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Kaelob is a seasoned, year-round commuter cyclist and he’s only 9 years old.
Even though Vancouver, BC winters are among Canada’s mildest the temperatures do dip low enough to freeze the ground and occasionally leave us with a layer of white stuff. During the winter months, the number of adult bicycle commuters also drops, which is why I am so impressed with my friend Kaelob’s commitment to ride.
Kaelob is a seasoned, year-round commuter cyclist and he’s only 9 years old. Though when asked he’ll insist that he’s almost ten.
To learn more about this young rider’s thoughts on winter cycling we chatted one morning before heading out on his daily ride to school.
Kaelob has been riding his own bike to school for the last four-and-a-half years, accompanied and guided by his father, Jesse. Before that, his dad towed him in a bike trailer or trail-a-bike. This year, Kaelob has graduated to a larger, 24-inch wheel bike after his dad found a lightweight commuter in a youth size. I asked him about his new ride and he nodded excitedly with wide eyes and told me, “It’s faster. I like it.”
Most parents will tell you that the keys to getting out the door on time each morning are organization and a little (or a lot) of prompting. Bicycle commuting with young ones is no different.
Jesse and Kaelob have a bin of cycling gloves, windproof mitts and wool liners conveniently placed near the door. Toques and balaclavas live there as well. The two store their bikes inside to avoid corrosion, not to mention that added benefit of hopping onto a warm and dry bike seat at the start of the day.
I asked Kaelob what he needs for getting out in the cold or snowy weather, “Snowpants, snowboots, winter jackets and I layer up! Long johns and stuff too. I just hang it all on my hook at my cubby when I get to school. Thankfully, I have a nice cubby spot over the heating vent at school.”
Kaelob’s commute to school takes 13 minutes to complete by bike. If the weather is bad enough to call off the ride, taking public transit requires around 25 minutes, almost double the time.
On a heavy snow day, Jesse invites his son to use his judgment. If they make the call to take the bus instead of ride, it has to be done early. Kaelob thinks back to last winter, “We only bussed once last year. Yep, we braved the snow.”
To ride in the slippery stuff, Kaelob has a practiced technique and is quick to share how he does it, “Dad taught me to stay on a low gear and pedal so that the wheels don’t slip out from under you. And don’t touch the front brake because your front wheel might skid.”
“My also dad taught me to always signal, to shoulder check when I’m turning left, and when you can’t see around a parked vehicle, you can lean over your front wheel to see better. That’s called the Sneaky Sneaky,” Kaelob informed me.
This morning I joined the two on their commute. We crossed busy intersections with care, stayed clear of mushy leaves and other road debris, all the while taking in the sights and sounds together. Father and son joked around while waiting at an intersection, trying to honk each others bike horns. The bonding time that they share during their commute is endearing.
When asked what he likes about riding, Kaelob told me that he enjoys the sensory experience, “I like the smell of freshly wet pavement, like right after a big rainy storm. I like to feel the wind against my face. It feels like I’m flying.”
Though, Kaelob told me that riding is not always enjoyable. He does not like the sensation of being cold and wet while riding in the rain. “I’m ok if I’m warm and wet, but not cold and wet. Staying dry and layering up is important.”
As we approached Kaelob’s school, his assertive and watchful riding style helped him safely maneuver through the morning rush of parents pulling their cars in and out of the on-street parking. On this December morning, the bicycles parked in the schoolyard racks are sparse, although Kaelob has noticed a lot more bikes than last year. “In the cold there are fewer bikes, maybe like 85 percent less. Sometimes there are only 3 to 5 bikes on the rack. I’d like to see more kids cycling because it’s better for the environment.”
Kaelob said farewell, giving hugs and high fives. As he walked toward the school entrance, his dad honked his bike horn as a final joking gesture and smiled.