This was the first time the three of us had ridden together. My father, my son and me. With more than seventy years separating the three generations, could eMTBs help bridge the gap?

10 months ago I became a dad! In that wild and frightening moment when my son first opened his eyes and took his look at the world, at me, I knew that everything had changed. Selfishness, ego and desire for personal gratification melted away in the face of those big blue eye and were replaced with a deep desire to nurture, protect and become a better human being. Adjusting to the ebb and flow of parenthood, as many parents have no doubt experienced, I began to see things in a new way, including my relationship with my own father. As you grow older, childhood memories feel further away, blurred and softened. The relationship with your parents changes too. You become an adult, conversing with your parents as equals about important topics with a sense of purpose and maturity, but sometimes finding that true emotion and expressing self-doubt are locked away.

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away

Then you become a parent yourself and new understanding brings questions. Was there a time when my father looked down at me with the same fiery bond I now feel when I look at my son? Times were different then, but perhaps he also walked up and down the cold corridors of the house in the middle of the night, rocking and cradling me in the crook of his arm while I cried and teethed, his fatigue and frustration melting away at the sight of the smallest smile. When you’re a child, your parents are everything, they are the superheroes, owners of unbelievable wealth, phenomenal strength and unrelenting stamina. As you grow you become bigger, your skinny limbs fill out and your fitness builds. Then, on opposing trajectories of life, you grow stronger as your parents start to fade. I can’t remember the last time I rode bikes with my father, but it was a very long time ago. He certainly wouldn’t be able to comprehend the trails that I ride now. My enduro and downhill playgrounds take me on terrain that he would consider impossible and lunacy.

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, thanks for the ball, dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw, I said, not today
I got a lot to do, he said, that’s okay

But my father does ride – his pride and joy is a commuting ebike that he uses daily around the small coastal town where he lives. He frequently wows his pensioner friends when they come round to ogle it like excited kids at the school playground. I once caught sight of him swerving through traffic, panniers overloaded with ale, a thick newspaper and the ingredients for a Sunday roast. At first, I thought of his safety, but then I was overwhelmingly proud. However, at 70 years old, riding in the mountains is just a memory for him and I had almost given up on riding together off-road again. A brave attempt on trail bikes a few years ago had been unsuccessful. Ultimately, our 30-year age gap had proven tough to negotiate. But now, with pedal-assist eMTBs bridging the generation gap, perhaps I could still give him a glimpse into my world, while also sharing the experience with my new son – three generations bonded by the same adventure-hungry genes.

I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, I’d like to see you if you don’t mind
He said, I’d love to, dad, if I could find the time

Today’s ride had been a spontaneous idea, a “Can we do it?” question, but it grew to become so much more. As we rode, it became an opportunity to connect and talk about the old times. Seeing the love I had for my son ignited the nostalgia in my dad and stories flowed freely. As we climbed through scented pine forests I learnt about myself as a child, hearing stories almost forgotten, tales that without this unique moment would have been lost in time. Memories came flooding back for me. 35 years has rendered the details fuzzy, but I still remember the first time I pedalled my bike, being pushed around the park, laughing as I span the cranks as fast as my little legs would go. Looking back over my shoulder, I could not believe my dad was no longer holding me. He was letting me go, with a look of encouragement and pride on his face. I was pedalling on my own.

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
“When you coming home, son?” “I don’t know when”

We watched the sun dip towards the horizon as one. My father and I shared 110 years of intertwined experiences and adventures but with us, a whole new story was just beginning. It’s amazing to think that our journey would have been impossible just five years ago. Without eMTBs, we wouldn’t have been able to cycle to the lakeside together, joking over ice creams and skimming stones. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that will be remembered the most, the ebike smile on my dads face, or the excited giggles from the baby-seat. Those are the memories that will stay with me forever.

But we’ll get together then, dad
We’re gonna have a good time then

As we rode back down the hill baby chatter and conversation filled the air, but I felt a little saddened that the three of us would probably never share such an experience again. My dad’s bike was a rental, a means to an end. But as we cruised smoothly along, I heard the question I was hoping for. “So, how much exactly would this eMTB cost?” The seed has been sown.

This article is from ENDURO issue #039

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