Guest written by Liz Chrisman
Not one thing stands alone as a dichotomy of life lessons and pure fun more than a bicycle. As a kid, nothing frustrated my strong-willed nature more than not being able to ride without training wheels right from my first sit on the saddle. My first bicycle to memory (a blue, black with yellow accents Walmart special) was forgiving and patient as my laps around the city park loop droned into the double digits in my efforts to find balance. Growing up on the gravel country roads, 20 minutes from the nearest small town, riding my bicycle didn’t stick with me early on. School hobbies took over my life by the time many pavement surrounded kids were fine tuning their hill climbing legs. Their stories of riding until the sun was down on the city streets and discovering single track in their teens still sort of leave me jealous.
I didn’t rediscover cycling until post-college when I lived in the heart of Russellville. I’d bike anywhere and everywhere I could on my KHS commuter that I’d picked up with my first graphic design firm paycheck. Fast forward to present day and I’m on the road between 30-50 miles a week, commuting to work when there aren’t shoots to be made and ripping through singletrack on free weekend mornings. When I’m not wearing my photographer hat or sport climbing Arkansas sandstone, my focus is zeroed in on cycling and volunteering with the River Valley chapter of Ozark Off-Road Cyclists. More recently, the importance of getting bikes into the hands of kids has been brought to my attention.
With the advent of social media and more advanced gaming, our thriving lives are primarily virtual and the real world has often taken a backseat. Children gravitate to smartphones and tablets like moths to a flame, and are naturally intuitive to their function even before they can walk. Don’t think I’m framing myself as anti-technology — far from it. I’m all about balance, especially for those that will be leading us in future years.
After spending time photographing the gentlemen of the Dover Lions Club during one of their work days, I was inspired by their giving spirit. As Wesley Roach put it to me perfectly: “There’s a little bit of Santa Claus in all of us.” I was inspired again in Little Rock during a community fundraiser for “Recycle Bikes for Kids,” a non-profit that accepts old bikes, repairs them and distributes them to kids, in which over one thousand dollars was raised just from raffling off a fun lowrider bicycle. One of the best aspects about this non-profit is its education aspect — kids not only benefit from receiving bikes but they also learn how to do basic repairs, upkeep and safety. The adage “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish and you feed him for a lifetime” comes to mind here.
Get your kids on a bicycle early in life. Teach them the rules of the road. These fine pieces of engineering are the most efficient (99 percent to be exact) means of transportation and have been framed for years as a prized possession, especially in the eyes of a child. If you’re financially unable to provide a bike but are passionate about it, reach out to the local Dover Lions Club. If you’re more interested in this cause or donating a bike, reach out to them as well. Let’s get the kids of the River Valley vested in something that will give them a lifetime of lessons, responsibility, environmental consciousness, and most of all joy.
Guest written by Liz Chrisman