A tale of two reluctant riders: how my teen and I (finally) got on our bikes

18 Aug 22 | By pp-admin | Cycling tips, Guest blog, Pedal Power

By Nicola Todd

I was super proud of myself when I started riding regularly at 40 years of age.  I commuted most days and thought it would last.

Then the bushfires hit, and then Covid, and then I sunk in a rut I couldn’t emerge from.

Academically, it made perfect sense to get on my bike, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  As I gained more and more weight, I wanted to exercise less and less. I wanted to hide.  I was a typical taxi mum, providing all family transport needs with my trusty Toyota.

Like many 17-year-old boys, my son was keen to join a gym and have me drive him daily. He only wanted to exert energy inside the gym, and riding there on a bike seemed a bit too hard.

The writing was on the wall: I had to get us both on our bikes!

I had to ride my son to the gym to ensure that he knew the safest route and hope that he would ride alone afterwards.  Helping him might lead to helping myself.

Since Covid, I had managed to find every excuse not to cycle.

Now I had to change course and find every excuse not to drive, such as:

  1. Soaring fuel prices
  2. Traffic jams
  3. The expense, narrowness and lack of parking spaces amongst thoughtlessly-parked cars
  4. Speeding and parking fines
  5. The ease of picking up poor quality food when driving.

To get my son started, I made sure that his bike was ready to go and conveniently located, with a helmet, tyres pumped, mudguards and a bike lock. 

The great news is that it stuck! Why? Because he was using it to commute to an activity to which he was totally committed. With the time that I saved on driving him around, I found new interests and committed to riding to them. This meant that I wasn’t available to drive him anywhere, even if I wanted to.

So, my teenage son unknowingly helped me get back on my bike, and we are both riding regularly.  I have even halved my fortnightly fuel consumption!

Nic’s tips to get your teenager riding:

  1. Make sure you have your bikes ready to go. Any prep on the day might be a barrier to riding.
  2. Teenagers will develop ‘unmissable’ activities and are happy for you to be inconvenienced to provide transport. These activities are the best candidates for a bike riding habit.
  3. Be unavailable to take your teen to an activity important to them, and give them the option of walking, catching public transport or riding a bike. My son quickly determined that walking was too slow, and public transport costs money. Plus, he found it inconvenient to change modes of transport during a trip, so he might as well just ride a bike for all of it.