“I DON’T WANT to hear any woohoos. I want to see serious descending.”
He’d just climbed 300 feet over about three-quarters of a mile, and now we were over the crest and he was feeling the start of his reward, rolling T-right onto Spring Hill Road on his little 20″ kids’ bike and aiming it dead-center at gravity.
“ONE,” I’D SAID to him after making him stop with me at the crest. I was holding one finger up. “You’ll have to brake a lot sooner than you usually do. So do it way early, so you don’t shoot into an intersection and get squished by a car. Got it?”
He broke in with something happy and excited about the climb. I nodded and said, “Did you hear what I just told you?”
“What did I say?”
“Oh, right. I have to brake sooner than I think I will.”
“Correct. I’ll help you with that. When I tell you to do something, you have to do it. Got it?”
“OK, that’s one. Two is, if your bike starts to shimmy, clamp your knees on the top tube.”
“Oh, I do that anyway.” He showed me.
“So clamp, and also slow down. Don’t do it abruptly, or roughly. Nice and easy, controlled. Got it?”
“Got it! Let’s go!”
He was already rolling.
FIRST LEG, HE overshot the stop sign by a couple of feet. A mother on the other side of the intersection, twenty-five feet away, just barely started reflexively pulling her kids aside, but it was mom-protectiveness, no danger, and there were no cars anywhere.
I raised a hand in thanks and smiled, and she did the same.
“He just climbed it for the first time, so now he gets to descend it for the first time,” I said as we started up again from the stop, explaining why I’d been calling out directions.
“Oh, that’s fine,” she said, smiling as we passed, and then it changed to, “Oh, wow!”
We flashed down past a roadie coming up the next grade. He was mashing. We were a kids’ bike whipping downhill and fenders and bags behind it yelling NICE! GOOD JOB! NICE TUCK!
“OH MY GOD!” the kids’ bike shouted at the bottom, as we coasted on a short flat. “THAT WAS SO AMAZING! THAT WAS SO FUN! OH-MY-GOD!”
“Nice job. Left turn coming up. See it? That’s the next descent.”
I saw him searching, saw him find it. “Oh my god. That’s–”
“Stay right,” I said, and we tilted down.
I HAVE LANDMARKS along this hill for braking. Approaching Hoyt’s Hill on Fawn at full tuck and 223 pounds, the white mailbox is too far.
“OKAY!” I yelled. “I WANT YOU TO BRAKE IN THREE…TWO…ONE…BRAKE!”
In a couple of seconds, there was a tiny wobble in his rear wheel. I knew what that was, and I saw him ease off and get back inside it. He wasn’t to the intersection yet. Apprehension got me, as if there was anything I could do if he overshot now.
We put our feet down at the limit line together. This time yesterday, all three of us were out charging around a parking lot in a downpour. This kid’s just like me in a storm—he nearly glows with the thrill. He was very nearly that electric now.
“OH MY GOD, THAT WAS SO AWESOME! How fast do you think we were going? Oh, you don’t know, you weren’t going as fast as I was. Oh my god THAT WAS SO COOL.”
“No, I was right there with you. I’m thinking maybe thirty.”
“THIRTY! OH. MY. GOD!”
“Maybe. Maybe thirty. Maybe mid-twenties. We’ll see when we get back and see what it looks like on Strava.”
“I think it was thirty! Dad, I could hear it in my ears, like–” he imitated the noise.
I grinned and nodded. Now it was something we both knew. Not just me.
“Okay, we’re going to cross and then stay right. … Go.”
TEN AND a half.
Next summer, adolescence. This summer, “I don’t like being home alone. Can I go too?” and a little red bike and a little white jersey in a tuck.