Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Encouraging Children to Bike Tour, or Not

Our 12-year-old will ride with me 6 miles to our camp. We stopped to admire the
cottonwood piles, which looked like snow on the bike path.

My husband and I avoid marathon bike rides with our children. Sure, we both commute by bicycle and complete a couple overnight tours a year, plus we spent last year's vacation on bikes. But when it comes to lengthy rides with our teenagers, well, we don't go there.

We've seen what happens when parents push children to conform to their pursuits. Children rebel, ask "why do I have to (insert activity of choice)?" I've heard friends' grown children recall the horrors of a toe blistering marathon backpacking trip. Or being dragged on a 50 mile bike ride. Those aren't the memories I want to bestow on our children.

I've discovered there's a fine line between expecting our children to reach certain physical goals and a knock-down-drag-out time consuming haggle which exhausts the patience of all parties involved. That's where I draw the line. If an excursion is strenuous and the planning becomes an all consuming nightmare, then I revisit the idea or drop it altogether. I came to that conclusion last summer when my husband and I considered taking our children on the GAPCO adventure. We were buoyed by another family's doable plan, breaking the distance into 10 - 30 mile days. But then I realized I couldn't endure ten days of prodding our boys, for the whole vacation, all day long. Family dynamics play an important part in any adventure and unfortunately our children lack interest in spending hours in a saddle. One's a self professed (and smart) computer nerd (his word); our youngest son is physically gifted, but lacks discipline and motivation.

However, our concession is treating cycling as transportation. When our 15-year-old asks us to drive him somewhere, we insist he takes his bike. He's a regular bus rider, getting to school on his own, but this summer he's learned to cycle to visit friends or to transport himself to a mowing job two miles across the city. My husband and I often come home and find notes written from our 12-year-old boy (who for various reasons we need to keep tabs on) who's ridden his bike 4 miles to hang out with a friend. We may not like what he's done (he often shows up uninvited), but it's hard to knock his resourcefulness and taking our suggestions to heart. He, definitely, gets it.

There is freedom in transportation cycling. If my kids understand that much, I've given them a skill they can take with them as they grow into clever, capable adults. It would make this momma proud.


  1. It is fun to see which life lessons my daughters embrace as their own values. I don't recall anything more than minimal encouragement form me on cycling and not much interest on their side. But both of them are married and ride bikes more now than when they lived with me.

  2. Well said, the last thing I want to do is make my 11 year-old Daughter hate biking. I try to make sure there is something fun involved like riding to ice cream or the park or a play ground. A few years ago she surprised me by wanting to ride to her friends birthday party. I schlepped the sleeping bag and overnight bag but I was very happy she wanted to ride not drive.

  3. Our boys are capable of riding 10 miles without a fight so we plan to do another overnight together. Bringing another family along always helps. We are fortunate to have a few campgrounds within an hour from home. For all our teens' obstinacy, they love nights in a tent. It's the best we can do to introduce them to bike touring.

  4. I think your attitude is a great one and it's obviously having the right effect on your boys too!


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