The Outing

Parenthood changes you. Exploits that used to excite me, such as heading off to the Rockies, alone, for a month, gives me the sweats now. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to ride in the Rocky Mountains day after day for weeks on end, the problem I have is the thought of leaving behind my wife and son.

I snapped the image above at the Tour de France some years ago before the start of a stage in the Pyrenees. I wasn’t yet a father and yet seeing this family together made my heart ache for children who could share my Tourphilia.

These are dark days for professional racing and while I’m concerned about turning pro racers into role models for my son, I’m still comfortable with the celebration that races make of cycling. The problem isn’t cycling, after all. The problem lies within the hearts of men. And I don’t just mean the dopers. The UCI is as much a part of this problem as the riders ever were. After all, the history of doping in the sport shows that the UCI really never lifted a finger against doping unless there was a scandal. And boy, dead riders are the mother of all black eyes.

I look forward to the day I can take my family to the Tour and let my boy revel in the magic that is France in July. No one can ruin that for me, for us.

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15 comments

  1. Chris

    I went Moab earlier this year to mountain bike and trail run for 8 days, while my 11 year old daughter stayed put in school. There were numerous times while mountain biking that I would roll up on a technical section and quickly try and decide if I should give it a go. Many of those times my daughter would pop into my head and I knew instantly that I was walking that section. If I can’t 100% focus on the pile of rocks in front of me, then I needed to walk and be certain I came home to her in one piece. Having a daughter has certainly changed the way I ride, and I am eternally grateful for that :)

  2. Wayne

    Parenthood changed me deep inside. It saddens me that it does not seem to have that effect on everyone but for most people I believe it is more profound than they expect.

    I appreciate your sharing that part of your life. Too many people seem to devalue raising children these days.

  3. Lachlan

    here here,
    In my mind I’ve already got my 18month and 3year old daughters down for trips to the Giro and Tour etc around 2025. But then again in my mind I also have them down to be racing in them in about 2035 : o ) )

    Well at least I can say that whenever they see a racer, or a copy or Rouleur etc they point and say “dada”. Gilbert wins a classic…its Dada… Andy S powers over the top of an alp…its Dada.

  4. Chris

    @Lachlan
    My two year old girl is the same. Points and says Daddy.
    Of course, she’s seen the pros at this year’s Ronde, so she should be able to see the difference :-)
    We have pics of her with a lion of Flanders flag. So cute.
    Hopefully she’s going to grow up loving the sport like her mum and I do. Either way, she’s going to get dragged to a lot of bike races.

  5. MCH

    It may indeed be a dark time for cycling. But as Davis Phinney said about his then high-school age son, “better cycling than high school football”. Many of the alternatives aren’t to attractive.

  6. todd k

    I hear you about the bits of anxiety you get when you leave to go ride out of town. I went a whopping two hours away this past weekend to ride the same roads the Hood River Classic followed, and while driving there I kept wondering “is this really what I should be doing”? Couldn’t I just do a couple of short rides closer to home? But I find these occaisional trips do me good. I come back mentally refreshed and more aware of my role as a parent.

    Likewise, I am also more conservative with respect to my riding. A tad slower on the down hills. Not likely to enter a crit. Less willing to race the red light. More likely to ride a bit closer to the shoulder (or pull off the road) if I think the car behind me is behaving aggressively towards me.

    I’ll likely try to steer my boys more towards the simple joy of riding and exploring direction of riding a bike. If they choose to race, that is fine, but what I really hope to instill in them is the joy that can be found simply riding around roads or trails. It is the exploratory nature of cycling I still love most about the sport. Wondering what is just around that corner. Watching the scenery change over the course of several miles. Wondering if I take that left turn if I will make it home when I said I would return home. Wondering what the view will be if I can make it to the summit. Wondering if that is they actual summit or a false summit.

    Oh, I’ll probably blather on and on about the history of the sport of racing a bike the whole time, but I’m really hoping it is the particapatory part of riding a bike for fun that they latch onto the most.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Wow, thanks everyone for sharing your perspective. Parenthood, like cycling, made my world a bigger, richer place.

      MCH: There are a lot of options out there for him to pursue, but football has not, will not be one of them. I’m assuming soccer is on the horizon (he’s already able to dribble a ball a bit), but competition doesn’t need to be a big part of what he does. I certainly won’t force him to race.

      I could do with him pointing to Spartacus on TV and saying “Dada!” I think that would work for me.

  7. Chanti

    It’s not exactly the same, but this post made me think about the decisions I’ve made throughout my pregnancy (34 weeks along currently) to gradually slow down, be more cautious, and eventually steer clear of unsafe roads and single track. When your head is thinking about the little one and not the obstacles it’s best to just stick to a trainer ride.

    Also thought about the husband and my desire to go watch the America’s Pro Cycling Race in CO this year. If the little girl is on time she would only be 5 weeks old. She’s not here yet and we’re already changing behavior and decided to stay home and watch on TV with her by our side.

    We do have plans to take her to see Cyclo-cross Worlds in Louisville in 2013 and have already started looking for that first bike. :-)

  8. Kris

    My wife gave birth to our 2nd child in March and our first real bonding moment was watching Paris Roubaix 2011 while she slept on my chest. Any time I get a moment to stream a live race, I will put it on while my son and I make pancakes for breakfast. His favourite rider is Tom Boonen and puts his hands up in the air to mimic the winner as they come across the line. I think I will let him enjoy watching and dreaming about his bike before I share the dark side of the sport.

