The following article I wrote in the spring of 2010. All seemed good in the world around me. I was having a great time towing my 4 year old daughter around in the bike trailer, my wife was pregnant with our 2nd daughter and I was enjoying some of the best early season fitness that I ever experienced (I managed to win a Spring Series race and the CRCA power points race against a few AXA guys in Central Park). However, the weekend after that Power Points race my family was shocked by the news that my father in-law had terminal cancer. It was hard to believe. He was super energetic (think Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack). Just about everything in our lives was put on hold as we tried to cope with this devastating news.
My father in-law ultimately lost his battle with cancer a little over a year ago. I miss him dearly. If it wasn’t for the countless hours that he came over to watch my daughter so I could go out and ride my bike I would have never achieved the fitness necessary to manage some of the racing success that I had. He loved spending time with his granddaughter and was proud whenever I did well in a race. With that in mind I dedicate this article about riding with my daughter to him.
My Favorite Training Partner: By Mark Alden
I was pedaling hard and breathing deep. I could feel the heat of the sun through my sweat soaked jersey as I slowly gained on the rider in front of me. Bringing my chin as close as possible to the stem I forged into a headwind while heading south on 9W. As I got nearer I could see that rider was on a TT bike – arms tucked in on the aero bars. Closer still I could see that he at least appeared to be reasonably fit. I finally caught him (noticed that he was on a high end looking Cervelo) and I let out a somewhat out of breath “hello” as I passed him. My hello was followed immediately by my daughters cute little “hi” as she sat comfortably (Groovy Girl doll in hand) in the trailer that I was towing. This prompted an exaggerated double take from the rider on the Cervelo. I bumped it up a few more notches and occasional glances over my shoulder during the next few miles revealed a smaller and smaller rider as I pulled away.
I have been towing my daughter around in our Burley trailer for nearly five years now. The experience has changed quite a bit over the years. At first when she was only about 1 -2 years old she would pretty much nap but then a beautiful thing started to happen as she got older. It was no longer me riding around with a sleeping kid in the trailer. It became and interactive experience that has opened up a whole new world of father – daughter bonding. One of the first experiences that made me realize that this was much more than training with my daughter in a trailer was the day I noticed a nice crescent shaped beach on the Hudson just off River Road about1/4 mile north of where Palisades Ave. drops down to the river. I have ridden by this spot hundreds of times and never thought to stop. I guess that I was too busy training for that elusive masters 35+ pro contract. Now that I had my daughter along it was time to stop and check out this beach. It has since become one of our favorite places to stop on a ride and we have accumulated a pretty nice collection of (hopefully not radioactive) sand glass. It’s a great place to sit and relax – feet in sand – and listen to the waves lapping at the shoreline and hear the occasional ticking of a freewheel as a cyclist passes by.
My favorite place of all to take my daughter is Harriman State Park. I am fortunate that I have a schedule that allows for me to go up there mid day during the week. One of the great things about riding up there on a weekday is that there is practically no traffic. That and it is just plain beautiful. We will usually do 2-3 laps of the race course and I have found a few nice places to stop and take in the scenery. Our favorite stop is a small boat launch on Lake Tiorati near the top of the Tiorati Brook climb. There is a concrete slab that angles into the water that we like to sit on with our feet in the water while we watch minnows dart around and the occasional snake glide by.
I have to admit that sometimes my competitiveness comes out when I come across other cyclists while towing the trailer. This is augmented by my daughter regularly asking if we will catch up to the rider in front of us. She will also frequently ask if we are “winning” so of course I have to try to oblige. One time I was at the circle near the base of the Alpine boat basin climb and 5-6 riders cued up on my rear wheel as I started the climb. I started to ramp up the pace pretty quickly and at first I could hear the clack clack of frantic shifting which became quieter as the climb wore on. Eventually I didn’t hear any noises from behind and a glance back revealed that all of the riders had been dropped. Another time I caught a rider (also on a Cervelo TT bike) just before the state line climb heading south on 9W. I dropped him on the climb and continued to ride as hard as I could. After chasing for a long time he finally caught up with me somewhere around E. Clinton road. The cool thing was that he was having a good time chasing me. He expressed how surprised he was that it took him so long to catch up to me. I didn’t detect a hint of crushed ego.
This brings me to another thing that I enjoy about towing my daughter around in the trailer. It is the overwhelmingly positive encouragement that I get from fellow cyclists. I get lots of thumbs up and it’s pretty common to have a pleasant conversation with riders that I meet out on the road. Occasionally I’ll come across a rider who can’t handle being caught by someone towing a trailer and they will turn themselves inside out to try and pull away from me. But for the most part it’s all good natured fun.
I’m bummed because my daughter will soon outgrow the trailer. She is riding her own bike now but of course we aren’t doing laps in Harriman just yet. I do however have kid number two on the way. Years ago I was riding somewhere near Piermont when I came across one of the crazier cycling set-ups that I have seen. It was a tandem with a halfwheeler (a single wheel kid’s bike that attaches to the seat post of an adult bike) attached to it and a trailer attached to the halfwheeler. The whole contraption was being piloted by Glen from Piermont Bicycle Connection. I just might try that (with a regular bike instead of the tandem) so I can be out on the road with my girls and enjoy sunshine, stops at the beach and precious time together. Although it is unlikely that I will be able to catch the rider in front of me when my daughter asks.