Young guns

Getting teenagers excited about cycling

On the eve of the 2008 Paris-Roubaix, my son Henri and his friend Paul asked my daughter Sam, his friend Clay, and Paul's dad Paul Sr. and I on a group ride from our home in Mountain View, California to Stanford University and back. You could say no when it's 80 degrees and sunny?

As a lifelong cyclist, it's been my dream to have a bike-happy family. As I've mentioned before, my family loves commuting to school and work, but we haven't done much pleasure riding together. Tandem rides to the local library are too utilitarian to be considered pleasurable, even though we chat the whole way.

The pleasure ride we shared Saturday was something usually reserved for grown-ups, actually. Clipping into road bikes, Lycra clad and ready for 15 miles or more on Foothill Expressway, is something many adults do everyday in my neighborhood, but I don't usually see many teenagers on road bikes in the same manner. Saturday was special, a day for the memory banks.

My nearly 15-year-old daughter Sam is a diesel engine; put her on a road bike and she's turning the pedals like pistons in a classic Mercedes engine. Henri's friend Paul is the same, with long, strong legs and a propensity to propel his bike along at 20-plus miles an hour without really trying.

Henri and his bandmate Clay are somewhat newer to road riding. Thankfully, despite their growing young teenage bodies, they have decent bikes that fit well. and are starting to understand the importance of smooth cadence, frequent shifting, proper hands-on-handlebar position, and the benefits of riding smart to conserve energy.

The beauty of our group ride Saturday was sharing saddle time with family and friends, in a conversational pace. Yes, I don't take for granted the fact that we live in one of the best bike-riding climates on earth, nor do I dismiss the fact that Stanford is just up the road a piece. The architectural marvels that dot the campus are truly awe inspiring, and Paul Sr., the kids and I enjoyed the extra tour.

Knowing full well that teenagers (and cyclists) think with their stomachs, Paul Sr. offered to buy a round of ice cream treats at a local place near our house after the ride. Slurping down a root beer float never tasted so good, and the excitable table talk among our teens was an even bigger treat. Everyone in our group asked when they could ride together again.

Ah, a dream come true indeed.

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