The beauty of cycling is that it’s not only an activity that can be done at nearly any age, but it’s easy to ride with someone else of a different level of experience as you. Which is likely the reason a majority of new riders have started riding is due to a friend or family member, who is already a cyclist, roped them into a ride. Which is exactly how I got my mom to fall in love with gravel riding.
My mom enjoys riding bikes, but her experience has been on a traffic free, flat towpath while riding a bike that weighs no less than 57 pounds. Not only that, but the bike has flat bars with semi-working gears. So we had some work to do before she was going to ride on the roads of Fort Collins on an RLT drop bar gravel bike.
First thing was to teach her how to shift on SRAM. We rode around my neighborhood practicing shifting up and down for about 10 minutes. Which was also a good time for my mom to get comfortable with drop bars. She’d never used them and was figuring out where to place her hands while she rode. After the shifting lesson, we went straight for the pedestrian and bike gravel paths near my house. I forget that riding on gravel, especially when things get a little rocky or loose, can be intimidating. It was awesome to be able to ride a path with my mom that I ride and run nearly daily. This routine route was suddenly new and fun again. I was constantly pointing things out along the way, which helped my mom loosen up and not think so much about what she was doing. In regards to most things, taking your mind off the problem always seems to help.
The next day we set out on one of my favorite dirt routes in Fort Collins. I love this ride and it would be the perfect intro to groad riding for a variety of reasons. First, it is a great mix of single track, road and dirt road. Meaning, it won’t beat my mom up quite as much as some of full-on gravel routes outside of town. Since it doesn’t have a lot of vertical gain, it’s also perfect for a recovery ride or a ride with my 62-year-old mom who is using flat pedals and coming from sea level. And bonus, the route passes by two of my favorite cafes, which is reason enough to do this ride.
This ride was all about just showing my mom a good time and teaching her a bit more about cycling. There is a time to go fast and this wasn’t one of them. Rather, this was the time to just be casual and enjoy the company I was with. I’m so fortunate to have had a mom that encouraged me to explore so much when I was younger. It fostered my sense of independence and my curiosity to discover what lays around the next turn.
I wanted to make sure that my mom got the full riding experience, so I made sure to teach her some rules of the roads and of course, push her a little out of her comfort zone. We practiced drafting and riding right next to each other. At first, my mom wasn’t too fond of someone riding right next to her, but with time, she got used to it or at the very least, tolerated me when I would slow down to ride side by side. And while my mom and I would have been totally ok with just a casual pace, it’s just not in our nature to fully relax. So naturally, when we saw some riders in front of us, we had to chase them down. No ride is complete without a race that only half of the parties are aware of.
The dirt roads in Fort Collins this time of year can be hit or miss, literally, and we were lucky to have timed it right that they weren’t sloppy nor totally rutted out. If you’ve ever done a long ride in either of those conditions, it can make even the most enthusiastic rider question their resolve and desire to ride off road ever again. While we were enjoying the ride, I could tell when my mom saw the cafe approaching, she was ready to eat pie and drink coffee. Basking in the sun on the porch of Me oh My Cafe, eating a massive slice of blueberry pie and talking about whatever thoughts floated into our mind was the perfect way to finish off the ride.
This ride, while not epic by any standards, meant more to me than most of my cafe rides. It was great to be able to show my mom around the town I love while teaching her the ins and outs of gravel riding. It might have been a pretty small thing to do or teach compared to all that my mom has done for me over the last 30 years. Afterall, my mom is likely the main reason I am as active as I am. She’s 62 and is still doing things like week-long backpacking trips and flying to Colorado to ride bikes. Seeing her try to master a new skill, just fully jumping into it, makes me hopeful. There has always been this voice in the back of my head, telling me that my passion for exploration and physical activity will not be sustainable. That I will have to give up my love for the road less traveled and instead find joy in watching The Price Is Right all day. But my mom has shown me that while we might not be able to perform at the same level as we did, say, 30 years ago, we can still find enjoyment in outdoor pursuits. And blueberry pie.