good parenting, and I don’t take any especial credit for any of this, but I must have done something right.

So, this: He’s only seventeen. He’s the gentlest young man in the world. He doesn’t race. But he can rip your legs off.

// Anatomy of a Photo // Guest Article // Irreverence

  1. I congratulate you sir on your parenting stewardship. If only there were more of us like you both, the world be a better place.

  2. Envy.

    I have so far failed with mine.

    The eldest, also 17, was too into swimming even though I knew he would never make it to the top level. He had the skill and the physique but lacks the mental toughness to use failure as a way to improve. I tried (Merckx forgive me) to steer him to triathlon, thinking it would suit someone who was good at lots of things but not the best at anything, but he was afraid to leave his swimming comfort zone.

    The second, now 14, has the potential to be like Steampunk’s son. Very unassuming but built like a stick-insect on a diet. He’s about 5’8″-5’9″ now and 48kg. He does little exercise other than cricket but is quite fit. When he used to go to cycle club he would be totally non-competitive. When they would have an endurance race he usually won because the macho kids would hare off while Gabriel just tapped away. A born audaxer. Unfortunately he’s had a couple of crashes which have put him off. Nothing bad, just bumps and scrapes, but it makes him more nervous and that only leads to more crashes. Currently trying to get him to do some running, having pointed out his similarity to the Kenyans he was watching in the Commonwealth Games recently.

    I once had fond hopes of doing an epic ride with the boys for my 50th birthday in two years. I will still do an epic ride but I think my best bet is persuading the wife to drive support.

    However, hopes are now pinned on the youngest, Lillian, who is 11. She is very active and often rides to school. She’s about to go to secondary school which happens to be near Herne Hill Velodrome and the school has  track cycling as an activity. She saw this and decided she wants to give it a go so I still may get one of my children to ride with me.

  3. Your son has a smooth pedal stroke even in a static photo. My son is now 18 and is focused on hiking. I always see the cyclist in him, but will have to wait for him to come out.

  4. I was given this as a gift for my soon-to-be-born wee one. I’m hoping I can steer him toward the path, but I suppose he’ll do what he wants to do. If he turns out like his dad though, his mother may just go crazy.

  5. “You’ll not find me in the annals of good parenting” Au contraire, sounds like you’re doing a bang-up job. Read your local paper and you’ll find evidence of bad parents who are enshrined in the Annals of bad parenting. Keep up the good work and thanks for the post.

  6. I got a water polo goal keeper, an origami/K-pop/J-pop expert and a rugby player – where did it all go right that’s what I want to know?

  7. Steampunk,

    What a lovely piece, you are a indeed lucky and appreciative man.

    My kids are grown and gone, but the message I would share with all new or soon to be parents is this: Each child will be who and what they will be.  Give them opportunities to discover what that is and then rejoice in what they find.

  8. Family only comes first if the family pedaled harder. I read this story with tears in my eyes, because my perspective is from the other side: I’m the stubborn son whose mother succeeded in introducing him to cycling.

    I’ve been completely ignorant of sports for most of my life, and after my parents divorced, grew increasingly antagonistic towards my mum’s newfound interest in fitness and eventually cycling. For my 18th, mum offered to replace my kid’s bike which had just been stolen with “something nicer”, which is how I ended up with an entry-level Trek.

    It was faster and lighter than anything I knew, but I hated it because it was associated with a period of neglect of her parental duties. We eventually broke contact for two years during which I used it as my city bike, left it locked up on the worst streets in town, and eventually decided that in order to rid myself of the guilt, I’ll sell it, give her the money back, and buy a commuter. I bought an old ten-speed, dressed it up as a fixed-gear commuter, and went to hand her back the bike.

    We went to a bike shop, run by a friend of hers (and now a teammate of mine), yet instead of asking to sell it, she took my over to the clothes section. “Depreciation on this bike makes it not worth selling, so now that you have a commuter, you could at least give it one shot with proper pedals.” – we bought a pair of shoes, pedals and shorts, all of them very basic, and went riding the next day. 40km in the local mountains, and I was heaving and suffering both up and down the hills. I lacked the restraint of someone more experienced and tried, and kept going all-out for 10 seconds, then come to a standstill and catch my breath.

    I have a picture of myself, un fils grimpeur as you so nicely called it, on that first ride. A Rule #33 violator, like most of us were on our first ride, but also violating Rule #16 in my mother’s Tour de Israel leader’s jersey:

    I said never again, but the seeds were planted. Closing the circle, I now live at the end of this climb. My relationship with my mum has never been closer, and as per Rule #4, It’s All About The Bike.

