We got in touch with Sam after he sent us this video of his son, Robin, going sideways in a huge drift around a dusty turn, before instantly getting back on the pedals. “Wow, I wish I had the confidence and skill at that age!”, we thought. So we sat down (virtually) with Sam to pick his brains and to try and learn where Robin developed his confidence.
BM: How old was Robin when he first started riding, and what was his first bike?
Sam: A friend bought Robin a balance bike for his first birthday. Obviously it was a while before he started using it (he couldn’t even walk at that stage), but once he was able he absolutely fell in love with it. He was probably about two when he started to look keen.
BM: Did he take to it immediately?
Sam: Yes, absolutely. He was so little when he first started using it that I removed the saddle and seat post and he just used to walk around holding the bars. As soon as the saddle was refitted he was off and I remember the first time he lifted his feet up and went whizzing off; I’m not sure who was smiling more, me or him!
BM: Are you into your bikes yourself?
Sam: Massively. I have ridden all my life and took up cross country racing a few years ago, so he has grown up watching me ride. I haven’t pushed him in any way, though obviously it’s awesome that we’re able to enjoy bikes together. I ride most days, but he honestly never misses a day, he just loves being on his bike.
BM: He’s on a PINTO at the moment. How long have you had it and how often is he riding?
Sam: We bought the PINTO for his third birthday (May 2019). I had a relationship with a great bike shop that stocked Black Mountain Bikes and they really caught my eye with their innovative designs. I gave it to him in balance bike mode and let him get used to using the brakes etc, but that day he asked me to put the pedals on. At first we were worried we’d been too ambitious and that struggling to ride with the pedals might put him off, but two days later he was off. We actually can’t think of a day that he hasn’t ridden it since.
BM: Can you think about anything you’ve done which has helped Robin gain his confidence?
Sam: I guess it helps watching me and Mummy ride (Clare isn’t a bike nut like me, but enjoys the odd bike ride). When we’ve been out and he has wanted to get off and walk, over roots or down something a bit steep etc, we don’t make an issue of it. He’s very aware of what he can and can’t do - he’s not reckless, which is good. I think his confidence on the bike just stems from being on it so much, he’s learning new techniques every day. What I love though is that he’s had plenty of tumbles, including a nasty one recently, but he very quickly gets back on and rides again and we really praise him for that.
BM: We saw the video of the see-saw you made and I love the fact you made it into the downslope. Whose idea was it to put it there? Robin’s or yours? If it was yours, what was Robin’s response?
Sam: The see-saw is one of many creations we’ve come up with using bits of wood we have lying about and almost every day we come up with something new. The see-saw was my idea and we initially placed it on flat ground, before moving it to be just before the slope and then eventually into the downslope. I ask him what he thinks when we’ve made something different and he usually says; “that looks really cool, can you make it bigger!” I think because we modify the ‘ramps’ gradually, he’s normally fairly unfazed. The same can’t be said of his grandparents, who watch through their fingers!
BM: Do you think ability leads to confidence, or does confidence lead to ability?
Sam: I would say the two work in tandem; Robin has always erred on the side of caution with most things, but once he’s established he can do something, he’ll give it a go and then repeat, repeat, repeat. I think like most things in life, you need a certain amount of confidence to try something, but by working up to things gradually, the next step never seems too far.
BM: Finally, any advice for soon- to-be bike-parents? (whether that be on buying a bike, teaching their kids to ride or anything else)
Sam: I would say the single most important thing to remember is that riding a bike should be fun. We walk our dog every day and always offer Robin the choice of whether or not to take his bike. Happily for me, he always wants to! I think it’s also important for him to learn to look after and care for his bike, so we often spend time cleaning it and making sure it’s running well.
In terms of buying a bike, having something that is solid, reliable and a good fit is really important. I suppose the way I looked at it was ‘would I ride this myself?’ Which reminds me to ask, when is Black Mountain bringing out an adults’ bike?!!