For the last two months, I've had the company of a zesty 11 year old girl. She lives overseas so hasn't been hauled around with us on our mountain biking escapades but in the last year, she took possession of someones hand-me-down and taught herself to ride.
Then she arrives here and we borrow another bike for her but more suited to her size. This bike was patently a lot larger than the old one and she had to get over her initial fear of not being able to touch the ground with her feet all the time. Then it was the lessons for getting on and off which we practiced in the street.
Having mastered this, not without a lot of anxiety, we decided to ride a little further on the flattest road I know. Here again, she was completely intimidated by her perception of a mega downhill and it required a lot of coaxing and pushing to get her to crawl along, almost falling off from the slow pace.
Despite the tears, every time she got on the bike, she gained a little confidence. Then I took her to a stretch of dirt road with almost no traffic and we found that the gentle downhill wasn't as bad and she managed to ride it all and sort of enjoy it. Coming back up the hill was another story as she found the gearing confusing and refused to use certain ratios. But I put my hand on her back and pushed her up the hill with a few screams every time she thought we were going to crash! But hey, we had just ridden 5km.
Then a week or so passed and we decided to go to one of the best family riding venues around - Northern Farm. I opted to trail run while she rode with Dave. I had all sorts of instructions lined up for Dave about avoiding downhills which she still disliked but they headed off before I got a word in.
I wasn't sure what I was seeing....she rode down the path, squeaked as she went down onto the road and next thing, she disappears into the tunnel which required a short sharp descent. I fully expected a walk at that point from her! Last I saw was them heading off to one of the more steeper downhills of the farm.
Nonplussed, I carried on with my run to suddenly find myself chased down by a rampant, confident 11 year old with a smile as wide as the surrounding farmlands. Dave was gobsmacked. She demanded more and more downhills, rode uphills with great determination and rode the flats at twice the speed of her previous downhills.
Suddenly, she had got it.