Monday, June 9, 2014

Motorcycling with Children

Ever since our grandson Aiden was able to walk, his grandfather has been talking about taking him on a motorcycle ride. His grandmother on the other hand had other things to say about it, not to mention that the child has a set of parents with their own views on the topic to consider. Yet, year after year, Papo and Aiden would inspect the motorcycles and even sit atop the pillion seat to test it out. I am not keen about children riding on motorcycles. They are our precious links to the future and exposing them to unnecessary risk is not something I take lightly. Each year as Aiden grew, I preached on the conditions that would have to be met before I would consider the idea of him riding pillion. Here are a few of my insistences:
• No child younger than 8 years old should ever be a passenger on a motorcycle.
• The child’s feet must be able to reach and rest comfortable on the pegs.
• Despite age and height requirement, the child must possess a level of maturity that allows for following instructions.

The day arrived when these conditions became evident. With permission of his father Aiden and Papo would get their long awaited motorcycle adventure. Yet not until I had a serious conversation with Aiden did I bow to the request of having a child along for an afternoon ride. These are the items I ticked off for Aiden.
• First we sat on our haunches while I pointed out the muffler. These, I told Aiden, are the “pipes” he had to avoid or risk serious burn. While there, I then pointed out the pegs, where he should keep his feet at all times.
• Next we sat on the pillion. Here I instructed him to “hug” Papo around the waist, put his hands on Papo’s waist, or he could hold the strap on the seat. Whichever of these made him comfortable was OK.
• Next, I told him that whenever we stopped someplace, he must wait until Papo says “OK” before he gets off or on. We talked about balance and the stability of the motorcycle.

Aiden listened well. You have to know the child before you can reliably be sure they understand. I was very serious and he appeared to receive the message of importance I wanted to deliver. Next came riding gear. The laws are different in every state so be sure to check on what is required. I have my own requirements that cover any law on the books. A helmet is mandatory! We had to do the best we could for the rest. One of my old leather jackets was too big, so we did what we could to make sure no skin was exposed. We put gloves on the hands, jacket, long pants, and shoes. He did come to us with a pair of boots, but the laces were so long, that I envisioned a horrible scenario should they get caught in the spokes or what have you.

With all my conditions met we departed, Papo ahead and me behind watching like a hawk. Aiden rode the pillion like a pro! He obeyed all of my instructions. I felt pride and only a few twinges of fear at risking the life of my daughter’s only child on a motorcycle. Our first stop was ten miles out at Trap Falls in Ashby Massachusetts. This is a family friendly place and Aiden had a ball! He challenged himself leaping from stone to stone across the brook. There is really no danger as the water is ankle deep and any spot I said no too, he obediently avoided.

Off we went again, on a longer loop home. The trick with children is reading the body language. Aiden did great for a total of 60 miles which included stops. At one light when I noticed a bit of flushing of cheeks, and not so wide eyes, I knew it was enough. Children can be lulled to sleep riding in cars, and this can happen on motorcycles too. It was time for home. Not only was our outing a success, but we were fortunate that with all the graduation parties on this June day, most people were off the road, giving us open byways with little traffic. As for Aiden and Papo they forged a new bond experiencing the world together as only motorcyclists can.

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