First Person - Fazer Family

While there’s nothing unusual about a family holiday to France, a couple of Fazers isn’t the obvious choice of wheels. Reader Rod Shaw doesn’t regret it one bit

It was a last minute decision to take a holiday on the bikes with the boys. We looked at package holidays to beaches but my sons Cameron, 12, and Tobias, 8, wanted an adventure and my wife Nova felt the same. In three days, the trip was organised and the boys were thrilled at the thought of it. We planned to take the ferry to France from Portsmouth and visit the resting place of the boys’ grandfather, who was killed in the second world war. But the main thing was simply to do a biking trip with the family. Everyone got involved in the planning of the route. I just booked the ferry tickets and made sure we had enough money.

We tried to keep the riding stints short to keep the boys interested and we used intercoms, which allowed Nova and I to confirm with each other that we were indeed truly lost much of the time. They also allowed the children to talk to each other and listen to awful music on an MP3 player.

I can’t say we weren’t a little worried. My wife is a born worrier. Before we left she was up pretty much all night panicking about us crashing and asking me why we were doing this. No amount of reassurance could change the way she felt. Our biggest concern was our youngest son dozing off. We explored all manner of ideas to make sure he stayed on the bike. We thought about a bigger

seat, packing him in and even bungeeing him down, but we were worried he’d then be stuck to the bike in the event of an accident. In the end we settled on keeping the riding distances low and giving him bottles of Coca Cola and sweets to keep him wired – not something we normally encourage. It did the job though, keeping him awake and safely on the bike.

Nova was new to biking and had never ridden on a motorway before. She carried the least amount of kit and the lightest son, four stone Tobias. I took the majority of the kit and Cameron on my bike. We didn’t blast along at ridiculous speeds but we did creep over the speed limit here and there. We received mixed reactions from other traffic. I saw lots of mothers shaking their heads when they realised we were carrying our children on the back. On the ferry two fathers told me they used to ride, got married and then had to give up riding when the children came along. Tobias, who was only seven at the time, pointed out that he never wanted to do it because it was dangerous, but because it was an adventure. One of the fathers spun round after chatting to us and started arguing with his wife about how he wanted to do what we were doing. Lots of people came over when they realised we had children with us, asking what it was like for us. During the trip the boys kept referring to themselves as explorers – you just don’t get that from the back seat of a car. Riding off the ferry and onto French soil was amazing. We all felt a real sense of achievement.

We did have a couple of moments during the trip. I rode the wrong way round a roundabout in France. My wife also managed to fall off at a set of lights, toppling over and squashing one of our children in the process. Fortunately there was no speed involved and I didn’t laugh. Definitely not. That would have been cruel. When we got home we dropped the boys at their grandparents, sorted all the kit, washed the bikes down and got some sleep.

When we picked them up the next day we were all still buzzing. That said they still don’t really like biking. I think they would rather be sat in the car for trips to school and the like, just for the comfort aspect of it, but there’s an incentive to going in on the bike – they know it’s pretty unique and that it helps them stand out at school. They know being on a bike is cool, they just don’t like the cold. People think you need to ride around the world to find adventure but we found it on our doorstep, and we did so on a shoestring budget. We wanted an adventure, and we definitely got one.