The Family That Rides Together, Stays Together
As told to Bike Arkansas
PHOTOGRAPHY: David Yerby
Cayden Parker just competed and placed first in the USA Cycling 2018 Mountain Bike National Championships in the 13-14 Cross Country Category and the 11-14 Short Track Cross Country events. Finn Parker, Cayden’s younger brother, competed in 11-12 Cross Country Category and placed ninth out of 34 competitors. Last year they competed in the same events where Cayden placed 17th out of 48 and Finn placed 15th out of 29.
Arkansas is continuing to grow as a mountain bike destination in which to train and race. Now, Arkansas has produced junior mountain bike National Champions.
Jona and Matt Parker of Hot Springs, Arkansas are Cayden and Finn’s parents. They had much to say about the young men and their training.
How do the boys approach training?
“The boys are fully in control of their training. We talk about goals and what it will take to fulfill them, but we never force a ride or specific type of training. If we are doing something that the kids have given a fair chance, but just don’t enjoy, we look at other ways. Matt and I do everything we can to help facilitate Cayden and Finn reaching the goals they have set forth. Like all parents, we know our kids’ personalities and what motivates them. Cayden is extremely intrinsically motivated to succeed at whatever he is doing. Finn loves to have fun and is the more social of the two.”
What do you do to keep training fun?
“We try out a lot of different trails to keep them from getting bored. We also do different types of rides to keep things interesting: singletrack, gravel, road, hills, adventure, long, short, fast and group rides. We ride a lot, at least five to six times a week, but if either one of them appears to be stressed about results or seems to feel the pressure that elite competition can put on, we take a step back, we re-evaluate and we remind them to do the same.”
Are there any recent changes to your perspective on training?
“Races are celebrations! A time to celebrate all you have done, how hard you have worked, and how much you love what you do. A celebration should not be stressful; it should be exciting!”
What are some fun rides your family has participated in?
“A few months ago we went to Colorado and rode the Monarch Crest Trail, which is an IMBA epic trail that climbs up to 12,000 feet. It is our favorite ride we’ve ever done. We also rode part of the Colorado Trail, another IMBA epic.
“We frequently go on long adventure group gravel rides or mountainbike rides on the Womble or Lovit trails. Those are great for the boys because they are taken at an easy pace with friends, we stop and snack or swim, and we just enjoy the day.
We lead a group ride every Thursday night in the newly developing Northwest area, to which we ride from our house. The boys look forward to this, because it gives us a chance to meet new riders and share the passion we have with others.”
Do you find that riding helps with school?
“Yes, riding helps. The fundamentals of mountain biking are pretty much the fundamentals of successful living. Keep looking ahead, scan for obstacles, create a plan for maneuvering around or over those obstacles, keep moving, keep giving your best effort, failure will happen, success will happen, and enjoy the process.”
Are there any special relationships you or your children have cultivated through riding?
“Too many to list. We have made so many connections through riding and racing, it’s amazing. Mountain biking is a subculture that attracts pretty rad people!”
How would you describe your family relationship?
“I think what is special about our relationship with our boys is that we allow them the freedom to be who they are. We introduced mountain biking to them, but they are the ones who must apply it to their lives. We allow them to do that, and we just help guide them in aligning their actions with their goals.”
What have you learned from participating in cycling?
“We try to keep the attitude and outlook of a beginner. As a beginner, there is always room for growth. What we want as a family is continued growth, and mountain biking has given us something to be passionate about, something that encourages confidence, courage and hard work. We have learned how important it is to have a support system and connections within the community. So many people have had a part in this celebration and we are grateful.”
“A great friend of mine told me this: ‘Do what you can, where you are, with what you have. Do that every day. Great things will happen.’”