Biking is one of the only fitness activities that makes my whole family happy.
My 10-year-old son, Kieran, is an athletic kid who loves any game with clearly defined rules, some significant physical challenge and a good chance at winning.
Wylie, who's 6, much prefers imaginative play with inventive, flexible rules. It's structure and competition versus freedom and creativity.
Turns out biking provides both boys what they seek — especially during Wednesday night bike races at Williston's Catamount Outdoor Family Center.
Though we've attended these races before, our most recent visit was the first since last season. Because they'd lived through a whole winter, the kids had to rethink their course choices. Wylie settled on the Cubs division which invites the littlest racers to complete a short lap around the on-site barn. This is 50 yards of the most intense racing possible for a group on tricycles, push bikes and other two-wheel conveyances sporting training wheels and assorted baskets, flowers and horns.
On that particular night, Wylie was the only one riding a two-wheeler without training wheels, which didn't appear to bother him one bit. And he didn't hold back from celebrating wildly when he, not surprisingly, came in first — about 45 seconds later.
Kieran chose the more challenging single-lap race. About 20 minutes after leaving the starting line, he emerged from the woods sweating, smiling and breathing hard. Most of the finish-line cheers came from his mom, but Catamount owner Jim McCullough and his son-in-law Eric were also there offering every rider a "yay-yay-yay" yell of encouragement.
Once all the races ended, the kiddos and I hit the empty trails to explore the Cadet loop without the pressure of a whole pack of other riders nearby. We careened down the gravel access road and past a small pond before climbing a short hill to a single-track section, where swoopy and smooth trails wind through a quiet pine forest. I could hear Wylie ahead of me yelling, "Now this is my style!" With his confidence boosted, I think it's safe to say he'll try this longer trail next time.
About 20 minutes later, we arrived back at the parking lot as the sun was sinking low in the sky. We loaded the bikes into our beat-up red pickup truck and rumbled home — smiles on all of our faces.
I'm glad we've reached the point in our family's growth where we can all ride bikes together. I'm even happier that we live near a place like Catamount, where an evening in the woods is as much fun for my competitive athlete as it is for my free-spirited artist.