Image (with permission): Sport England
When I asked a good friend of mine recently about her weekend, she told me a story. On the Friday evening she and her partner and their two kids (aged four and six) had slumped together on the sofa and thought about what they were going to do over the next two days. For once, they found they had no play dates, no birthday parties, no haircuts or family visits. They had an unexpected chasm of free time, and my friend at least, was determined not to spend it in front of Paw Patrol.
The kids’ first few suggestions were quickly ruled out. The weather looked too changeable for a big trip to the beach, pony lessons were too expensive, and Disneyland was a little too ambitious.
When her six-year-old daughter said ‘bike ride?’, my friend said she hesitated. She told me guiltily: ‘On the one hand I knew it was exactly the sort of thing we ought to be doing as a family. But on the other hand, I couldn’t help thinking what a faff it would be.’
I reckon a lot of families – and adults planning their own free time for that matter – find themselves in a similar situation. Most people instinctively grasp that spending time in the fresh air, doing a bit of exercise, exploring somewhere new, and not spending any money doing it, has a lot of wins. But then their minds turn to the shed and the state of their bikes, and they wonder what’ll happen if somebody gets a puncture, or who’ll carry the picnic, or what if little Maisy gets tired and grumpy, or what if it rains… Sometimes it seems easier to jump in the car and go to the swimming baths, or the soft play centre, or (if we’re really desperate) a run around Toys R Us.
On this occasion though, my friend didn’t have to decide. ‘Great idea!’, her partner said, ‘let’s go and get the bikes ready.’ He promptly took the kids out to the shed, where they got all the bikes out and had a game for twenty minutes pumping up everyone’s tyres.
And when it came to the ride it turned out my friend needn’t have worried either. ‘The funny thing was,’…