How to spot a parent on the trails

Super-efficient, multi-tasking, snack-making and child-towing

When kids come along it doesn’t mean an end to riding… it just means you’ve got to ride smart. Whether it’s tag-teaming the childcare, bringing along enough quality snacks to feed the entire mountain, or quality-over-quantity riding, here’s how to spot parents on the trails and why they’re the best type of person to ride with — though I might be biased!


I vaguely remember a time when I could spend all weekend riding trails. I could, at the drop of a hat, grab the maps and head out for a day of exploration on the mountains, ride 30 miles to the pub for a leisurely lunch, or simply have a morning session on the local trails followed by an afternoon on the couch — napping to the soothing sounds of ROAM playing once again on the TV.

If you crash we can fix you up with a Batman plaster

Then I had a couple of kids and my riding changed; trailers, back seats and Isla bikes started filling the garage. I’d cover only 10 miles during a five hour outing, I mastered trail-side breastfeeding in a Lycra jersey and spent endless afternoons in search of the perfect balance-bike-friendly pump track.

Learning to breastfeed while wearing a Lycra jersey is a handy skill to have
Jennifer Purcell

And while all of this was, and still is, completely awesome, the trails still call. There’s a yearning, a desire, a need to ride more than 4mph. To whip in and out of trees without worrying if the double trailer will fit. To be a person, rather than just a parent.

As parents, we’re part of a secret club now. A sleep deprived, slightly maniacal group of junkies, seeking a quick fix of our mountain bike drug, a hit of pure singletrack to see us through the next challenge our mini shredders are getting ready to throw at us.

Here’s how to spot parents on the trails

  • Our trailside snacks are in Tupperware boxes
  • We’re the first people at a trail centre because we’ve been awake since 5am
  • You may notice a trailer tow hitch, tag-along hook up or child seat mount still attached to our bike
  • We are experts on the resale value of Isla bikes and are happy to bore you with it
  • As we finish a lap of [insert favourite trail centre here], we’ll high five the husband/wife while simultaneously handing over the baby like a relay baton
  • We wave at tractor drivers
  • We shout “TUNNEL” when riding through tunnels
  • There’s a trail of rice cakes and raisins bouncing out of our backpacks down the trail like Gretel on a Yeti
Mountain bike holidays are still a firm fixture on the family holiday calendar
Jennifer Purcell

When the kids are at the age to ride with us:

  • You may hear “Pedal, pedal!” quickly followed by “Brake, brake, BRAKE!” echoing through the trees
  • You may see a large and small bike abandoned trail side, owners nowhere to be seen just the sounds of ‘should have gone before we set off’ coming from the woods
  • We’ll frantically tear off mid-sentence trying to catch up with our eight-year-old who’s slipped away while you’ve asked us what the hitch on our bike is for

Why you should ride with us at any opportunity:

  • We always carry plenty of snacks. Seriously, plenty. If you ride with us you’ll never go hungry
  • If you crash we can fix you up with a Batman plaster
  • If you get chain grease on your new shorts we can get it out with a wet wipe from our backpacks. Those bad boys will clean anything up
  • There’s no food guilt at lunch time. We always have the burger and chips because we’re not having to set a healthy example to the juniors
  • We’ll give you bang for your buck. Time is limited so we want to hit the best trails in the time allowed
  • You’ll be keeping us company. Time on the bike can be rare, time on the bike as a couple is even rarer. And we won’t bore you with details on the resale value of kids’ bikes for the whole ride…

Recognise any of these or got any more to add? Pop them in the comments section below!