Express & Star

Dan Morris: Learning to fly

There are few times as special in a child's life as when they learn to ride their first ever bike.

A leap of faith was on the way...

Looking out of the window yesterday morning, it struck me that, possibly, spring had finally sprung (or was at least on the verge of springing), and for me the advent of the milder weather always means dusting the cobwebs off my faithful velocipede.

Yet this year will be a little different (and all the more gorgeous) as for the first time, my little sproglet will be joining me.

Baby Morris has been the proud owner of her first bike for some time, but at only one-and-a-half, it is only recently that she has shown any real interest, enthusiasm or understanding of it.

Of course, for such a young little lady, we are hardly talking a 24-gear, full-suspension effort, the likes of which Bradley Wiggins would chew up for breakfast. Bambina's bike is much more of the cute push-along-with-your-feet variety, and to be fair is barely even suitable for outdoor use.

Still, now that she can finally reach the floor with her feet, she is – as Ronald McDonald would proclaim – lovin' it, and a good old go around the garden or the local green is definitely on the cards with the coming of warmer temperatures.

I'll never forget that fateful time all those many moons ago when my dad took me under his wing and taught me how to ride my first little bike. We're going back over three decades now, and, admittedly I was older than my little 'un the first time I straddled said valiant steed.

It was a beautiful bright red number, bedecked with stickers of flames and a shining silver bell crowning its handlebars. Stabilisers were fitted, but it wasn't long at all before dear old Dad encouraged/forced me to take the leap with them detached.

This leap – much to my mother's nervousness and my surprise – did in fact turn out to be almost literal. It was a gorgeous Sunday morning at my childhood home, which stood across the road from a mighty green hill that was a popular play spot for youngsters from far and wide.

With a regular crowd comprised of kids of all ages, little Danny Boy's cycling proficiency had been a hot topic for a couple of weeks, with the lovely bigger kids having been helping with my education, eager for another prospect to join their gang. My time on my bike had so far been restricted to the bottom third of said hill, but today was the day.

Dad had decided that the time had come to put his faith in his little bird's natural instincts, and promptly exorcise him from the nest at a great height. With a throng of well-wishers in attendance, my father proudly escorted me to this mini mountain's summit. Placing a kind hand on my shoulder, and making an assuring promise that he would not let go, he began to gently push his brave little warrior, until gravity and fate took over.

Quickly, my dad was revealed to be a shameless and unabashed liar, having clearly planned to let go as early as possible all along. With a fleeting second of panic at this realisation, it was now up to me to stay straight or meet my grass-stained doom at the base of the hill in a calamitous ball of limbs, alloy and tyres.

Remembering what my father had recently told me, I pedalled like mad and held on tight, hoping that this would steer me to a safe and triumphant end. Head down and the wind in my hair, I made my peace with God for the first ever time, and proceeded like the clappers down the monumental slope to either glory or disaster.

With other little bodies diving well clear of my path, and a rousing cheer behind me, I rocketed toward my destiny, and in what simultaneously seemed like no time at all and an absolute eternity, I reached the bottom of the hill unscathed and victorious. Coming to a natural stop, and seeing my mother watching from our drive, I grinned proudly, and with a twang of my bike's bell, I quickly chucked my noble craft to the floor and jumped with joy.

Dad had known I could do it, and now so did the rest of the world.

It'll be a while before my little princess is taking on such a gradient, and I have assured her mother that I won't be too quick to employ my father's tactics. But when she's ready, a bit of faith and a cheeky touch of deception will go a long way.

Dad didn't just teach me how to ride that day – he taught me how to fly. He has continued to do this for 30 years since, and it will be my life's honour to do the same for his granddaughter.

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