View Full Version : Riding with the son

05-11-2013, 03:22 AM
I was closing in on 38 when my son was born. Relatively old. One of those accidents since fatherhood was not something I was searching. His mother was, and still is in fact, 11 years younger than I. All of which meant that by the time he started coming into his prime on a bike Iíd be long past it. Obviously assuming he became a cyclist. No guarantee there naturally.

Turned out he did indeed become a cyclist. First a mountain biker, then a road rider. The mountain bike bit was kind of a natural. His mother was and apparently still is a very fine mountain biker. One of my favorite people to mountain bike with back then to be honest. And we rode a lot. There was never an iota of pressure on our son to take up cycling. Or skiing for that matter which used to be big in our lives. At least no direct pressure. Only pressure in the sense that his mom and dad rode a lot and my business was all about mountain biking. Vastly more significant was the pressure created by the presence of a bunch of the finest mountain bikers Iíve ever known, mostly from Marin County, mostly relatively unknown except by the hardest of the hard core mountain biking community.

They didnít race for the most part. They just rode, a lot and really, really well. The Marinites we called them. People like Steve Potts, Mark Slate, Fred Falk, Matt Hebberd, the Toddster, Joey Peterson, another Todd, a Jeff, and a bunch of others whose names Iíve kind of forgotten. My son practically grew up with those guys constantly floating through his life, in Crested Butte and Moab where we lived. They were probably as close to heroes for him as a kid could have. Hence the indirect pressure.

And then I moved to France where I rediscovered my cycling roots Ė skinny tires on paved roads. Only this was road riding like Iíd never known. Paved mountain biking. My passion for skiing and mountain biking was transferred to the roads of France. Meanwhile my son back in the states became a skilled mountain biker. He spent a year in France with my wife and me but was too young to fall in love with road riding. Or so I thought.

The years passed. I canít begin to count how many times I thought how it was too bad that by the time my son discovered the passion for skinny tires in the mountains, Iíd be way past my sell by date. Road riding is for those with some years behind them. Mountain biking is for the young. Or so I thought. Turned out I was wrong. My son turned out to be one of those bi-guys, the kind that ride mountain and road bikes. Also turned out to be friggin strong on a bike. And even more passionate for riding than me. All on his own.

Two continents, 5000 miles apart, our ages almost as far apart. Decided to spend my birthday with him this year, in Colorado. Me turning 68, he sitting on 30. Where did the time go!

And whereís this going? To me discovering just how fortunate I am. I always spend my birthday doing what I love to do. Long ago that was skiing. Then it was mountain biking. Now road riding. Almost always alone. Not for any particular reason, just works out like that. But this year would be with my son. Only it was snowing in Boulder, generously. My son was worried, the snow building up. Then my flight was late. By 27 hours in the end. Then the snow stopped. My birthday arrived. Time to ride. With my son.

Iím writing all this because I know a lot, probably most, of you have kids. And if youíre a dad, probably the case since there seem to be few women here, youíve probably imagined what it would be like to ride with your son, or daughter too though for whatever reason men tend to get hung up on the idea of sharing these things with sons rather than daughters. I donít have a daughter so have no idea on that score. Itís also true thereís no guarantee the fatherís passion will be taken up by the son. For whatever reasons I know very few for whom that is true. If you end up like me with a kid who loves to ride, treasure it because the experience is sublime.

The day of my birthday was completely crazy. Both of us were flooded with doubts about being able to ride. But hey, there were obligations that had to be followed so out we went. To test the waters so to speak, though in this case the waters were white and cold. We headed out of town, me following my son, wondering where he was taking me. Into the mountains. And up. And up. We rode through more conditions that day than I think Iíve ever experienced in one ride. From dry pavement to wet pavement to damp dirt to mud to slushy mud to slush to soft snow, to hard snow and all the way back down through the scale. Long, sustained climbs, fast downhills with the tires skittering around on shaky surfaces. And in the end, cold, like riding in a freezer. Never been so cold in my life after a ride. Got back to his house and I hobbled straight into a hot shower!

And we loved it! There we were, just the two of us, out in these mad conditions, riding hard, looking at each other from time to time with nothing but huge, dumb grins splitting our faces. We were father and son but in truth more than that. We were two crazy cyclists sharing our passion during a totally daft day of riding.

We did that for day after day, 7 days of riding out of 9. Iíd be following him, feeling like some little kid at times chasing his big brotherís looming shape up the road, and have to laugh thinking how the roles shifted. What was really quite cool about it was that never did he go through the old, okay, todayís a dadís ride so Iíll just pedal along slowly to keep him company. No way. We were hammering every day. My form improved enormously to the point that one day he followed me the whole way up this valley to the turnaround point then followed me all the way back down the terrifically fast descent. It wasnít like he was in any danger of getting dropped, not even close, but, like he told me, the pace hurt. And he was loving following me.

High fives would get exchanged after long climbs but high fives between cyclists, not father and son, though that too. Even better, his friends were all shifting schedules to make time to be able to ride with us. Not for a dadís ride but for a hard ramble with Mat and his dad. He laughed over that because when some had heard I was going to be there for ten days, they were aghast. Like the idea of having their day stay with them for that long was unimaginable. Sure would have been true for me regarding my dad.

