August 8, 2023

Spending Quality Time

I will be the first to admit that coming back from the July 4th holiday was a difficult task for me. My wife and kids went up to my in-laws' in upstate New York Friday before the holiday, and I met them up there later Friday evening. They ended up staying for a little over a week, but I had to make my way back home early to get back to work. As I am sure many of you have noticed, our current remodel has left us with an expanding scope that we have been attempting to manage the best that we can. I got back to work on Wednesday and had myself a productive few days. 

The older we get as a family, the faster Summer tends to fly by. I cannot believe we are nearly halfway through July at this point. I do not know where the time goes. It was very nice to spend a few days off from work at the lake, unwinding with my wife and kids. We swam, ate a lot of ice cream, had some downtime, and taught Selby how to ride her new dirtbike (this was the highlight of my holiday). 

Selby started riding when she was around 7 years old or so. She will be 10 this Fall. We started her on a small 50cc Honda trail bike initially. It did not take her long to get the hang of it. We started working on throttle control, understanding how her brakes worked, and what to do in an emergency. We spent most of our time putting around our yard and riding in open areas. As she progressed I began to take her out into the woods to ride some easy trail. This was a big transition for her. All of a sudden she not only had to worry about bike control and all of the moving parts (no pun intended), but she now had to worry about trees, ruts, roots, logs, and the occasional wild turkey or deer.  

As she grew, we moved her up onto a 70cc Honda trail bike. Very similar to what she was riding before but slightly larger. These bikes are very easy to control, the power is extremely linear, and they help build confidence for new riders. The downfall is that they lack power, they are heavy, their brakes are terrible, and there is basically no suspension. As Selby began to outgrow her 70, I was torn between getting her a larger trail bike or switching to a 2-stroke race bike. The larger trail bike would be more manageable as far as power goes, but at the end of the day it was heavier and the components/suspension were sub-par. I opted for the race bike. Maybe it was what I wanted, but realistically it has better suspension, more power, better components, and can really take a licking. It is something that can help her grow as a rider as well.

I decided to pick the bike up for her as a surprise on my way to meet them at the lake. The new bike is a manual transmission with a clutch and six gears, so I knew I would have plenty of time and patience to teach her how to harness this little beast. We spent four days riding the bike, learning the clutch, understanding the power band, and getting used to the differences of her new ride. To my surprise, it did not scare her, and she absolutely loved learning all these new techniques. By the end of the fourth day she was riding better and with more confidence than she ever had. It was so much fun watching her learn and grow. I was so friggin proud of her!

We mostly rode open fields with a touch of wide quad trail and hills. Nothing too tight or technical. I knew the bike was not set up for anything other than high-speed on-the-pipe ripping, so when we got home I added a flywheel weight, a torque spacer, and advanced the ignition timing to pull some power from up top and move it down low. After trying the new modifications we immediately decided to take it out into the woods to try some trail. Again, Selby surprised the hell out of me. She was calm, confident, composed, and did very well. By the end of the ride she had progressed yet again. She was tame with the throttle, smooth with the clutch, and rode safely while taking chances when she saw fit. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your child work on something and then succeed. The amount of confidence they gain and the joy they experience is truly unmatched. How many 9 year old girls are out there riding a 6-speed manual transmission 2-stroke racing dirt bike?

To my surprise, when Selby was at softball camp last night, Tillie asked if she could ride. She is more hesitant than Selby to step out of her comfort zone and put herself out there. She does not embrace failure and oftentimes the thought of making mistakes stunts her own development. She told me that she wanted to go work on riding just as she witnessed Selby doing with me. I got her dressed, hopped on my lawnmower, and mowed a couple of nice easy practice loops for her at our new property next door. Then we grabbed her bike and got her going. She did great! She had one or two hiccups that did not scare her, hurt her, or hamper her self esteem. She was excited, happy, and proud of what she accomplished. So was I! With life and business it is so difficult to spend undistracted time with my children. Taking them out in the woods or riding dirt bikes with them is an outlet that allows me to be their dad and nothing else. I can help them, support them, teach them, comfort them, and focus solely on them. 

I hope that every one of you guys and girls have something in your life that affords you an opportunity to spend some one on one quality time with your children. No TV, no phone, no internet, and no distractions. I stumbled into this hobby and luckily Selby absolutely loves riding. It is our thing we have together. Tillie is still young, but I do hope she takes to it as well. It is such an empowering activity for these young girls. They are truly in control and responsible for themselves when on a bike. As a father, nothing makes me prouder. Nothing makes me feel more like a father. Watching my daughters look to me for help or look to me for celebration of their efforts! So here’s to celebrating Summer with your kids. Get outside, take some time off from work, and get off of the couch! You will not get this time back and it will teach them so many valuable lessons that they can carry with them throughout their lives.

- Tyler Grace