  9. What a wonderful piece. As a father of four I’ve spawned a party loving event manager, an ex-rock star, a skateboarder and the youngest prodigy I am attempting to steer away from Karate to be my pedal-wan…

    After taking him to the National Crit held in our fine city of Newcastle Upon Tyne, and seeing the juniors tearing it up before the adults, he brought a tear to his old Dads eye with a “Daddy, can I get a Road Bike and do that next year?”…

    And so the Rocky-esque montage plays in my head every day we search for his ideal first road steed. His Mountain Bike skills are excellent, and after riding out with his Dad and elder ex-rock star bro yesterday, now has a seat tube to even rival Franks after his much “I need this seat higher Dad” beckoning…

  10. Great piece @Steampunk.

  11. You know, this is why I/we love this site. Despite loads of BS and daft stuff, fundamentally it is a great, honest site. You just don’t get this kind of soul-seaching/personal yet universal stuff elsewhere.

    Chapeau to all the readers and posters. Keep up the good work on and off the bike.

  12. Nice read, nicely written.  Chapeau.

  13. One of the unexpected joys of parenthood occurs when your child adopts one of your passions.   For Steampunk Jr. to mix power and grace reflects a wise upbringing.

  14. My eldest is turning 8 next Sunday, loves riding his 20″ MTB, but is always asking for a road bike (his dad has 3 he rides and 3-4 in a state of transition).

    He gets this next Sunday – an unused mid-70’s Mondia junior with 24″ tubulars.  Our first project (after riding, of course) will be rebuilding with all Nuovo Record.  It’ll break my heart to see it dropped on the sidewalk, but he’ll discover what it takes to keep it running himself.

  15. @wiscot

    You know, this is why I/we love this site. Despite loads of BS and daft stuff, fundamentally it is a great, honest site. You just don’t get this kind of soul-seaching/personal yet universal stuff elsewhere.

    Chapeau to all the readers and posters. Keep up the good work on and off the bike.

    This.

    I am T-2 months from Junior’s arrival and hope I can keep them on the straight and narrow to watch them turn into a well-rounded human being. Fingers crossed they’ll want to share some time with their old man doing crazy stuff, be it with or without bikes.

  16. Solid parenting sir and a great article.   Much like you I have allowed my kids to take to riding naturally rather than forcing it upon them.  So far so good.  I look forward to my kids dropping me one day.

  17. Kids and Bikes! If every kid just had even a simple BMX bike the world would be a better place. The scene when I returned from work the other day. I loved it. Cheers.

  18. HCC.  Great area for riding.  Home of the 2003 UCI Road World Championships.

     

  19. Great piece.

    My boy is a cricketer and soccer player but hasn’t gone near a bike since primary school.

    He has a pick of a 7 bike garage although his 15 yo 6’2″ body limits some choices.

    I think he’d make a great climber and engine, but not a sprinter given his genetics from my VMH and I, and his displays on the soccer pitch.

    My 18 yo daughter was using her sit up and beg to ride to the train station but isn’t too keen now that she binned it in some sand and punctured her thigh with the handlebars. Even losing her car licence hasn’t swayed her back but she’s now taken up skateboarding for local transport.

  20. I found him in the basement, checking his flat back in a mirror. If only he could grow the necessary 8″ of inseam overnight!

  21. Great stuff steampunk. So far my boys like bikes. Hopefully it stays that way but if not it will probably be because they find their own passions/obsessions and have a blast with them. Vive le velominatus paterfamilias.

  22. Great job steampunk with the article and your son. My two boys have fallen in love with Teakwondo and are quickly amassing the skills by which they can kick my ass. I’m hoping they venture with me on the bike, but like you, I hope they come to it on their own and not through extraneous means. They are, though, learning the rules as they have applications off the bike. Rule #5 is universal, par example especially when you get kicked in the face.

  23. Superb article!  My eldest (15) likewise has a casual ease on the bike and an ability to dish out hurt on the climbs like few that I have met, however he is not motivated by competition.  He looked like a talented swimmer, but did not like the regimented club environment, he climbs with ease but insists on stopping at the top to wait for me even though he has barely broken sweat…it is both inspiring and frustrating for me to watch, but it is his life and his choice so we ride and all is well in the world.  The first significant ride for him was a 70km from the Isle of Harris (Tarbert) up to Lewis (Uig) in full on Rule #9 conditions.  a 60kmh wind, rain, hail….the full monty.  He managed 50kms of it before his young frame chilled his grimpeur like frame ran out of steam and we turned in to the wind.  Despite his first visit to the La Voiture Ballai he has my undying respect and I can’t wait to get out with him again.

  24. @wilburrox

    Kids and Bikes! If every kid just had even a simple BMX bike the world would be a better place. The scene when I returned from work the other day. I loved it. Cheers.

