Commuting With Kids
The Only Time It’s OK to Wear Really Tight Clothes to Pre-School
By David Mider, Brand Director
The addition of small, dependent, humans affects every aspect of your life. First, there’s the love and complete adoration. But then there’s how much time you spend at work to what time you go to bed to what degree of unidentifiable soil is on your clothing at any given moment. For me, time, energy, and fitness are the most crippling sacrifices at the hands of these sweet, sociopathic miracles. Am I blaming them for gaining weight, eating too much, and being inactive? Sort of. Lost are 4-hour bike rides. Lost are post-ride pints under the setting sun. Lost are the razor sharp tan lines.
One night, in the fall, while sitting on my couch staring, I discovered that I was large, tired, and sedentary. All my clothes had shrunk. Family duty, righfully so, trumped everything, and I needed to creatively regain some personal accomplishment. Somehow I must combine my domestic responsibilities with my health and fitness needs.
I decided to do it via daily child transport. My two children, a boy and girl, attended preschool about 3 miles from home. The shop is five miles from preschool. That’s a total of eight miles one way. Not impressive, but along with this life adjustment were new and realistic outlook of my cycling life:
Any ride is a good ride, regardless of speed or distance. That was something I had to accept.
The Rig and the Plan.
My initial wish was to be a real urban commuter. I didn’t want to be a Lycra guy, especially if I had to interact with parents, teachers, and tiny kids at preschool. I felt self-conscious being the dad in really tight, shiny pants. Instead, I pictured myself fashionable and modern, with an ease that says, “Good morning! I am green, fit, and part of the solution!”
I got a cool steel Masi with a SRAM double click 8 speed drive and flat bars. It had a lot of stylish Italian whimsy. I outfitted it with a Burley Cub double trailer. It’s a sturdy, but relatively light, carrier. Both kids fit snugly but comfortably. Most of the time. I used Shimano A530 double pedals so I could go platform or SPD clip-ins. I opted for a Topeak bag for my computer & clothing storage, although since I was using a trailer, often it would just go inside.
My ride to school with my precious cargo had a slight uphill grade all the way. I hurt. Bad. During one of these first Humiliator rides I took the time to add up the weight of trailer (28 lbs), Girl Child (42 lbs), Boy Child (38 lbs), and my backpack (14 lbs.) That’s 122 extra pounds. And it felt like it. My cadence on the trip to school was a spinny 75-ish. It was a grinder all the way, but I had fun listening to the kids yell about birds and squirrels. From school to the bike shop was speedier, and all told, it was a 45-50 minute trip. I was satisfied with that workout.
The trip home was pretty quick until the last quarter of a mile or so. We couldn’t get home without climbing a final hill with a 7% grade. I taught the kids to cheer, “Go Daddy Go!” during the ascent, and that helped a little. It was on these rides I discovered the power of a child’s mood. If they were happy and giggling, my ride was inspired and peppy. “Weeeeeeee!!!” on a downhill is a lot of fun. However, if the kids are poking and fighting during threshold effort, it will destroy your ride. Believe me, during those first weeks, I was at threshold. I always brought along entertainment like books, toys, and snacks to distract them from beating each other. However, there were several moments when I had to say, “If you don’t quit bugging her I am gonna stop this bike…”
As for the stylish steel bike? Heavy. At least relatively speaking. I felt every pound. I also found that I am not a flat bar guy, after riding a road bike with drops for so many years. I traded the Masi for a Trek Cyclocross bike. Good tough tires and an aluminum frame. Lighter, aero, and faster.
And Clothes? I had to decide what was more unsettling for a teacher, kid, or parent at preschool: A fat cycling nerd in full kit or a guy in regular clothes who is perspiring an alarming volume. I remember those first trips, drenched, and worried strangers asking, “Are you ill?” So I went back to Lycra.
The commuting decision worked. I got my workouts. I got to spend time with my kids. And you’ve heard this before, but starting your morning with a good hard ride (albeit slow) and providing pollution-free transportation is an energizer.