If, like me, you are a parent to young children, the generally straightforward process of selecting a riding partner immediately becomes fraught with complication. The thing about parenting (once you’ve got the contractual obligations out of the way and confirmed that it’s wonderful and life affirming and the reason for your very existence), is that it’s bloody hard work.
Without banging on too much about the sleep deprivation and shear physical effort, imagine a normal weekday; you’ve got a standard day at work, and the plan is to get a bike ride in the evening.
As a parent, you will be required to wake up a good couple of hours before you’re ready to, and spend the two or three hours before work servicing the requirements of a couple of small people whilst simultaneously getting yourself into a suitable state to get to the office on time. As a father to two young boys, I can confirm that this is the physical equivalent of doing a day’s work before your day’s work. You are then free to get on with doing your day’s work.
On finishing work your ride will have to wait until you have spent a further two or three hours dealing with food, bath, stories and bed, whilst carrying out all manner of sibling mediation in between, and occasionally wrestling with them. By the time you are ready to head out for a ride you will feel like you’ve completed another day’s work. You can then get your kit on and attack the local hills for a couple of hours using whatever remnants of energy you have implausibly managed to retain.
Now, imagine you are partaking in said ride with a friend who is not only functioning on something close to the recommended nightly amount of sleep for a grown up human being, but who beyond work has the needs of no-one but themselves to attend to. They have basically done the equivalent of a single day at work (rather than the three that you have ticked off), and spent the remainder of their day having a lovely relaxing time.
When you hit the hills, there will only be one winner. In fact by the end, there will likely only be one who’s still awake.
Luckily, when selecting a riding partner it’s very easy to sort the parents from the non-parents with nothing more than a simple visual inspection. Bags under the eyes? Check. Unspecified food stains on clothes? Check. Empty wallet? Check. Stick to the people displaying these handy visual clues and, although you will still spend every bike ride close to the point of exhaustion, at least you’ll be on a level playing field.
Your other tactic, of course, is to encourage those riding partners who you enjoy riding with but who are resolutely child free to fall in love with someone and reproduce. Quite how you would do that, I’m not sure (alcohol is probably a good start), and it’s fair to say that with that approach you are very much playing the long game. But hey, don’t let accusations of sinister cycling related social engineering get in the way of your grand plan.
The other point to make is that if you have regular riding partners who only have one child, they should be relentlessly harried into having further offspring at every opportunity. As all of who have more than one child know, raising one is just messing around really. It hardly even counts as proper parenting.
(Disclaimer: Just to be clear, I love my kids and wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, where would I be without my ready-made excuses for falling so far short of my potential as a cyclist!)