Life on bikes

We’re off on an adventure

One of the “comforting” things that lots of people say to you as a new parent is:

As soon as you think you know what you’re doing then the kids will change and you’ll be totally lost again! Hahaha it’s so funny!

Whilst it is true that the game keeps changing, and of course all children/families are different, for our family we found that the “terrible twos” were much easier than coping with the endless sleep deprivation of a newborn. A “threenager” who could now communicate effectively was easier again than an irrational two year old, and I haven’t worked out yet why people use the phrase “fournado” (though my wildfire youngest is still three).

Cycling for logistics as a family has been a bit the same. It changes constantly. The solutions that work with a three year old and a baby are quite different to the solutions that work with a six year old and a three year old. It has, however, by and large been easier and more fun with bigger, more independent and cooperative kids.

This was bought home to me recently when we went on our now-traditional annual car free holiday to the New Forest. We take our bikes (including my husband’s bike, two children’s bikes and my long tail electric cargo bike) on the train from Reading to Brockenhurst, along with luggage for a week’s stay in self catering accommodation near Lyndhurst. We pack as light as we can, because the most difficult bit of the logistics is getting the bikes on and off the trains and through the stations. We’re careful that the trains we choose have bike storage we can use.

Here are five things I noticed this year that were related to the kids being older.

  1. We could pack a lot lighter for kid entertainment. Their attention span for playing with a particular toy is much longer, and they can now make a game out of household items (pots/pans/cushions) without me worrying they’ll break something.
  2. More bikes, fewer pushchairs. Last year when our older child rode his bike it was walking pace for us and little one was in his pushchair. This year it was bikes for everyone and we left the pushchair behind (but on the uphill bits littlest and his bike were carried on our bikes).
  3. Mr 3 is more reliable. Last year when we were in train stations loading bikes on/off the train, he went in the sling to stop him running away. This year he loaded his own bike and managed it through the stations.
  4. Mr 6 is more patient. He understood that when Mr 3 is riding with us on the forest paths then we let Mr 3 lead. I credit some of this attitude to Kidical Mass rides, where we always try to go at the pace of the slowest rider. (Oh, before I forget, Dear Reader, I should tell you that the next opportunity to ride with Kidical Mass Reading will be at 12pm from Reading Cycle Festival on 10th September).
  5. Everyone has more stamina. I remember last year letting Mr 6 (then Mr 5) ride his bike on the road from Brockenhurst to the woods and it feeling like a long slog for him. This year it was trivial.

Riding through the woods with the kids was a real joy, though sadly even when they weren’t tired we carried them on many of the roads which were difficult, even as an adult, on a bike. It’s a bit strange for a place which sells itself to tourists as a great place for a cycling holiday. Perhaps they need a Kidical Mass group to encourage them to make it more accessible.