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One of the wonderful things, and frustrating things, about cycling with children is that they keep growing! It's wonderful as you watch your child progress through the different stages of cycling. From being a tiny bundle strapped into a trailer or a seat, through the wobbly years of the balance bike or stabilisers to those tentative first pedalling moments, to them riding off into the distance. It's also incredibly frustrating, because just as you've got a bike set up that works perfectly, they grow out of it, and you're back to the drawing board (and the bank account).
One thing that's noticeable about the first few years of cycling with a young child is you get fitter as they grow. You tend to start off with one lightweight passenger in a bike trailer, cargo bike or child bike seat, and as they get heavier, you get fitter. Personally, I progressed from trailer to various child seats, and then pulled a tagalong behind my bike. However it works for your family, through all these changes you continue getting fitter, bit by bit.
Over the years, you may add more children into the equation and still your fitness levels rise. Some parents manage to carry 6 or more kids, in cargo bikes, rack mounted seats and other wonderful and unique combinations. At this point, your bike is more like a workhorse, groaning under the strain of carrying a rider and it's passengers. You watch other cyclists on carbon fibre racing bikes flash past as you plod along with your precious load. Through all of this, you can still go quite considerable distances, and you still get fitter.
Then at some point, your kids suddenly outgrow the 'being carried' phase and demand to pedal themselves. This can happen overnight, or it may be a slow progression. You may find yourself pulling them AND their bike part of the way, using something like a trailgator, trailangel or a FollowMe, to get to a safe place for them to cycle.
So, you still need to be fit but you're not pulling them quite so far. When they are safely away from the traffic you find you need to cycle more slowly, with less distance, as those little legs pedal so determinedly. One day, you realise you're not cycling quite so far as you used to. And still the other cyclists flash past you as you coast along behind your young pedaller, shouting words of encouragement.
Then, at some point, they get so big you can no longer pull them along. Your child, the one you've spent years carrying, towing and pulling along has to cycle themselves everywhere. If you live in the Netherlands or Denmark I suspect you all head off into the distance on your bikes at this point. However, in most places in the UK, you suddenly have to limit your cycling. You either need to drive to an off-road route at the weekends or during the holidays, or else limit them to well known and quiet on-road routes which you can train them to ride safely. Once again you're cycling a lot less than before and no longer struggling with a heavy load. Still the other bikes flash past you, as you ride behind your child, shouting safety instructions at every junction, bend or passing car.
Then, one day you realise that your offspring can ride quite well.
And that they've grown big enough to ride a decent bike with large wheels and lots of gears.
AND that they have youth on their side.
AND that you're not quite as fit as you used to be.
AND that in the very distant future you're going to be really struggling to keep up with them.
Then you look at your old workhorse and realise it's not up to the job any more. Suddenly you find yourself eyeing up those other bikes flashing past with new interest, start reading bike reviews and ensuring your rides out conveniently pass a bike shop.
If like me you're a mum, the need to find a bike that is comfy enough for a body that's been pregnant, given birth and been carrying kids around for the best part of a decade suddenly becomes a priority. At the same time, you realise that in the intervening decade there has been so much progress with bikes - frames, components, saddles (so important ladies!) and prices, all vary so much.
Thus my new priorities are:
1) to get fit enough to keep up with N as he tests out the new Islabikes Luath he's been sent for review, and
2) to decide which bike is going to help me with the marginal gains I suspect I'm going to need to keep up as the pace increases
As this new chapter in our cycling opens I'm really excited about planning the routes we'll ride, picking the perfect times for sneaking off for a ride together, exploring new places and enjoying the company of my children as we enjoy our shared love of cycling.
The hunt is now on for my perfect bike - wish me luck!
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