Little Miss, cycling at Loch Lomond and my big grin
This weekend Little Miss cycled further than she’s ever cycled before. In fact, she cycled more than three times as far as her previous longest bike ride. And in doing so she surpassed her own expectations and self-belief. She also made me smile very broadly.
The cycling distance of 34 miles wasn’t exceptional. The route was flat, from Balloch to Tarbet on the West Loch Lomond Cycle path, and back again. Most children over the age of 11 or 12 would manage the outing on a bike. But after years of Little Miss thinking that she wasn’t very fit or sporty, she suddenly realised that an afternoon of cycling is well within her capabilities – and also something that is enjoyable.
Growing up with a sporty mum
You see, growing up with a very sporty mum hasn’t been so easy. Little Miss has been introduced to so many sports as a youngster. I offered her the opportunity to try as many clubs as possible but in each case she gave swimming, tennis, running or whatever a go and then decided it wasn’t for her. We tried bike rides with a tagalong, skiing and tennis holidays, walking weekends etc but none of these were really Little Miss’s thing. I expect she could feel my disappointment when she gave up on these activities but I tried hard to let her find her own way.
Meanwhile, Little Miss has always loved horse riding but sadly I do not share her love of the four-legged beasts. And so, we have ploughed our own sporty/non-sporty route through the last five to six years. I guess you might say that Little Miss has tolerated my sporty excesses while I have tolerated her love of doing much, much less.
A summer of change
But this summer things have changed. Little Miss is now adult size and much more capable of keeping up on a walk or a bike ride. She is still super slim and not so strong but she is light and fairly determined. On holiday in Sardinia we enjoyed a long-ish walk that previously she would have required to be piggy backed through. She went sea kayaking and loved it so much that we went again. She swam in the sea and enjoyed a solo riding hack. Suddenly, doing outdoorsy things as a mum and daughter team has become wonderfully possible.
Earlier this year, I also bought her a bike. I am ashamed to admit that Little Miss did not have a bike of her own for a year or more. She didn’t show any interest in cycling and I didn’t want to waste money on a bike that would sit in a shed. In the end I could take it no more. My daughter without a bike! I spotted a good bike on Gumtree and bought secondhand. The bike is adult sized and it should be the last one that I buy her while she lives at home. It has proved to be an excellent purchase.
Bike shorts to go with the bike
I also persuaded Little Miss to wear good bike shorts. She sees me, almost every day, wearing running or cycling kit but she has always seen it as unnecessary and embarrassing. But I convinced her that padded cycle shorts would aid her enjoyment on the bike. In the end we compromised. She agreed to try a trendy pair of “capri” three quarter length padded cycling tights. After the first time out in these tight-fitting tights she agreed they make a huge difference to saddle and bum comfort. The Cycle Surgery sell The North Face Spoke three-quarter women’s tights for £38.99 (rrp £64.99).
A summer of cycling
For the summer months, Little Miss has enjoyed short bike rides with her dad and the Wonder Whippet. She has also ridden her bike while I have run and the whippet has sprinted! The most she has ridden during these outings is six miles but she has been outside fairly regularly and enjoying herself.
I reckoned she would be able to cycle further but I wasn’t sure that she would enjoy a 30-mile bike ride.
The Loch Lomond bike ride
The beauty of the West Loch Lomond Cycle path is that you can stop and turn back at any point. If you want, you can cycle the full 17 miles from Balloch to Tarbet and then get the train back. Or you can choose to do the full out and back route. With all these options available I decided that this would be a good longer bike ride for Little Miss to try. In addition, the plan was to ride with my super-friend Ellen and her delightful middle boy, so there would be chat and encouragement along the way.
In the event, Little Miss rode out front for most of the route and cycled with amazing ease. She says she could have gone much faster and that it didn’t tire her at all. She looked effortless on her bike and she thoroughly enjoyed the full 34 miles. I think she was surprised by how easily the miles go by on a flat cycling route. I was stunned that after almost 15 years of encouragement and cajoling, Little Miss has found out for herself how great it is to be sporty outdoors. I am still smiling at this thought the next day!
PS. Congrats must go, too, to Ellen’s Boy 2 who rode 34 miles despite being only 11 and suffering a sore butt for some 32 of those miles. Ellen is off to buy him better shorts for next time!