    Brilliant. And spot on!

  25. @wilburrox

    Kids and Bikes! If every kid just had even a simple BMX bike the world would be a better place. The scene when I returned from work the other day. I loved it. Cheers.

    And only one of those miscreants laid it butter-side down. I have hope for the future.

  26. At the risk of sounding sycophantic: the article, like his progeny, is charming and genuine. Some of the comments that it has inspired bring chills to my spine (@tessar)  and, as @wiscot notes, evidence of the underlying ethos of this community.

    Thank you @Steampunk.

  27. Sorry, the article, like its author …

  28. Awesome article.

    I do not force my kids to like any sports, as happened to me when I was a youth. I am there for guidance.

    I have 8 year old twins, my son loves to hammer his bmx bike. I occasionally take him to a small local pump track and he loves it. And the last 2 weeks I have had the pleasure to take him out on small ride in the morning around the hood. He loves watching bike racing on TV, made me record every stage of the Tour this year and was watching Worldcup XC racing on Red Bull Tv last night with me. He keeps asking me for a geared mountain bike but I do not feel he is ready for gears and just hand brakes just yet.

    I guess I just need to pony up for the geared bike and let him just ride and learn how to ride it. I just do not want him to hurt himself because he does not know how to properly use hand brakes, just the darn coaster on his current bike. I guess I wont know until we give it a try.

  29. That’s the best piece I’ve read here in some time, @Steampunk.

    Kindness and an unassuming personality won’t win him many bike races, but do mean that he’s a damn fine human being.  Chapeau, sir.

  30. Start them early…

  31. This is one of the finest articles I have read here. Great work in the writing and the parenting.

    Both my boys went through a phase of being into cycling in a big way, Son 1 was a downhill mtber, Son 2 very proficient at track sprinting, flirting with British Cycling Olympic Development. Both worked in the LBS after school and there is not much they don’t know about the bike. They are now well into their 20’s and have their own lives but there have been several occasions of late when they are home that I’ve found my mtb gone and one of them has decided to leave the car and just head out for a ride. Just don’t touch the #1 or there will be trouble ahead…

  32. A thoughtful piece of writing. Make sure you keep a copy @steampunk, so your son can read it once he is old enough to appreciate your words. 

  33. As I was saying…

    This is my daughter at 11 years old – on a small Allez with enough toe overlap to be banned from selling in Europe. Now, she’s 14 with shoes and her first clipless pedals (Time ATACs). She climbs like a bird. Keeps me working on staying young.

  34. First time posting….  Excellent article. This is very similar to how I started riding. I knew my dad rode…but somewhere around the age of 14 I thought, “Hmm…this looks like fun.”  I’ve been riding ever since (not counting a 10 year hiatus due to college, moving, work, etc.).

    about out the Zen part: I couldn’t agree any more. My daughter is currently 15months old. It would be awesome for her to eventually get into cycling some day, but I’m certainly not going to shove it at her. I will say it’s encouraging that she has already shown a liking to my copy of “The Rules”. ;-)

  35. It’s all about the bike and love of Cycling. Except when it’s not. Breeding and blimping sums it up nicely shifting priorities or struggling to keep up with priorities.  Kids are young yet… Still on trikes and have lots to learn about needing to Rule #5.

  36. A very thoughtful piece of writing. @steampunk, make sure you keep a copy for this for your son to read when he is older. Sending gentle human beings out into the big wide world is a gift to humanity. Well done. 

  37. Beautiful article. I hope when I have kids I will be able to empathise with it.

  38. @wilburrox

    Kids and Bikes! If every kid just had even a simple BMX bike the world would be a better place. The scene when I returned from work the other day. I loved it. Cheers.

    A simple photo of a front lawn and a few bikes.

    Right there, is what its all about !

    Those bikes have taken those kids far and wide and for no apparent reason.  Memories of days gone come flooding back from that one photo.

    Thanks

  39. Nice one Steampunk. “The father cannot be the sensei.” I think you’re right and this is where I almost blew it. I have two daughters. They both ride, but my “enthusiasm” almost killed it for them more than once. Thanks for the reminder. 

  40. Fantastic article Steampunk.  An insightful reflection on life, family and the bike for those of us who aren’t Sean Kelly. The Rules may be important, but they’re only the start of the journey.

  41. @Steampunk – Chapeau! A fine piece of work and thought.  Nothing better than the pride that comes with the nippers.  Seeing them grow up, achieve whatever it is they are going to achieve and blossom into real human beings.  This can only be topped by riding with them.  I am very pleased that both of my daughters enjoy the sound of the open road.  This taken while we were riding together in the general area of Morgan Hill/Gilroy in California.

