[This article is excerpted from Dirt Rag magazine, Issue #131. For the full story, click here.]
A love of riding bikes can be seen as a childlike quality in adults, something that allows us to play and have fun. What happens when actual children enter the picture, and the adults have to grow up? Here are a few examples of lifetime cyclists who, rather than abandoning their playful pursuit, are bringing their kids along for the ride.
Scott Spitz is the man behind the biking 'zine Leapfrog. Dirt Rag gave Leapfrog a page in the Dirt Rag #126 feature "Cut & Paste," and a passage from that was one of the inspirations for this article:
There is a child on the way. Just when I could no longer imagine another way and another meaning for this bike beneath me, this child will change everything. This bike now has the potential to acquire a whole new set of meanings. It will mean whatever may come of the lessons it affords my child, from their sense of accomplishment of balance, to the joys of independence and exploration, to the sorrows of leaving it all behind for the sake of maturity, to the hope that they may one day return to attach their own new meanings to its place in their life.
Scott's son, August, is now eight months old. Scott is eager to share bicycling with him, but doesn't want to push him into it. "I'd love my child to go on rides and runs with me, but however they choose to be active and lively will be just fine with me.
"Children instinctively look to adults for guidance, even if it's not explicit, so just being on a bike will introduce a child to riding, and that's the most effective way you can get a kid to ride. I'd say the more important part is also showing them that you don't have to quit riding to start driving."
With a straightforward, no-nonsense attitude, Sharon attacks climbs like they've offended her, and rides back down as if crashing were impossible. She was even a pro downhiller back in the day. She and husband Chuck have three children, ages 6, 4 and 1.
Once the kids came along, Sharon was determined to keep on pedaling. "Biking with a 2 1/2-year-old in a bike seat while eight months pregnant in Frick Park is a really good workout (reducing labor time to 2.35 hours.)" She came to a women's ride last summer only a few weeks after giving birth to her third child—via C-section.
Sharon started biking with all three kids early, before they were a month old. "I found the itty-bitty ones can go in a trailer in their car seat," she says. Once they were more grown, she found that towing the kids on mild singletrack was not out of the question: "Children are not afraid of singletrack until they learn to walk and have experience with falling." She takes the kids along on a quarter of her rides now. With a trail-a-bike off the adult bike and a trailer attached to that, all the kids can come along, and the towing parent can get some serious resistance training.
Some kids are just lucky. Marley and Korbin Jones have Jeff Jones for a dad—a framebuilder famous for gorgeous swooping titanium creations that are as functional as they are beautiful. The Jeff Jones Custom Bicycles website says that the years-long waiting list was recently closed; but in the Jones family, "whoever's pedaling and balancing gets a bike," one with proper function and fit taken meticulously into account.
Jeff is another parent who has turned the lack of time to ride alone into a good training opportunity. Both kids came along on bike trips in a trailer as soon as they could sit up. Now that they are old enough to "pedal and participate," Jeff welded a bottom bracket onto the rear seat tube of a tandem to create a kid-size stoker position for Korbin (age 2), and Marley (age 6) pedals atop a trail-a-bike attachment.
"People think kids can't do things, but really, they don't know what they can't do. They only get tired when they're bored." To avoid that boredom he sets goals along the way of their excursions, telling them they're going to ride to an interesting place, such as a park or a creek, to play for a while—"Break up a 15-mile ride into 5-mile segments."