"The rush of cold air blasting my face was fantastic! Can we do more rides?"
I didn't think I'd hear these words from my 13 year old son. A teenager who had given up all 'physical' sport and was now fully immersed in the future: e-sports. We had ridden together, back in another age, when he was 5. Back then we lived outside Cardiff and we'd cycle up and down the Taff Trail. His little legs working like pistons trying to squeeze every measure of speed from his tiny bike. I was beginning to think that these would be confined to fond memories only. I hadn't bargained on him asking me if I could take him out riding again.
I'm not dumb. The initial request may well have been prompted by a desire to evade his mother's nagging, but frankly I don't care. It was a chance to re-kindle old flames.
The first ride was meticulously planned. I'd gone over several routes in my head. Quiet lanes; sufficient length to feel like he'd worked a bit, but not too long that would put him off; and of course relatively flat. We hit a slight stumbling block when he said he didn't want to cycle through Abergavenny. I wasn't quite sure how that could be achieved considering we live in the middle of Abergavenny!
The ride was a revelation. Normally conversation is confined to the basics. Have you washed my school shirts; is there anything to eat and "do I really need to come off [the computer] now; just 5 more minutes!" However, on the bike, away from his connected world, it was like having the 5 year old back. Conversation flowed. Importantly for me, I learnt a tonne of stuff about his world. Riding seemed to act like some kind of leveller. We chatted more as 'mates' than father and son. I can't tell you how precious that hour or so was.
The ride also had its lighter moments. Having virtually no exposure to roads, he had a very nervy tendency to pull out of junctions without looking. But, as he explained to me, playing e-sports meant that he had "honed his peripheral vision" so he didn't need to physically look right! Of course I pointed out that whilst I was no human biologist, I doubted that human evolution advanced so quickly.
The rides are now a regular feature of the weekly calendar. There are plans to extend the rides and for him to graduate from his hybrid to my winter road bike. He's even willingly taken on board that he hasn't yet developed superhuman visual abilities and that he needs to improve his road awareness skills. As for me, well, I'm just enjoying the ride, sucking up the pleasure and not looking too far ahead.
Simple pleasures are best. Who would have thought that in today's connected world of tech, a simple object like a bicycle can have such a profound effect.