Riding with kids: Keeping them comfortable


On Sunday, I took my daughter for a ride to Penarth, a round trip of about 15 miles. The day was mild(ish), a bit breezy, but reasonably clement. At age 9 the distance is plenty; enough to stretch her legs fully without pushing her too far. We stopped at half way – ice cream for her, tea and cake for me – and rode back into the wind. With about 4 miles to go, the griselling started.

“I don’t want to go on that path. The park is nicer”.

“This grass is too long”.

“It’s too windy”.

It threw me and I didn’t respond terribly well, reminding her that she spends the winter racing cyclo-cross in much worse conditions and that I really couldn’t see what the problem was. The problem however, was entirely mine, not hers, failing to join the dots and being too dismissive. It didn’t ruin the ride – far from it – but it was an avoidable blight on an otherwise quality bit of time together. So what did I overlook?

When Evelyn was little, my wife was particularly good at picking up on when she or her friends were hungry or cold. There would be a little shift in behaviour, crabbiness perhaps or wilful acts of defiance. An extra jumper, a couple of pieces of fruit and hey-presto, different child. This is precisely what I was failing to pick up on; tiredness, hunger (it was close to lunchtime) and being just a little bit too cold. Within minutes of coming home, she had a quick snack, jumped in the bath and the dark clouds lifted. Once again, she was bouncing off the walls and asking to go out again. You’d think that after 25 years of endurance racing, training and coaching I’d be all over this like a rash. But I missed it all the same.

The morale of the story here is pay attention to the little things. Keep an eye on speed (even, or especially, if they’re whizzing along). Carry enough food. Keep an extra layer or two in reserve*. Act before the child realises that they need either. Incidentally, this is as much good advice for the adults as it is for the children. Nobody enjoys seeing a hissy fit on a club ride.

*I was carrying extra stuff, but failing to notice the signs.

4 replies »

  1. I’m very prone to hissy fits when cold or hungry or tired or bored. The list goes on. And yet I still usually miss the signs. Probably why I don’t have kids, it’s enough effort looking after myself!

    • It is very, very easy. I’m quite lucky. I’ve always been able to operate in the cold or on low food intake. Inevitably I slow down, but no mood swings (I remember a friend of mine telling me ‘EAT!’ in a very long mountain marathon. He could see me winding down like a clockwork toy). Conversely, I’ve seen some pretty spectacular meltdowns from adults and children alike. I think its a little like altitude sickness; you simply have no control over it and have to act to alleviate the symptoms. We’re all just a great big bag of chemicals.

      As an aside, after a mountain biking session with the JIF kids this weekend, I handed out a fruit bar to a young lad (aged 10) who looked particularly tired and in need of a bit of sugar. Within minutes he was back to his chipper self and waxing lyrical about the session.

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