  42. @girl

    A thoughtful piece of writing. Make sure you keep a copy @steampunk, so your son can read it once he is old enough to appreciate your words.

    Agreed.  This is really touching – chapeau @Steampunk!

  43. Steampunk, great article.

    My youngest, at 23, is currently making me more anxious than he ever did as a teen.

  44. My #1 son is 12 years old and has an rabid dislike of competitive sports, (n NZ, this means Rugby –  nothing else exists) which I think probably comes from sharing the family trait of being so f*cking competitive he can’t deal with losing and so he’d rather blow right by.  His attention span’ll just about stretch to a BMX track, and in the last few months he’ll head out on the MTB with friends – so I’m holding silent hope.  Guidance from me will come if and when he asks for it, maybe a parental chaperoning for a couple of times if he decides he wants to ride on the road, or call a halt before an expensive mechanical fuckup (dad, how I wish you’d been there for me!), and that’ll be it – anything else can happen at its own pace.  Part of the journey is figuring out how you want to learn it – I like that zen koan, Steampunk – hadn’t heard it before, but it sums it up perfectly.

    Also, I spent a year teaching my kids to ski.  It wasn’t a happy one.  Best thing I ever did was give them to someone else.

  45. I’m in such luck that my old man is the same kind of dad that steampunk seems to be – supportive and a great motivator – though never crossing that wretched line of pressure.

    The pic is me – 11 years old – and my dad, on the (compared to the rest of Denmark) hilly island of Bornholm. Being too fat to climb, rocking a 36-21 gearing is probably the cause of my sadface. Only once had i before gotten to know the meaning of V and the laying down of such – at a local 10-km TT where i finished 2nd – hammering through with an avg speed of 27,6 km/h. However, the flat TT was nothing compared to the over 2 km climbs, at an avg grade of around 4.

    If only the younger me had known about The Rules, perhaps my sadface would’ve been replaced by a big, fat smile

  46. This year’s 2015 AL State Crit Jr’s 10-11 Female Champion. Her new, upsized bike, built on an Allez frame set, is being assembled at LBS this week and ready in time for upcoming State RR Championship. She wants to save the little Pinarello, and might still race it though. Kids and Bikes are best. You know what she fell in love with this w/e ? The Giro attack helmets she saw. I guess she’s grown out of having flames on her helmet to help go fast… Great fun:

  47. @Hasse

    I’m in such luck that my old man is the same kind of dad that steampunk seems to be – supportive and a great motivator – though never crossing that wretched line of pressure.

    The pic is me – 11 years old – and my dad, on the (compared to the rest of Denmark) hilly island of Bornholm. Being Too Fat To Climb, rocking a 36-21 gearing is probably the cause of my sadface. Only once had i before gotten to know the meaning of V and the laying down of such – at a local 10-km TT where i finished 2nd – hammering through with an avg speed of 27,6 km/h. However, the flat TT was nothing compared to the over 2 km climbs, at an avg grade of around 4.

    If only the younger me had known about The Rules, perhaps my sadface would’ve been replaced by a big, fat smile

    Maybe you’re sad because of your dad’s EPMS.

    nice team jerseys.

  48. @wilburrox

    This year’s 2015 AL State Crit Jr’s 10-11 Female Champion. Her new, upsized bike, built on an Allez frame set, is being assembled at LBS this week and ready in time for upcoming State RR Championship. She wants to save the little Pinarello, and might still race it though. Kids and Bikes are best. You know what she fell in love with this w/e ? The Giro attack helmets she saw. I guess she’s grown out of having flames on her helmet to help go fast… Great fun:

    Nice work man. You must be proud.

  49. @Rom

    @Hasse

    I’m in such luck that my old man is the same kind of dad that steampunk seems to be – supportive and a great motivator – though never crossing that wretched line of pressure.

    The pic is me – 11 years old – and my dad, on the (compared to the rest of Denmark) hilly island of Bornholm. Being Too Fat To Climb, rocking a 36-21 gearing is probably the cause of my sadface. Only once had i before gotten to know the meaning of V and the laying down of such – at a local 10-km TT where i finished 2nd – hammering through with an avg speed of 27,6 km/h. However, the flat TT was nothing compared to the over 2 km climbs, at an avg grade of around 4.

    If only the younger me had known about The Rules, perhaps my sadface would’ve been replaced by a big, fat smile

    Maybe you’re sad because of your dad’s EPMS.

    nice team jerseys.

    Actually it could’ve been the eternal rattling of that sack o’ s***e, though one should never underestimate the terrible effect of being too fat to climb on an infant, who obviously needed to meditate on the V. For a while.

    This makes me wonder – could Rule #5 be applied to parenting? Not yet a father myself, but as all cyclists know, winners come well prepared!

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