So what I want to say is if youíve got kids, relax about the riding bikes bit. Maybe theyíll take it up, maybe they wonít. But if they do and they find the passion, one day youíre going to make the same discovery, the sheer joy of riding fast and hard with a fellow cyclist who just happens to be your son or daughter. Itís quite magical.

05-11-2013, 03:30 AM
Congratulations Hank - I'm sure you're each proud of the other's achievements both on and off the bike.

05-11-2013, 06:18 AM
Nice! Very happy for you!

05-11-2013, 06:53 AM
Lovely story.

But what? No pics? ;)

05-11-2013, 06:58 AM
I have the good fortune to ride with my 28 year old son several times per week, and you're right it is a special experience. At the end of a particularly challenging segment, hearts beating out of our chests, I have told him more than once how much fun I'm having. Having recently lost my Mom, I have some appreciation for the fact that these days of good health and unlimited mobility do not last forever.

I have a strong sense those memories will only become more valuable over time...

05-11-2013, 08:59 PM
velo-pal, thanks for the moving account of your special time at Colorado with your son. It's a poignant reminder to us fathers about what's truly important in life and expressing thankfulness for the blessings we had.

Speaking of which, my daughter and I went on our first bike ride together on our newly-acquired Comotion periscope torpedo tandem this morning. We did about 30 miles on some really beautiful country roads around Liberty Hill, while the temperature stayed around 70 degrees. It was raining like cats and dogs the night before but the sky cleared just in time for the annual organized ride Armadillo Classics to go on as planned. Saw a lot of smiling faces and people were enjoying themselves to the fullest, many cyclists passed us with greetings and encouraging words. It was a great ride!

I know those jeans need to go, we are still working on it. :hello:

05-12-2013, 07:13 AM
Yes, riding with your offspring is one of life's great joys. For that matter, HAVING offspring and doing damn near ANYTHING fun with them is one of life's great joys, maybe the greatest! Glad you could enjoy this so much at 68!

But I think you may be wrong about fathers and daughters. As Weisan's pic shows so well, the girls can mix it up too. My daughter is 25 and in medical school thousands of miles away these days, so we don't ride together lately. But when she was a teenager we did a few bike tours together - not hammerfests, tours, but they were wonderful. My wife doesn't ride and my other daughter never took to it, but my oldest girl got way into it. And she still rides a lot, although school doesn't leave a lot of time these days. But she's a bike commuter and its a big part of her life. Which is really gratifying even if we don't get to ride together much these days. I'm not riding a lot these days for that matter, but we'll still ride together when the opportunity presents itself. And I'll be grinning from ear to ear too, even if its just a sedentary little ride on a bike path, just riding along and talking... And beyond that, its all gravy, icing on the cake...


05-12-2013, 08:34 AM
the girls can mix it up too...

Ray-pal is so right! Our second daughter is fearless, the things that she does make me cringe but that's what I admire about her, so does her friends - a sense of adventure, loving life, self-confidence. :p

Here she was, blastin' down our street with her friend on the $50 tandem bike that I bought 10 years ago on ebay and we had so much fun on it over the years.

05-12-2013, 09:18 AM
Hank, my favorite post of yours...and that's sayin somethin.

05-12-2013, 11:23 AM
What a great story.

05-12-2013, 02:53 PM
The internet, an effective tool for mining information. But sometimes, on rare occasions, you'll come across a little gem that's worth so much more.

05-13-2013, 03:22 AM
Thanks for the kind words and complements. Glad the post touched some.

Here's a shot of me riding with my son and one of him that was taken while he was on his way to winning his first road bike race.

05-13-2013, 03:24 AM
Apparently one pic didn't load. Try again. I give up, won't load because I loaded with the boulderhammerfest post.

05-13-2013, 07:16 AM
Thanks for the kind words and complements. Glad the post touched some.

Here's a shot of me riding with my son and one of him that was taken while he was on his way to winning his first road bike race.

Hee, hee..the vino from the night before didn't hurt him..probably helped!

Yes, a regular road bike, on a dirt road..yes, matilda, you can ride there w/o 32mm fatties.

05-13-2013, 07:26 AM
Great shots....great stories. We all have our memories.

One of my adult sons, who lives in South Carolina, came to Florida this past weekend (my 72nd birthday Saturday), to visit his wife's family.....and even with 4 kids in tow....took the time to do a 42 miler with his old Dad. Really enjoyed and appreciated the time and experience.

05-13-2013, 07:47 AM
Good story. I don't know how I got so interested in cycling. I don't think I can remember one single time my father was on a bike but I know he has one because I built it for him. A good friend of mine's father rode centuries right up till the day he died, he was well into his 70's and still riding big miles and often times wore his son out. So that is the beauty of cycling you can still do it at any age as long as you keep up with it.

05-13-2013, 07:58 AM
Yes, riding with your offspring is one of life's great joys. For that matter, HAVING offspring and doing damn near ANYTHING fun with them is one of life's great joys, maybe the greatest!

Ray's wisdom...he is right. Riding is cool, but so is sailing, fishing, playing catch or watching Goonies and Indiana Jones flicks.

I have always looked forward to the day my daughter is old enough to scuba dive. She loves snorkeling and finding things, exploring, so that will be fun in a year or so. Taking dive trips together as adults is a dream of mine.

05-13-2013, 08:07 AM
Thanks for sharing your story. I was 40 years old when my son was born. I hope I am as fortunate as you are down the road.

05-13-2013, 08:38 AM
I've got three sons and really enjoyed the story.