Dad up: 7 top tips for successful family cycling

18 Jan

Life has a habit of getting in the way. Work, chores and responsibilities reduce our leisure time to a bare minimum. Organising any sort of fun activity can be a challenge, more so when we’re trying to get children and other family members involved and enthusiastic. And then it rains, and our determination drains away before we’ve even made it to the door.

Dad up! (I’m writing this as much for my myself as anyone else). If bike riding is your thing (and it should be), here are my top tips for maximising the chance that your best-laid cycling plans come to fruition: Continue reading

Are you a nervous cyclist?

18 Jan

Sometimes I am nervous about getting on a bike. This is despite having cycled almost all of my life, including many years spent commuting through central London. Even though I know I will enjoy it once I’m off and riding.

Perhaps these feelings are just a reflection of my increasing risk aversion as I get older and my family responsibilities become more apparent. The unfortunate side effect of the important work done by cycling organisations and media to champion cycle safety and driver awareness is to amplify the sense of danger, through (necessarily) focusing disproportionately on worst case scenarios. Our perception of risk has been shown to be skewed by how terrible we judge the event to be, rather than the likelihood of it occuring (hence why people obsess about child abductions and plane crashes, rather than avoiding heart disease and car journeys).

I don’t have the statistics to hand (which is disappointing when I appear to be alluding to a statistical-based approach to assessing risk), but you have to believe the vast majority of cycle journeys are joyous affairs, passing with very little incident. For those with a less poetic bent, perhaps we can agree that most bad cycling experiences tend to be caused by rain, wind, potholes and the odd driver passing too closely.

Irrespective of any pre-ride negativity, I know that as soon as I step onto the bike and make that first revolution, I will generally be having fun. If not fun, then at least I will enjoy a grim determination to continue doing it for a bit. I can’t think of an instance where trepidation for my safety remained once I had commenced the journey.

For those parents or carers new to riding with children, either in a bike seat, a pull-along or riding beside them, if you are nervous, go somewhere safe to practice. A park, an offroad cycle path or on quiet residential road. Somewhere where you can make those first pedal revolutions and remind yourself that the fun outweighs, and replaces, the nervousness.

Yes, accidents (and tragedies) happen, which everyone should learn from (cyclists, other road users, politicians and transport planners).  We should adapt our riding and our behaviour to suit the conditions, the traffic and the terrain.  But nervousness should never stop us or our children getting on our bikes and riding.

Why I want my children to love cycling

18 Jan

It’s common for a parent to want their children to follow a particular course through life. Maybe to pursue the parent’s career, or maybe to do something quite different. To share the parent’s interest in a given hobby, either for altruistic reasons (I am sure they will love to watch this year’s Mongolian Snail Wrestling Championship…) or for more selfish ones (I want them to join me in my two-man peanut hustling team). Certainly we want our children to share our basic values and beliefs.

Like many parents, I attempt not to be pushy in my children’s pursuit of academic, artistic or sporting excellence (it helps that they are aged 4 and 1). It feels like their lifelong happiness is not to be found through having parents with overly-high expectations or demands.

That, of course, all goes out of the window when it comes to bikes. Continue reading

Who is the Grimpeur Heureux?

18 Jan

I am the Grimpeur Heureux. I am a 33-year-old Yorkshireman, living in London. I have a wife and two children. Last year I gave up my job as an investment banker (boo, hiss) to be a full-time father and to support my wife as she completes her GP training.

One of my proudest recent achievements was to help my son learn to ride his bike just 2 weeks after his 4th birthday (when he received his first proper bike, a red Islabike). For my daughter (currently 21 months), I am targeting a ‘learn by’ date just after her third brithday.

I’m writing this blog because i) I like to read, and that reading now encompasses a large number of blogs (or web-logs as I like to call them); ii) I like to ride my bike; iii) I like to read about people that ride bikes; and iv) I am not very good at riding my bike (in the fitness sense, rather than falling off sense). So I thought I would try my hand at writing about a topic I enjoy, with a view to improving at the hobby I enjoy.

Why ‘Grimpeur Heureux’? Apart from giving me huge scope to include a typo in virtually all of my posts, I chose the name because i) I am happy (and I am interested in the ‘science’ of happiness); and ii) if I was ever going to be decent at anything cycling wise, it would be climbing. I certainly do not have the physique of a sprinter or a rouleur.

Sadly, my exploits on a bike don’t suggest a great propensity to be a King of the Mountains either. Like many recreational road cyclists, I assumed that it was the ‘weight’ component of the power/weight ratio that was holding me back in the high mountains (rolling hills of Kent). I was therefore disappointed recently to find that when I calculated my ideal cycling weight using this website (,4), I am just about right.

That means it is the ‘power’ that is missing, and I think I’m going to find it more difficult to address than excess weight. In any event, I plan to chart my attempts to increase power, speed and mileage on this blog and, in doing so, try to show that even those without natural athletic prowess can get enjoyment and satisfaction from challenging themselves on a bike.