“How many more minutes do we have?” my 6-year-old son breathlessly asked, pedaling down the trail, as fast as his little legs would take him. I looked down at my watch and wiped my brow as the hot Texas sun beat down upon us. It was 3:53 PM. “We have 7 minutes, buddy!”
“Will we make it, Mommy?” called my 9-year old daughter, just up ahead of us. She was trailing my husband, who was at the lead of the pack – headed toward our destination: Sonic Drive-In.
“YES! Let’s go!” I shouted. That was all they needed to hear to kick it into high gear.
12 miles into what would become a 14.5 mile bike ride, the reward of a cold treat on the way home tempted each of us to push and race against the clock to make Sonic’s beloved “happy hour”— half price drinks and slushes! — which had quickly become our family’s new quarantine habit.
We made it with two minutes to spare, collapsing onto the grass in a heap while we waited for our order.
When we moved to Texas from Michigan last summer, we didn’t have a ton of time to explore our new neighborhood. Between unpacking, work, the kids’ new soccer schedules, and their new mid-August school start date, our summer was cut dramatically short. We managed to take a few quick bike rides around our neighborhood, but my son couldn’t go far with his training wheels on.
In December, he finally learned how to ride his bike: #GameChanger. He was raring to go, and the next weekend, he asked if we could bike to breakfast — something that we had done often back in Michigan, with our son pulled in a bike trailer. But now he was a big kindergartner, ready to ride on his own and, much to our surprise, he did great on our first 4-miler. (Note to all parents: never underestimate the motivating power of blueberry pancakes!)
As his confidence grew, it was clear he was ready and eager to ride more often and for longer distances.
Of course, we had no idea just how soon so many opportunities for family bike rides would come. By mid-March, the world around us went virtual due to the pandemic as we abided by our state’s stay-at-home orders. And with no sports, activities, play dates, or birthday parties on the calendar, we had all the time in the world to build a new tradition: long-distance family bike rides.
And so, for the past dozen or so weekends, we’ve been exploring the parks, waterfront, trails, and neighborhoods of our new city — logging dozens of miles and making countless memories along the way.
What started out as a way to get out of the house and get our heart rates up during these chaotic times has become a genuine family tradition — one I hope we will carry with us long after social distancing stops defining our days.
If you haven’t taken up biking yet, here are a few reasons to consider it now.
1. It’s a healthy activity.
Biking is a great example of b’riyut, the Jewish tradition that values the body and good health/wellness. While there are plenty of fun quarantine activities we have done over the past few months (board games, baking, puzzles, getting puppies), we’ve really enjoyed being active as a family — doing something good for our minds and our bodies. Physical activity can help reduce stress, strengthen muscles, improve cardiovascular health, build stamina and more. Plus, biking helps to reduce our carbon footprint and protect our environment, a great example of haganat hateva. (And not that I need any justification, but that extra glass of wine or scoop of gelato feels a wee bit more “earned” after a long day on the trails!)
2. It’s an athletic pursuit we can ALL participate in.
We’re all active in our own ways: the kids play soccer; my husband plays racquetball and soccer; I run and do Camp Gladiator. But biking is the one thing we all enjoy, and that we can do together, regardless of our skill set. You don’t need a fancy bike or an expensive one. We got our son’s bike off Facebook Marketplace, and my husband and I have had ours since our pre-kid days, when we used to ride all over town together.
3. The promise of a challenge.
I can’t speak for all kids, but many kids — mine, especially! — are competitive by nature. Give them a challenge, and they are on it. This past weekend was the first time we hit over 12 miles — logging a total of 14.5. You’d think they’d just won Olympic medals, they were so proud of themselves — and we were proud of them, too. They set their minds to it and yes, they whined, and, yes, sometimes they needed to be cheered on, and there were many water/snack/meal breaks along the way … but they did it. That sense of pride that comes from achieving a goal is something they can take with them their whole lives.
4. Lessons in perseverance.
We’re Jews; we don’t give up easily! While long bike rides are absolutely nothing compared to the actual horrors and hardships our people have had to face over time, grit and perseverance are ingrained in our DNA. We will find a way to keep going. Each of my kids have fallen and gotten skinned knees and elbows halfway into rides, but they’ve never once asked to turn around. They’ve wanted to keep going each time. To me, this speaks to who we are as a people; we persevere.
5. It’s made us closer.
This one is by far, the most important of all. Not only are we making memories — like the day we arrived at Sonic and the sky opened up in a dramatic, sudden storm; or the time we found a giant tree with a swing and walked around it to determine how old it was (at least 300 years!) — it’s also improved our family dynamics during this otherwise stressful time. My son even noted that we all get along so well when we’re on these adventures; he’s declared several of our rides “the best day of his life.” We’ve gotten lost, forgotten snacks, been rerouted due to trail floods, dealt with a flat tire — but amidst it all, real-life problem-solving hasn’t resulted in many spats among us. We’re all working toward a common goal: Sonic… uh, I mean, finishing the ride together!
So whether your bike has been collecting dust in the garage or you’ve been afraid your kids are too young for long rides, give it a shot. They may just surprise you. And who knows — a new family tradition may blossom.
Image by samposnick/getty images