The sight of mum dad and their sprogs gently cycling down the promenade is guaranteed to have image conscious teenagers snorting into their copies of Mountain Biking UK. And, yes, it is a bit cheesy and middle class.
Especially if the combination of watching highlights of the Tour de France and raging mid-life crisis have left dad over-dressed for the occasion in aerodynamic, fluorescent skin suit and wraparounds.
But let’s forget the cheesiness and the skin suit for one minute, and be serious. No sniggering at the back! Not only are group outings a great way for both parents and kids to keep fit but they can do wonders for family bonding, too, especially as the passage of time begins to widen the gap between the generations.
Parents who take up cycling also have the bonus of enjoying themselves while being able to keep an eye on their kids, rather than sitting glumly on a park bench as their equally disconsolate child goes through the motions.
An even more painful occurrence is the parent shouting “Slow down, I don’t want to lose sight of you”, as they trudge along on foot behind a child obviously champing at the bit to get into second gear at least once that day.
Message to parents
So the message to parents is: if you want your child to get the most out of that Christmas or birthday present, then instead of holding them back, get involved yourself. It doesn’t always have to be sedate trips through the park in single file, or always together as a group.
For example, father and son, or mother and daughter, may decide to take an interest in off-roading or road racing.
Then there are the specialist holiday centres that include cycling as an activity. If you want to broaden everyone’s horizons even further, there are touring packages that involve itineraries lasting one to two weeks, either within the United Kingdom or further afield, such as rural France or Italy.
While the pace on these cycling breaks is leisurely, they are usually best suited to older kids who have reached a certain level of competence on two wheels.
The route ahead
On the practical side, when venturing out as a family group, it is always advisable for parents to take up positions towards the rear: first, because they have both their kids and the route ahead clearly in their vision; secondly, so that they don’t up the pace, consciously or unconsciously, leaving their offspring struggling to keep up.
Another aspect to bear in mind is the need to check everyone’s bikes before heading off. Kids tend to be rather blasé when it comes to safety so ensure that all nuts are tightened, brakes are functioning normally, chains are kept clean and tyre pressures are correct.
No one is suggesting a cycle-crazy 16 year old is going to want to be seen dead with their parents, but at least until their early teens the sport can help maintain some common ground that would otherwise be lost a lot earlier.
And when they do get to that rebellious stage, you’ll still be fit enough to challenge them to a race. Then we’ll see who’s the daddy!