MARYVILLE, Mo. — Father-son activities are usually golfing, fishing or camping. For Ryan Losh and his son, Aaron, bonding time takes a slightly different form.
Ryan and Aaron enjoy riding a tandem bicycle, which has an extra seat and set of pedals that allow two people to ride.
Aaron has autism and doesn’t speak. Despite this, Aaron and Ryan have learned how to pedal in sync.
The two began this adventure about 10 years ago when Ryan purchased a traditional bicycle for then 5 or 6 year old Aaron.
After the purchase he began seeing new pop-ups on his phone.
“It’s amazing how many advertisements pop up on your Facebook page,” said Ryan. That was when he decided to get the item advertised: A tandem bike.
The first tandem they had required both to be in sync when pedaling. Ryan said this was difficult, because sometimes Aaron would stop pedaling. After noticing his son’s interest in the sport, Ryan decided to upgrade to a new bike. The new bike has independent pedaling that allows one to take a break, if needed.
Ryan said the only obstacle was finding time to do it. The two began biking when Ryan still was in college, so he had to balance it with his studies.
“There’s never been a time where I’ve gone to Aaron and said, ‘Hey, do you want to go biking?’ And he told me no.”
Growing up, Ryan rode on the Katy Trail in St. Louis. He and Aaron primarily ride around Maryville then on U.S. Highway 71, averaging 30 miles. There also are trails in Iowa, including Wabash Trail, of which Ryan is fond.
When asked about the benefits, Ryan listed many. He says it helps him to stay healthy.
“I have more energy during the day” he said. “I sleep much better at night. It doesn’t take as much sleep for me to feel rested.”
The biggest benefit, though, is having quality time with Aaron, Ryan says.
“He was so close to riding a bike on his own… He fell and skinned his knee and hasn’t wanted to touch it ever since.” Ryan laughs at the memory, “Now he’ll get on a bike with me any time I ask him.”
Ryan mentioned a fundraiser the two are putting together now. The proceeds will go to children with cancer. Their goal is 200 miles throughout the month of June.
“We try to get out at least five days a week,” Ryan said. “We’ve been averaging about 50 miles a week.”
Some of Aaron’s teachers have donated toward the father-son fundraiser. It’s a freewill donation, and every penny helps.
Future plans for the two are variable. Other than fundraisers, they ride for fun from spring until fall. The activity is extremely weather-dependent. Ryan said even in the summer, some days are too hot or too windy to get the tandem out. Describing an example of this, he says they had to return home on one trip.
“We turned around and we were barely pedaling,” Ryan said. “We were going 23 miles an hour.”
This story shows how a single hobby can help build and strengthen a relationship. Although Ryan and Aaron have come upon many roadblocks, they have found a way to keep pedaling through.
For the two, tandem cycling has built a bridge between father and son that will keep them speeding forward.