The training wheels came off my own bike so long ago; I’d forgotten the emotions, challenges and vulnerable feelings of trying to balance on two wheels for a few pedal strokes without crashing to the ground. In fact, I had always taken riding a bike for granted until my 5 year-old son, Yohan, attempted to ride his bike without stabilizers. The experience was stressful, defeating and frustrating.
“This is not fun. Not fun at all. I’m done.” he said as he walked slowly back in the house, head down. “I keep tipping over. I can’t get my feet on the pedals. I’m going to die out there. Biking’s dangerous and stupid!!” When Yohan sets his mind to something, there is no going back. He gave up biking on the spot – forever?
Fast forward 15 years to the excitement of leaving home for University. Yohan was thrilled to have been accepted to Pitzer, a small college in southern California, expanding over 35 acres of relatively flat land. At 20 years old, Yohan’s arches had become extremely high, his toes curled and his ankles, unstable. Chronic burning pain and fatigue were also issues to taken into consideration. Pitzer did not offer transportation between classes, so we discussed alternative solutions.
How about trying a moped, a scooter, a golf cart, or a Segway (I was half joking about the Segway)? Every single idea was shot down in a blink of an eye, until Yohan’s dad mentioned a bike. There was a pause before Yohan said, “Lemme think about it.”
The following week, we were looking for a bike with a low crossbar. “Oh, you are looking for a girl’s bike?” joked the salesperson. No one laughed. “Idiotic comment.” I muttered under my breath. “No, we are looking for a low top tube for people who have a hard time swinging their leg over that bar.”
At about the same time we purchased Yohan’s bike, my brother, Anthony, happened to be in town. He spent an hour with Yohan in our long driveway, providing the guidance, confidence and tips Yohan needed to succeed. With a little practice, Yohan overcame a lot of his fears, stayed upright and felt comfortable enough to bring the bike to campus, where he used it a handful of times to get back and forth to class.
Riding a bike on campus comes with its own challenges, including other student bikers doing wheelies, skateboarders weaving in and out of people, inattentive students tuned into their cellphones, etc. At graduation, we packed up all his belongings, minus the bike, which was in a state of complete disrepair, still attached to a bike rack, with a kryptonite lock whose combination had been long forgotten.
Just when we thought biking would never be in Yohan’s future, we rented a Scott e-bike during a trip to Tahoe….and overnight, a cyclist was born. He was able to go farther, faster, and for the first time in his life, could accompany his friends and his dad on some longer rides. It has a low step-through design (aka a girl’s bike), and in pedal-assist mode, you still get a great work out and have backup power when needed.
So, this year, for the VIRTUAL 7th Annual Cycle (and Walk!) 4 CMT, Yohan rode his e-bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, up the Marin Headlands, and back for a 20 mile ride with 2200 feet of climbing. Never would we have thought that the child who could not ride a bike due to lack of balance, sensation, and confidence would one day ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, maneuvering around pedestrians, cyclists, kids, dogs, etc… There were setbacks, spills, road rash, fatigue, but with the support of friends, family and our CMT community, he conquered. The smile says it all….and more! Thanks to all our supporters and cheerleaders – You are CMT Champions!
To learn more about the Cycle (and Walk!) 4 CMT, click here: www.cycle4cmt.com
I couldn’t have been more proud of my nephew Yohan on this accomplishment of conquering this barrier in spite of CMT ❤️ and of his parents; Elizabeth and Gilles for never giving up trying to find answers to this incurable disease. Yohan came in 1st with the help and encouragement of family and friends who were behind him the whole way on his ride to raise funds for research to find a treatment and hope for the thousands of people just like him. Check out my website for a photo history of the last six years of the Ride and Walk for Cycle4CMT.com
Yohan, I want Emmett to know you. Next time we visit Cali, we’re coming to see you. You’re awesome. Much respect and all the love!!!
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We bought Anthony a bike when Covid started, so we could get outside in the city. He was trying out some bikes, and I could imagine that swinging his leg over the bar was only going to get harder for the dude as he grew older. I asked about step-throughs and got the same stupid, “You mean a girl’s bike?” Rock on, Yohan!
So, you can relate! OMG!! What are the salespeople thinking! Thanks for reading and commenting!