So my kids don’t ride bikes. I have tried and tried but it’s just not their thing. Probably because I didn’t start loving riding bikes until I was in my 40’s. We actually forced them to play soccer because that was our love when they were little (and still is) but unfortunately you can’t play soccer your entire life! Actually you can still play soccer when you are old but everything seems to be in slow motion so it’s not as much fun.
I want you to get know a young lady who does ride bikes and does it very well. Meet Oona Nelson. This is the story of how I met Oona. I was speaking at a gravel workshop at Sunflower Bike Shop in Lawrence last year. It was specifically for women and it was before the popular Gravelleurs Raid race that is now a part of the USECF Grinder Nationals. The talk was leading up to a 50 mile gravel practice ride. So Oona’s mom (Sarah) was there who also races gravel and she asked if it was ok if her 13 year old daughter came to the ride. Of course I said yes but I was thinking this could be a disaster, a 13 yr old riding gravel for 50 miles??! However, I knew we had a support vehicle that could take her back if she decided not to do the whole 50 miles. Frankly I was thinking she probably wouldn’t make 15 miles. (I had not met her at this point!). Boy was I wrong. Not only did she ride but then kept up with the front group! I was grinning from ear to ear. This was so awesome! Not to mention she is super nice and fun to talk to. After this we asked her to join our Womens Free State Racing Team. Since then she has done several gravel races. She won the DK junior race last year and is planning on competing again this year. More recently she just won the Junior’s race at Grinder Nationals! She also has done some road races and Cyclocross races.
Oona not surprisingly does several other sports including cross country, volleyball, track and soccer and does well at them. I asked her why she liked racing bikes, specifically gravel and she said, “I love cycling because it helps me get stronger and it positively affects the other sports I play. I particularly like gravel because it’s away from traffic and the scenery is so beautiful especially around the more rural parts like the flint hills of Kansas.” Second question was what are your plans for the future? (that’s always a good one!). She said, “I want to improve my strength and get faster in gravel and cyclocross. Also I want to gain more experience about cycling in general.” Be on the look out for this kid to be successful at whatever she puts her mind to!
You know how people have “work husbands” or “gym husbands”? I am going to ask Oona to be my “cycling daughter”. I hope she accepts!
If you are looking to get younger kids into cycling I recommend starting with Cyclocross as there is an amazing group put together for kids of all ages. It’s called Donderdag Youth. They teach them all that is necessary and its a ton of fun. It’s family oriented and you can race yourself as well. If you have middle school or high school age kids that want to get into gravel or road riding, I recommend that you pair up with someone who does it and can get you the basic info on how to get started. Or contact me and I can help you! Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like some more information or one on one instruction.