We truly believe that distance is relative. 'Far' is dictated by a multitude of factors ranging from responsibilities and commitments to fitness and access.
RELATIVITY is a new series that tells the stories of our Collective Members and how they keep their pedals turning toward their annual Milestone.
First up is Toby Cummins -- husband and father of three, he spends four days a week working in London and the remaining three at home near the Lake District, where he devotes an increasing amount of time to his not-so-much-a-side-project-anymore, Cold Dark North.
Riding on a family holiday. One place where it's certainly not about how fast, and all about how far (and how often) you're able to ride.
But first a little context.
I'm a married father of three small boys (nine, seven and 18 months), so my annual target of 5,000km is only possible because I have an incredibly tolerant (non-cyclist) wife and kids that can be persuaded to try anything once.
I'm the sort of rider that needs to be out every few days to maintain my mental and (at least ostensibly) my physical wellbeing. My wife knows this; I suspect it's a large part of her tolerance when we're at home. Family Holiday is her break too though, and that tolerance can be understandably stretched when we're all away together.
Following a period out of work, I'm currently consulting and therefore both money and time are of a premium. So we decided on a week's holiday to the Scottish island of Mull in the glorious summer sunshine (every droplet of it).
Driving from our home just south of the beautiful Lake District for the best part of 10 hours with various detours and ferries meant an initial challenge of how much stuff we could pack into and onto our SMax.
It inevitably led to an early conversation about bikes.
I wanted to bring everyones'... My cross bike, her hybrid (with baby seat), the older boys' mountain bikes, helmets, shoes, etc. It was possible but not popular. We settled, or rather it was settled, that I would bring both the eldest's and my road bikes. The middle one has just started riding his older brother's roadie so this gave three of us a sporting chance.
Well that's lovely then. We're on holiday, in a stunningly beautiful place with over 200km of single track tarmac roads on the island and virtually no traffic. There's our cottage at the top of a mile long twisty 20% switchback-fest and the weather forecast is actually pretty decent for at least half the week.
Nothing to do but continue pedalling toward that Milestone.
With almost a decade of negotiating ride time on Family Holidays, I have some tips for anyone who finds themselves in a similar position:
I love to plan routes but pre-holiday it's especially important. You need to have 4-5 routes of a set distance (and more importantly, time) ready to go at a moment's notice. This is not the time or the place for dithering or getting lost. You're on a Goodfellas pasta-sauce stirring style timescale here. An hour to an hour and a half max, taking into account the terrain (and Mull is a 2%av gradient kind of spot), bringing you home in time to do breakfast, bathtime or bedtime as needed. Strava's route planner adjusts average time of routes to account for your usual speeds and the gradients of the route. Win.
Your ride should always get you where you need to be in plenty of time for whatever it is you need to do next. So book in well in advance. As I said, my wife is tolerant, but she's rightfully not a fan of the "oh look, it's sunny, I'm just off for an hour" just as the 3pm tantrums start to kick in. I try to get out early and be back just after/for breakfast or go out after the baby is asleep at 7.30/8pm. Thankfully it's light very late up in Mull. Also see 3.
Even better than a loop home to find you shouldn't have gone out at all is the ride to (or often better from) the place you're going to anyway. Family off to the beach, ride there. Family going to the cafe, ride home from there. As long as it's not too far away, the journey time is dead time you could make use of without putting too many noses out of joint. Short, sharp rides often enough are better than trying to get a proper long ride in. Also see 4.
My 9 year old is a decent road rider, he prefers his rugby, but he can tap away for 25-30km without too much complaint - snacks are the key, but that's a different blog altogether. So what better way to satisfy the need to cycle than to do it with him? He immediately wanted to try the climb up to the house (punchy!). He was happy to ride to the beach on Day 3 (10km over a proper mountain). He's even keen to ride back sometime. Perfect.
As I may have mentioned before, my wife is tolerant of my cycling addiction. But there's a natural snapping point. Every day, too much. Long rides, too much. Middle of the day, too much. But more importantly, she needs time to do whatever it is non-cyclists do to unwind too. So, whilst it feels like it's a bit cold and programmatic, there is a certain amount of tit-for-tat in the Family Holiday. We all need to be better at considering our other half's priorities. Be caring and earn your time on a bike, even if you're religiously observing Tips 1-4.
All things considered, it is possible to ride on a Family Holiday, stay married and civil. Some might even say happier and healthier. I think I might have unlocked the next level the other day when I rode a pre-planned hour long loop pre-breakfast, served a fry-up for the family and then rode to the beach with my eldest for a day of fun in the freezing surf. But that's just from my perspective.
Mull Holiday Stats:
Distance Ridden - 107km
Rides - 5
Longest Ride - 1hr 12 mins
Highland Cow Blockades - 1
Relatively Happy Families - 1