Before I had a kiddo, I would ride 2 hours a day after work and all-day on the weekends. I laugh about that now. Thankfully, I know plenty of other parents that can laugh along.
Recently, my husband was reading me responses to a post in a Facebook group he’s in about balancing family and cycling. Based on the comments, there is no doubt that raising kids and finding time to ride and/or train is a tricky thing. That said, if cycling is important to you, then it’s important to find a way to make it all work. From night riding to bike dates, here are some suggestions on how to balance it all.
If you are serious about both biking and parenting, then you are going to have to let things go that might seem important to other families. Depending on your priorities in life, that might be any number of things. It might mean skipping social events, or hiring a housecleaner. It might mean your lawn only gets mowed once every other week, or that you order in dinner three times a week. You have to accept that you can’t do it all.
While you may not have two hours a day to train anymore, chances are you still have to go to work and run errands. Start doing them by bike. You’d be amazed how much saddle team you can sneak in if you ditch the car and commute by bike.
#3: Get lights
My husband usually rides at least one night a week after the kiddo is tucked into bed. With a high quality light like the NiteRider Lumina*, it is totally feasible to ride even in the dark. For early risers, you could do this in the pre-dawn hours as well.
#4: Go to the bike park
If you’re a mountain biker, the local bike park or pump track is a great place to get in a little riding while also entertaining the kids. My son can spend two or more hours at the bike park riding and I’m always surprised when we’re done by how tired I am.
#5: Haul the kids
Take the kids with you on your next training ride and you’ll get an extra good workout. It doesn’t take may hill repeats towing a trailer to max out your heart rate.
#6: Go camping
One of my favorite ways to get in some long rides is to take the family camping. We’ll set up camp right on the trail and take turns riding all weekend. Dad rides, mom rides, kid rides. Everybody has fun.
#7: Have a bike date
If you both you and your partner are cyclists, forgo dinner and a movie and save your babysitter time for a bike date instead. My husband and I try to get in a ride together at least once a month.
#8: Make a schedule
Sit down with your partner and setup a schedule for when you can ride. This applies whether or not your significant other is a cyclist too. For example, at our house we swap rides on Saturday—I’ll take the morning ride and my husband will go in the afternoon. Then on Sunday, we’ll do a family mountain bike ride.
#9: Create a training plan
When you have limited hours in your week to ride, quality has to trump quantity. Work with a coach (or read The Training Bible for Cyclists) to develop a structured, high-intensity training plan that makes the most of your kid-free time.
#10: Take them to the races
When our little guy was still a baby, my husband and I entered a 12 hour mountain bike race as a duo. We literally used the baby as our baton at the hand-off. Cyclocross is another family-friendly race environment. You and your spouse can take turns racing and watching the kids, and there are sure to be other families willing to help out as well.
#11: Use your lunch break
If you have a long enough lunch break at work, consider skipping the local deli and using the time to ride instead. Even 45 minutes of intervals can provide a decent workout. Just remember the baby wipes to wash up before you head back to your desk.
#12: Hop on the trainer
If you’re a parent and you don’t already have a trainer, get one ASAP*. I have used my trainer several times a week for the last 4 years. Biking outside always trumps riding on the trainer, but there are times when you don’t have childcare or its late at night. Even if you only have 20 or 30 minutes you can get a decent spin in.
#13: Find off-the-bike activities to do together
Just because you’re not physically on your bike, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your bike stoke and spend time with your family. Watch the Tour de France together, teach your daughter how to fix her bike, or read a bike-themed bedtime story.
Bonus Tip: Adjust your expectations
At the end of the day, you might just have to accept that you’re not going to be as fast as you once were. Give yourself a break when you get passed on the trail. This is just a season of your life, and riding can still be fun even if you’re not super fit.