Rattling up and down our drive with my dad holding the back of my bike is my first memory of cycling.
I learnt to ride aged around five, on a red Raleigh bike. Removing the stabilisers, or “fairy wheels” as my grandad called them, was a big moment and the fear and joy that followed as I became able to pedal myself up and down was incredibly exciting. I still feel a similar rush now, if I’m swooping downhill, the wind forcing tears from my eyes and a smile from my mouth.
“That’s the spirit!” my grandad would call, as he watched my dad balancing me and letting go. As an adult now, I see the wider picture – the bike was tiny, and so was I. The drive is about ten metres long, and covered in gravel so when I did fall off, the stones got stuck in my knee. I can imagine a mix of boredom and pride for my dad and grandad, knowing that it would take time for me to learn, but having to encourage me every time I realised I was riding on my own and wobbled to a halt.
When I did eventually make it to the end of the drive and back, we called my mum out to watch and she cheered and clapped – flanked by my older brother Michael who didn’t like anything requiring physical coordination (luckily home computers were just beginning to be popular) and little Daniel who would grow up to be equally clumsy on a bike. I’m the only cyclist in my family now but I can still talk bikes with my dad.
Whenever I see a cyclist struggling up a hill I am tempted to call “That’s the spirit!” to cheer them on and keep them going, like my grandad did for me.