When is it ever a good idea to suggest a family bike ride? The short answer is never.
Every year my husband and I fall into the same old trap. It seems such a good idea – outdoors, exercise, free. But the awful reality is stress and sweat - and that's before we've even left.
Initially we are all excited at the suggestion. Well actually that's not strictly true. Our eldest child refused point blank to join us this time when we announced last weekend that it was finally time to cycle through glorious Richmond Park en famille and in the sunshine. Even the promise of a pub lunch halfway through was not enough to entice him.
So, undaunted, my husband ventured into the shed and eventually dragged out four bikes. I sent the girls to hunt for helmets (last seen sometime last summer) whilst Richard said he would give the bikes a quick once over to ensure they were road safe.
Not actually such A Good Idea.
We hadn't been on our bikes probably since last September, and it was now July. It wasn't long before there were two rows going on simultaneously. Whilst my husband and I grappled with raising saddles (of course – the girls had grown) they were busy yelling inside the house that they both wanted the plain black helmet – not the pink one covered in stickers.
"Why do we do this?" muttered my darling other half, sweat trickling down the side of his face as he fought to loosen the nuts on the bikes.
Finally, we were ready to go. We took the bikes onto the drive where Richard suggested we all have one quick ride up and down the road so that he could be sure the bikes were good to go. Sighing, we took our turn. My bike was fine. The youngest's bike was fine. Middle daughter's bike was not fine. Within seconds of her pulling onto the road, her bike developed the most horrendous screeching noise and she immediately dismounted, storming back to announce she wasn't coming.
I shot her a warning look – her father was getting crosser by the second. "Bring it here," he growled menacingly. Tutting, huffing and puffing, he twiddled and fiddled and meanwhile we stood around not quite knowing whether to keep quiet or just ignore him and chat amongst ourselves.
"Having fun are we?" asked my friend and neighbour Diane as she came to a halt alongside our drive in her purring Audi. A mum of three herself, her smile was all-knowing. "John (her husband) has banned family bike rides – they're just not worth it."
Determined not to concede defeat, and following copious amounts of WD40, we finally set off. All family bike riders will know the next annoying stage of such an expedition involves the group very soon breaking up into ability levels – for this read Richard and my elder daughter were soon racing ahead, whilst the eight-year-old and I were trying to remember how to change gear, use the brakes, avoid dogs and generally keep upright.
"Why aren't you and Daddy wearing helmets?" shouted Emma as she sped under the trees. Good question. "Erm grown ups don't need to," I replied feebly. She gave me a withering look, and was about to remonstrate more, I'm sure, when I told her to keep her eyes on the pathway.
Too late. With startling inevitability on the first bike ride of the summer, she went too quickly over a tree root and tumbled off her saddle, narrowly missing a pile of nettles.
My mobile then went off – does my husband honestly expect me to answer my phone whilst cycling. "What?" I snapped. "Where are you?," he shouted from over the din of the sound of happy people clinking glasses and enjoying a pub barbie. "Anyway, we're here, so shall we order your food and have it waiting?".
"No" I feel like shouting back. "I'll swap – you come and sort out our daughter and I'll sit back in the pub garden enjoying the sun."
Emma and I finally limp our way to the pub, a sorry sight with her sore knees and elbows and my altogether not attractive tousled look.
"Did you bring the locks?" Richard asks, in that irritating way where he is pretending we had already had this discussion back home and I had agreed to bring them.
So, who gets to eat their burger out the front watching the bikes and who gets to sit in the pub garden out the back savouring a beer whilst the girls jump about on the bouncy castle?
I'll give you one guess. Next time I am so in my son's camp.
Does this sound horribly familiar?
Or are bike rides always a joy with your family?
If so, tell us the secret!