I had a pretty extraordinary Summer, bikewise. I got down to the lowest weight I’ve been since high school, I got faster than someone with the nickname “Fatty” has any right to be, and I did about as well in races as a middle aged guy with no genetic gift or pharmaceutical enhancement could hope for.
And now I’m feeling guilt.
Any of you who have dedicated yourself to cycling knows that it comes at the expense of something: either your job or your family (or a little bit of both). And since I report to the CEO of my company (not because I’m a corporate bigshot, but because I warrant micromanagement), sluffing at work for six monthw wasn’t an option.
Now I’m trying to make up for it.
The thing is, it’s not like I have a massive amount of time at the end of a workday. Of course, I can easily do stuff with the boys later at night — they like video games, I like video games. We all like trash-talking while we play video games. We’re all set.
The twins, though, now that’s a different matter. I’m not opposed to the way they play, but I simply cannot keep up or make sense of it. I think it’s a twin thing; they’re always doing very imaginative role-playing, and I think half of the communication about what’s going on happens via the psionic beam that connects them.
Plus, I just feel weird playing with stuffed animals. I’m just too macho for that.
But I’ve found a solution: a bike trailer:
(This is not my actual trailer; it’s an image I found on amazon.com. The real trailer has a chain, and the wheel has spokes. I find the distance from the hub to the rim stays much more consistent that way.)
Rather than going out on a ride by myself now, when I get home I give the twins turns riding with me.
So, yes: I’m making up for spending too much time on the bike by…riding my bike.
It has been a huge success.
When I first started taking the girls out riding, we just rode around the neighborhood. And that was enough, for a while. Especially if we went and got a snow cone as part of the ride.
But that got boring.
So, just as an experiment, I took one of the girls out to Lambert Park, a little slice of singletrack heaven about a half mile from where I live.
I expected a little bit of whining, maybe some complaining, and almost certainly a crash.
Instead, I have found the girls’ new favorite thing to do in the world. I am not exaggerating. If I ask them what they want to do, they will say “Go mountain biking!” every single time.
My victory is complete.
Riding a bike on the dirt with another person trailing behind you changes the ride experience. For one thing, the bike’s a lot longer. And it’s a lot heavier. Both of those things are pretty obvious, and not much of a surprise.
I have learned other things while riding with my twins, though.
- Be vigilant: Have you ever thought about how your center of gravity shifts when you turn around to look at something behind you? I hadn’t, until now. One of the girls in particular loves to look around while we ride, which means I need to keep both hands on the grips at all times to correct our balance.
- Be impressed: As I mentioned, one of the twins likes to look around while we ride together. The other one — to my amazement and delight — likes to stand up and hammer. Whenever we get to a hill and I stand up to pedal, she does too. When we reach the top, she always wants an assessment — could I tell how hard she was pedaling? The truth is, mostly I just feel like the rear end of the bike is wrestling with the front end of the bike when she pedals, but that’s not what I say. I say, “Are you kidding me? You were making us go so fast I almost had to use the brakes!”
- Be cool: I have a rule for myself when I’m riding with the girls: they’re in charge. If they want to sing while we ride, I sing along. If they want to stop and look at the deer bones, that’s great. If they want to scream on the downhill…well, actually, I do enforce a “no screaming” rule, but I do allow yelling. I don’t think they get the difference.
- Nothing is scary: At first, the girls called some of the twisty, downhill singletrack (Rodeo and Lambert’s Luge, for those of you who know Lambert’s Park) “scary.” I’ve been calling it “exciting” and “crazy” when they do, trying to get them to think of downhill riding as fun instead of threatening. This seems to be working, because the “crazytrack” (crazy + singletrack, apparently) is now a mandatory part of every single ride.
- You don’t spin out: This one’s just kind of wild. You know how when you stand up on an uphill climb you’re more likely to spin out? Well, if you have 70 pounds of weight (50 pounds of kid, 20 pounds of bike)pulling down on the seatpost, you can stand up and pedal to your heart’s content. Your rear wheel stays planted.
- It’s easy to become the most popular guy in the neighborhood: After the twins have their turns, it’s pretty common for their friends to be hanging around the front yard, hoping for a turn on the crazytrack, too. My response: “Sure, kid, you can have a turn. Remember, though: no screaming, never let go of the handlebars, and go have your parents sign this waiver.”
- The bike turns sharper than you’d expect: Since the clamp that connects the add-a-bike to the seatpost pivots, the bike actually becomes articulated when you do sharp turns. Which means hairpins aren’t the problem I thought they would be. And the girls have never complained about brushing against the brush or trees. It’s all part of the game.
By the time everyone who wants a turn has had a turn, I sometimes have been riding for 2.5 hours. They’d want to keep going, but it gets dark a lot earlier now.
I have no idea if pulling an extra 70 pounds for two hours qualifies as good training. I generally don’t feel particularly cooked afterward — I’m never going full-tilt, and the climbs aren’t very steep or long — so I suspect not. But I am getting out on a bike, and I am brainwashing my girls into loving what I love.
I have, in fact, started hatching this fantasy: What if — at age 57 — I crossed the finish line at the Leadville 100 accompanied by my twin daughters?
That would rule.
And it seems like I might be getting some traction with that idea. A few days ago, I was telling the twins about how their cousin — Kellene and Rocky’s youngest daughter — is shaping up to be a real cross-country track star. I asked, “Would you like to be a runner, like your cousin?”
“No, dad,” said one of the twins — the one who likes to stand up and hammer on the climbs. “I want to be a mountain biker, like you.”
I don’t believe I have ever been so happy in my entire life.
PS: I wanted to get some pictures of the girls riding, but that’s nearly impossible, since I’m on the bike with them at the same time. So here are a couple shots of them hiking to Timpanogos Cave with me a couple weekends ago (yes, on Susan’s birthday. One of my gifts to Susan was several hours of peace and quiet). Also, I’m posting these pictures because I hardly ever remember to send pictures to my family members, so figured I’d take care of that right here, in the (almost certainly somewhat wrong) assumption that my family actually reads this blog.