A LIFETIME OF MEMORIES
It starts with a wobble, a pleading don’t-let-go and an uncertain pedal stroke, but in the blink of an eye they're away; woops and aahhs echo around the neighbourhood and a cyclist is born. From first letting go to tricks and wheelies; the first proper ride to the trail high-five, bike-related milestones come quick and fast through childhood and the memories last forever. To those who understand the freedom of that first bike, those who remember how cycling meant confidence and camaraderie, we invite you to recall the magic of that time. Hello, two wheels. Hello, independence.
The feelings are universal, but each story is unique. We asked a few fellow cyclists for their most cherished memories of those early rides:
Father of Tom (9) and Louca (5)
As one of the most successful XC mountain bikers of all time, Julien Absalon has seen his fair share of bike antics. But for the recently retired pro, nothing beats his son’s first wheelie.
The father-of-two breaks into a grin. ‘Tom was outside the house for hours before calling me out there to watch. It was brilliant. As soon as you see any kid on a bike, you immediately see the pleasure and the fun that they are having. It’s crazy how quickly Tom and Louca are developing–now I have to ride my bike alongside them and can’t just run like I used to. They picked up the right movements virtually straight away and are progressing so quickly.’
From the way he talks, you sense a certain nostalgia: ‘How they play on their bikes with each other reminds me of me and my brother kicking around on our BMXes. Tom has started to build jumps now, but fortunately Louca has a sensible side and knows his limits so won’t be following just yet! Occasionally I have to tell them to slow down or maybe skip a trail section, but–’ He pauses, his broad smile reaching his eyes: ‘they’re children so they know how to crash.’
TIMON & NOEMI RUEGG
23 and 18 years old
For the Swiss siblings Timon and Noemi Ruegg, bikes have simply always been ‘one of the family.’ So much so, in fact, that they can’t really remember not riding bikes.
‘Well, that’s not quite true,’ begins 18-year-old Noemi, who is five years younger than Timon. ‘When I was really young, I remember standing in the garden with my camera when Timon and Silas, our middle sibling, were building crazy jumps in the garden. I always wanted to ride them but was too small and nervous.’ Timon laughs at the memory: ‘That’s so true; it probably wasn’t that easy for you to play with us at first, or to even keep up on family rides. We didn’t make it easy for you. Silas and I built jumps whenever we could–Even though he was younger than me, he was always better but still made me follow him!’
Noemi went on to inherit her brothers’ old bikes–as well as their courage and love for riding. ‘I always said that one day I’d be stronger than them. They just laughed and said that’s not going to happen.’ But with a number of international call-ups and National titles under her belt, Noemi looks close to coming good on her promise.
Father of Axel (3 months)
‘My first bike?’ Michael Valgren falls silent, thinking. ‘I’d love to say I could remember it properly but it’s mainly from photos. It was red and white with stabilizers and I got it on New Year’s Eve. I do remember when my dad took them off though!’ he adds, triumphantly: ‘He pushed me with a stick and then all of a sudden I was riding a bike by myself.’
Valgren loved bikes, straight away. Those early pedal strokes of freedom turned into every free afternoon and weekend spent re-enacting the Tour de France on a local hill that the kids dubbed L’Alpe d’Huez. ‘My mates all used to beat me¬–you wouldn’t believe it, but they still love to tease me about those days now,’ the NTT Pro Cycling rider recalls with a bashful smile.
Today, he brims with love for his new-born son, but once the 3-month-old is old enough, he’ll surely pick up Valgren’s contagious energy for being outside on two wheels: ‘I can’t wait to teach him to ride a bike. It’s something you never, ever forget once you’ve learned, and I want to be the one that passes it onto him. I want him to grow up riding his bike and wanting to be outside and be free; that’s what it’s all about.’