First Ride

Ruby, my six-year-old, reminded me of something today.Daddy, she said, You promised we could see if my legs are long enough.And of course I had. The rule has always been, when you can get both your feet securely on the rear pegs, you can ride on the back of my motorcycle.

Ruby, my six-year-old, reminded me of something today.

“Daddy”, she said, “You promised we could see if my legs are long enough.”

And of course I had. The rule has always been, when you can get both your feet securely on the rear pegs, you can ride on the back of my motorcycle.

This happened a lot earlier for her big sister; I had a different bike then, a Kawasaki Vulcan, which is a big harley-looking cruiser. The rear pegs were a lot higher. For Ruby, it’s been a long wait.

Today, we got around to it; I put her on the back of my big green Triumph and sure enough, both feet on the pegs.

Her sister’s helmet is almost too small for her already; big heads, these kids have, to house enormous brains. But the helmet fit.

“Ok Ruby, let’s go”, I said.

She put on her boots, and a sweat shirt, and I got into some jeans. I started the bike up, and loaded my little girl on the back, and off we went.

When you’re carrying a passenger on the back of your bike, you can tell how they’re feeling, it’s all communicated silently with touch. You know if they’re tense, if they’re happy, if they’re scared. When I’ve taken kids out on the back, I can feel all the fear and elation and joy, all the excitement.

They cling tight at first, too tight, so tight it’s hard to ride. But after a bit, when they start to understand they’re not going to fall off, they relax.

Ruby and I rode about a quarter mile, past gramma’s house, and I pulled over; asked her, shouted so she could hear me through two helmets, how she was feeling.

“Are you scared?” I asked.


“But is it fun?”


“Do you want to keep going?

“Yeah! Go faster!”

I love this little girl. She already understands she can be scared and having a good time, both at the same time.

We rode around residential streets for a bit; my town has a lot of curving, meandering streets, smalls hills and weird little areas. We rode a couple miles at what felt like a snail’s pace (though fast enough to get me a ticket, I’m sure, if the cops had been out). Finally I pulled over and asked her if she was still ok, and she was. I showed her she could hang on to my belt instead of a bear-hug, and we went off on bigger and better roads.

I taught her the motorcycle wave; hands down low, a peace sign or a couple fingers. Ultimate cool-guy waves, no flailing, and she waved to other bikes passing.

We rode into town, and motored slowly up our main drag. She waved to passing bikers and pointed out each bike she saw. It was hard to turn around at the end of town, before I got up into the twisties, but I wasn’t going to take that road with a six-year-old riding on the back.

We doubled back, waved to a beautiful red Norton on the way out of town, and then I opened the throttle and showed Ruby how a big 1200cc bike can move when you let it.

I don’t think I got it over 75; the speed limit on this road is 40. And I pulled it down as soon as we topped the hill. But I could feel Ruby’s thrill as we went from zero to very fast and back down in a few heartbeats.

We were home a few minutes later, and I helped Ruby off the back to make sure she didn’t burn herself on the hot pipes; I helped her off with her helmet. Her face was red and flushed, and she was wearing a maniac grin.

Hours later, at dinner, Ruby could still not stop talking about the ride. She wants to go again, she wants a longer ride. She wants a leather jacket like daddy has. She pointed out every bike we saw all afternoon.

She’s a biker girl already. I was going to say biker chick, but that’s not what this girl is; she’s going to want her own bike, and she’s going to be able to ride it. That’s how Ruby is. Ruby isn’t afraid, Ruby knows what she wants and how to get it. This is the one I trust with a chef’s knife, and the one who knows which knife is the chef’s knife. She’s a girly-girl, yes. But she’s also a budding gothlet, who wants skulls and flames on things.

Days like this, you remember why having kids seemed like a good idea.

13 thoughts on “First Ride”

  1. I love that stuff. Cassidy is the same way about the bike. She can wear her mom’s riding jacket and helmet, so she knows she looks cool too, and she’s always asking me to take her to bike night at Jack’s Backyard just so she can be seen.

    Work hell ends tonight, so this weekend I’ll probably take her out to Ski Shores, which is a little live music & burgers dive out on Lake Austin. A convenient lunch spot for people with boats, but twenty minutes of curvy hilly roads for people on wheels.

    I like when she hangs on tight. I don’t have one of those kid harnesses, so I like knowing that she’s awake, and when her hands kind of drift away because she’s comfortable, I wonder how much she’s paying attention.

    Liam, sadly, has no interest in the bike. I can tell it’s because he’s scared of it, which is weird because he’s more of a daredevil than his sister when it comes to everything else. I’ve convinced him that next time I have the bike out, he can sit on the back in the driveway with me with the motor running, just to see what it feels like, and I promise not to drive anywhere.

  2. Did I tell you about when Olivia fell asleep on the back of the bike, on the freeway?

    We got home. She never let go. But she slept the whole way home.

  3. My Zoe is the coolest kid in school: she gets dropped off and picked up on my Yamaha Road Star. She can’t wait to get her own bike.

  4. Yesterday we had success with the boy. When I got home from work, I put him on the back of the bike and just sat in the driveway with him and revved the engine. He knew I wouldn’t take off since he was in shorts and neither one of us had helmets. (He’s never ridden, but he knows about the rules about what to wear.)

    So he definitely thought it was cool, and says this weekend maybe I could ride him around the block a little.

    Little by little…

    Oh yeah, and when Cassidy starts middle school next year, that gets me off the hook for the grade school carpool, which means it’s just me and Cass. Which means she gets to be the only kid who gets to 6th Grade on the back of a Triumph (weather permitting).

  5. Yes, there’s the rub with both my kids being in the same school. I used to pick up Olivia on my Vulcan, and she had so many cool points for it I thought her head was gonna explode. Now, my kids are in school 25 minutes away by freeway, so I never get a chance to pick them up or drop them off on two wheels.

  6. Sometime I’ll tell you the story of my one and only motorcycle ride.

    For now I’ll just say, it’s all about the vibrations.

  7. Ah you all are so sweet. My first ride was behind my dad. Can’t remember holding on tight. Alas, I still don’t hold on tight when I ride behind anyone (unless I’m copping a feel).

    I think I was older- jr high, high school when he got a bike again. He’d been in Norton Clubs way back… Gas prices must have been the excuse he gave my mom for getting into it again.

  8. My father rode when I was a kid, and I loved riding on the back.

    He sold his last bike when I was 15. He always said there was no connection, that he just ‘didn’t like riding any more’ but I never belived that. He just didn’t trust me on two wheels…

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