    Since my first child was born, I always feel a little apprehension every spring when getting out for the first ride of the year. Never quite sure if the rust will come off quick enough or whether or not drivers will be thinking of cyclist on the road in March. Priorities change and trying to be the greatest cyclist on my block doesn’t really matter anymore (I have 2 neighbours who can drop me with 5-6 pedal strokes). Don’t get me wrong. Love the sport but I would rather take my kids on a ride to get ice cream opposed to a solo 120km ride (as fun as that is).

  9. J-Man's Dad

    My Daughter, now 15, joined us in France in ’04. Side of the road for the TTT, in the rain, in the same clothes for 36 hours because the airline lost our luggage. She was as mesmerized as an 8 year old could be. The evening of the first rest day, in the same restaurant as T-Mobile, as he’s leaving, Erik Zabel scoopes her up in his arms for a photo. That afternoon, Thomas Voekler smiles & waves to her during his team’s rest day ride After that July of wandering the backroads of France, When she was 12 we entered a co-ed team time trial together, where I pushed her up the hills, and she yelled at me to go faster on the flats, as my billboard like draft sucked her along. Now she’s a district champ in the junior women’s 15/16 age group in the Road Race, Crit, & I.T.T., with a top 10 finish at the nationals last year, in her first full season racing with a local junior development team. Sometimes, she will still let me ride with her, at least on her “easy” days, when I can keep up.

    The conversations had between a father and his teenage daughter while riding have been priceless. How many dads can effectively communicate with their teens? Unfortunately, sometimes we have to discuss doping. She has expressed an interest in cycling as a career choice, so we must frankly discuss everything that that entails. But she has developed a passion for the bike, and all the lessons it can teach us, that make me so proud. and her 5 year old little brother is growing more fearless by the day, after being totally immersed in the cycling culture. From being in the trailer behind me as we ground our way to a KOM for the Tour of California, to waking up bleary eyed in the car seat after an early morning departure to watch his big sister race in the middle of nowhere. It’s only a matter of years before he drops me too.

    I wouldn’t change a thing. I am so fortunate.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      What a terrific collection of observations and reminiscences everyone. Man, your comments make this blog such an ongoing surprise and treasure. Thank you.

  10. Steve Haynes

    Did riding change with kids? For SURE.

    Instead of the 4 hour rides I once did around Austin I now finish in two hours and then hook up the customized kid trailer (campy hubs……) to the racing bike and haul them up the 22% grade hills for their 10 mile ride to the doughnut shop. The girls pick out two chocolate sprinkle things and I get my chocolate milk. When we finish, I pile them back in the trailer grind away on the hills smiling all the way back home with a giggling 2 year old and 4 year old yelling “Faster daddy, faster” every time we get to the monster hill I have to climb. Nothing like that for motivation to up the wattage.

    On those days when work is bleak and I see all of the cyclists out on the road in the evening as I’m rushing to do bath duty with the kiddo’s, I think about the guy who waited at the top of the hill I was climbing with the kids one day and said “now that’s a super dad if I’ve ever seen one”.

    I realize that having the kids has made my riding more enjoyable and focused, and those 10 mile runs with the trailer more valuable than any of the state championships I won back in the day.

    And, I get a hell of a workout hauling 80 pounds of kid and trailer up those damned climbs

  11. naisan

    @J-Man Love your comment. Precious.

    My son loves watching races with me too – early morning magic when we get up to watch the various races.

    I started racing as a pre-teen, and it was a magic time for me – the freedom of being able to go where I wanted even before I had a car, and hang out with all these cool adults, and learn so many things.

    Cycling is a unique community in the US, full of special, caring, wonderful people, and I’m richer for that community now, as an adult.

    Every time I see a young rider I take some extra time out, because by showing them the beauty of souplesse, the elegant economy of our locomotion, the warm and quirky camraderie of the road, we can ensure that our precious legacy continues.

  12. P Poppenjay

    Beautifully,perfectly stated, Padraig.
    Your pride and your happiness as a Dad are a joy to observe.
    The Tour trip will happen. You and your family deserve this trip of a lifetime. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Dan O

    Becoming a parent has made my riding more enjoyable then ever. I’m damn lucky my son seems to have inherited my cycling bug. Since age 5, we’ve enjoyed many rides together.

    He’s now almost 12 years old and I’ve watched his skills progress to racing mountain bikes and cyclocross as a junior. We’ve done a few race series over the years, this year he’s officially on a junior development team. We take all this super casual with an emphasis on fun.

    The racing is cool, but nothing beats just us getting out on mountain bikes for singletrack cruising – which we do often. Flat out awesome father/son time. Over the last few months his skill level has really ramped up. On some twisty downhill singletrack sections, he can drop me at times. Fantastic stuff. As he gets faster and I get older, he’ll eventually drop me like a bad habit. And that’s totally okay by me.

    Kids interests come and go. The cycling aspect continues to stick. I’m enjoying every moment while I can. However, I think this shared passion will be around for awhile…

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