This article first appeared as the Cyclist of the Month column in the February 2012 issue of the Cascade Courier, our membership newsletter.
Cyclist of the Month: WILL SEEGERT
Wheels: Fuji Ace 20
Paul claims that his son, Will, is “just a normal kid.” And it’s true, he does look pretty normal. This mild-mannered seven-year-old weighs in at 50 pounds and is about three-and-a-half feet tall. He has brown hair. He likes hot chocolate.
But there’s something extraordinary about this “normal” kid. Last year, when he was just six years old, Will rode Chilly Hilly.
Anyone who stood in the ferry line on that Sunday morning in February 2011 knows that the weather was more than just chilly. It was freezing cold. There was hail. Lots of seasoned bicyclists stayed home in their pajamas.
But not Will, and not his dad.
What was the hardest part? “Walking up the hills with all the other bikers,” Will told me. And yes, they did walk. But Will rode or pushed his bike for all 33 of those hilly miles, without any help at all from Dad.
“I thought that it was the hardest thing that he could do, but that he could do it,” Paul told me. When Will was out of earshot, he added, “I could have carried his bike up the hills for him. But I didn’t need to help him.”
Paul is not a bike racer or a hardcore trainer. Nor does he have lofty hopes for Will’s future as an athlete. Rather, bicycling with Will simply allows him to do something that he loves while spending time with his son.
“The main reason I do all of this with Will is simply that I love spending time with him in ways that are meaningful and memorable to both of us,” Paul said. “Cycling lends itself to adventure, and what kid doesn’t like a good adventure?”
And indeed, Chilly Hilly was an adventure. Paul hadn’t even tested those hills before he took Will on them – and the ride was harder than he had expected. “A friend compared the hills on Bainbridge to Fremont Ave., which we ride all the time. But the steepest hill is much longer and steeper than Fremont Ave.”
Which is not to say they didn’t train – or “practice,” as Will calls it. Will’s favorite ride is the Magnolia scenic loop, which has been made accessible to them through the completion of the Ship Canal Trail.
“Now that the trail is complete, we can ride from our home in Fremont, cross the Fremont Bridge, then take the Ship Canal Trail to the Magnolia scenic loop.” It’s a 12-mile round-trip, and Will says he likes it “because of all the up-hills and down-hills and the long down-hill at the end.”
When you’re riding with a kid, Paul says, those trails are hugely important. So is legislation like the Neighborhood Safe Streets Bill, which would reduce speed limits in neighborhoods, making them safer for the most vulnerable of roadway users, like Will and other kids.
“Will does a great job of being where he should be, and he waits for me to go through intersections. But even if we’re where we’re supposed to be, there’s no guarantee that cars will be where they’re supposed to be.”
Paul also says that, for a seven-year-old, having good equipment makes a big difference. He struggled to find Will a quality kid-sized road bike. And, as far as he knows, there aren’t any brightly-colored biking rain jackets on the market for kids.
But with good equipment (and gentle encouragement from his dad), it’s amazing what Will can do.
They’ll be tackling Chilly Hilly again this year. Will says he likes the ferry ride. He also likes the hot chocolate and the bake sales. But he’s pretty sure there are more “up-hills” than “down-hills,” and he wishes it were the other way around.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much his dad can do about that.
Despite those hills though, Will is along for the ride. And come summer, they’re in for an even bigger adventure: the Group Health STP. Will will ride a “come-along” bike, following his dad all the way to Portland. They’ve built up a pretty good repertoire of training rides that’ll help them get there.
Paul told me, “I think that all of his experience with me now, out in real road conditions, will help him be a confident, safe and savvy rider when he reaches an age that all kids do when they want to start venturing out with friends and without parents.”
But all this bicycling isn’t really about that. After all, Paul told me, “It doesn’t matter how old you are. It’s always fun to stop and have hot cocoa on the way.”
Ferries full of cyclists will depart for Bainbridge Island on Sunday, Feb. 26 — don’t miss the boat! Registration for Chilly Hilly is currently open to Cascade members; non-members can register beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 7. The event won’t sell out, and less-hearty riders who want to want to wait for the weather forecast before they commit can always register at the start line.