Why having children is like having bikes

Today, I was reflecting on the fact that my bikes were my babies before I had babies. Then it came to me just how many similarities there are between being a mother and being a cyclist.

Here is my reasoning:

  • Some days with them are truly wonderful. You feel alive and strong and joyful.
  • Some days with them are truly awful. You feel like you can’t do anything right and it is all so much slower than it ought to be.
  • Some days it seems to take forever just to get out.
  • Even when you’re not with them, you seem to think about them all the time.
  • There are any number of apps readily available to make you feel bad about how you are doing.
  • There are any number of people – family, friends and total strangers – who are more than happy to offer their opinions about where you are going wrong.
  • In the winter they make you feel trapped indoors but it’s just not worth the hassle to go out.
  • Sometimes you long for a day away from them. But when you finally get one, you just wish you were with them again.
  • There is never a good reason to leave the house without a banana.
  • You love them whatever age and stage they are at, but still there was something magical about the first time you held them.
  • It doesn’t matter how many or what sort you have, they all need your time and attention, and to know that you love them.

I thought about this for quite a long time.

And then I came to a wonderful conclusion:

Being a cyclist is like being a mum.

So cycling is like practicing parenting.

And practice makes perfect.

So I need to cycle more.

Pass me my bike!

Ode to Joy

I had a fantastic day out on the bike today.

Once a month, I have a day off being Mummy and I go out with my cycle club, Hervelo.

As I said in my last post, I am suffering from Turbo fatigue and remembering that I love riding outdoors. Today just reinforced this.

I did realise the benefit of turbo training as I felt stronger on the bike than I have done in years. I felt like I could of ridden for miles. I felt like the hills had got easier.

This is probably also in no small part due to the hugely effective strength training provided by the cargo bike.

As we hit a steady slight downhill section with smooth tarmac and a lovely tailwind, I felt incredible.

I felt free.

I felt strong.

I felt alive.

I felt real joy.

It was the kind of joy that small children feel so often.

The kind of joy that made my son run around in circles with his hands above his head for an hour because the beach we had just arrived at was just so amazing.

The kind of joy that made he and his sister jump up and down on the spot on Christmas morning because Santa had really been.

The kind of joy that makes them both chase bubbles for hours around the garden.

The kind of joy that young children express with their whole bodies.

It was a beautiful feeling.

It occurred to me that I see this joy in my children several times a week inspired by the smallest of things.

How often do we feel this as adults?

Even more worryingly, how often do we see this in older children?

Where does this incredible feeling of joy go?

I have a theory. It is a theory based on no evidence. A theory which I only thought of as I rode home.

I think we view our children’s emotions as amusing. Sometimes we view them as frankly annoying – “seriously, we need to get shoes and coats on right now because we are going to be late. The lego model you made is marvelous and we will look at it when we get back”.

I don’t think I always value my children’s intense emotional lives. I don’t think I show my children that I value their emotions.

And then they start school. They start so young and the pressure to achieve starts to build.

Whether we mean to or not, we quite clearly demonstrate to our children that we value academic achievement. We value reading. We value writing. We value counting to ever higher numbers and then learning to use and manipulate those numbers. We do this with the best of intentions because we want our children to succeed.

Maybe we should start to value joy?

Turbo Powered

For the past three months, I have spent my weekend and evening cycle time in the garage. We have a fantastic garage set up. Race bikes on turbo trainers with a TV and a huge range of box sets, plus a range of cooling fans.

I resort to the turbo in the winter because the daylight hours are so limited and riding in the dark, even with great lights, makes me feel very vulnerable.

Even at the weekends, the light is low early in the mornings when I would normally ride. The roads and cycle paths are often wet / icy / 6 inches deep in fallen leaves. All this amounts to an hour of very gentle, cautious and frustrating cycling.

On the turbo I can spend my very limited time doing a really tough session that will make me a faster cyclist. Brilliant. Fantastic use of time.

But it’s still not quite the cycling I love.

I settle into turbo training every winter. I can list all the benefits of turbo training:

  • I am quite a numbers junkie and my turbo has a power meter which the part of me that keeps a training log, loves.
  • I now have a reliable heart rate monitor which my inner number junkie loves even more than the power meter – this is much easier to watch when I don’t have to think about staying upright.
  • No clothing layers, no overshoes, no gloves, no earwarmers Just shorts and t-shirt with no huge pile of washing afterwards.
  • TV boxsets. The turbo has led me to obsessive watching of TV boxsets. ‘Life on Mars’, ‘Ashes to ashes’ and ‘House’ have been some of the highlights over the years. For longer sessions, you can’t beat ‘Chasing Legends’. For the past 2 winters I have been kept motivated by the 15 series boxset of ER (I’m still only on series 7).
  • No post ride bike cleaning.

But it’s still not quite the cycling I love.

This week has been February break so no nursery or playgroup. My husband took a couple of days off work and my road bike needed a test ride before my monthly club ride. So off I headed on my road bike. Outside.

It was only an hour.

It was an hour from which a bit of a quandary has been born.

I am now looking at the turbo with disgust. I no longer care whether Carter gets over Lucy’s death and whether Carol Hathaway manages to balance her new role as a mother with her job as a nurse (I have been watching a lot of ER).

I want to ride on the road.

I want to be outside in the fresh air.

I want to struggle up hills and kamikaze down the other side.

And it’s almost possible. It’s light enough at the weekends. It’s not that long until the clocks change and it’s light enough in the evenings.

But there was a reason for hitting the turbo. I want to race. I want to get back to time trialling like I used to.

I definitely wanted to.

But do I still want to?

I ride a bike because I am a cyclist and I cannot be myself without riding a bike.

I ride a bike because I want to be fit.

I ride a bike because it gives me the alone time I need to be a part of a close family.

Do I really ride a bike to race?

For me it comes down to time. For me to ride a time trial I have to get the bike in the car, drive at least half an hour to wherever the race is, sign on and wait about a bit, ride the race, get everything back in the car, drive home and unpack it all. That amounts to about three hours. Of that three hours, maybe an hour is spent on the bike.

What if I just binned the race, went out of the door and rode my bike for three hours.

Three whole hours.

That sounds amazing.

But what if I went to the race and did well. Went as fast as I used to. Beat my pre-parenthood pb’s even.

Faster than ever.

That sounds amazing.

So, I am back to an identity crisis.

To race or not to race. That is the question……