By Janneke “The Tron Mom” Gradstein
The story of a Mom's Struggle to Balance Health, Wellness, Parenting, and the Quest for the Zwift Tron Bike-An Early Epilogue!
Some of you may recall what feels like about a million years ago. In January, my boys challenged me to an indoor online bike race for Zwift’s highly-coveted Tron Bike. To get this bike, you need to ”scale Mount Everest” (and possibly a bit more than that) in cumulative meters climbed on your stationary trainer. Simple, right?
We were in the dead of the Canadian winter, and I had been diligently Zwifting with my two mom-comrades in fitness. Unexpectedly, my introverted and emotionally inaccessible 16-year-old boy took an amused interest in our “computer game” and said he’d love to race me to the top of Everest to win a cool glow-in-the-dark Tron bike before me.
MY TEENAGE SON WANTED TO WORK HARD AND SPEND TIME IN THE SAME ROOM WITH ME!
I promptly bought him a new bike to fit his 6-foot frame and set up his Zwift account. I recruited my husband and his brothers to help him to make up for my substantial head start. The Mom vs. Man-Herd Tron Bike challenge was on!
The boys gleefully did some huge rides: Achterbahn, Alpe, Ven-Top! Then they watched their avatar advance by a few percentage points and creep slowly up the side of Everest: a tiny sliver of ascent for each enormous ride. They worked hard! And minuscule increments of progress were their reward.
The Painful and Predictable Truth
The slow progress-to-effort ratio had predictable results. They became discouraged. I tried to entice them by showing how they were catching up with me, but then I had to bike less to make that happen. It was a self-defeating formula for success.
And then, in comparing progress, they discovered that the top of Mount Everest is NOT what it seems! My bike reached and passed the peak of Everest and then started its ascent into the stratosphere. What was this?
Their passion cooled into suspicion that I had duped them into hard work. They rode with less enthusiasm, and their rides became less frequent.
Fast Forward to June
So much has happened. Spring arrived, some girls showed up, and now the boys were distracted by other interesting pursuits. The Tron bike has dropped from the lexicon, replaced by new challenges like “curfew,” “prom,” and “friends.”
I must admit that deep down, I knew this would happen. What gave me hope at the onset was that Zwift was, in essence, a computer game. As a mother of typical teenage boys, I’d learned that you cannot underestimate the unconquerably powerful pull of the almighty screen, and Zwift was on a screen!
Was this the antidote?
Would Zwift be my trojan horse of hard work in the kingdom of idle screen-enslaved slothdom? I thought it might!
Well, I was wrong. You probably all saw that coming, those of you who read about our Mom vs. Man-Herd Tron Bike challenge. The almighty screen may be strong, but it is still weaker than the powerful aversion to anything that might be mom-manipulated labor.
My trojan horse of hard work turned out to be a passing fancy for three boys on their path.
The Family, otherwise known as The Cast of Characters
The Sigtryggsson family includes Gisli Sigtryggsson, the household rock and stay-at-home dad for 17 years. He is now a busy shipping clerk in the food services industry, and his hobbies include board games and pickleball.
His wife, Janneke Gradstein (That’s ME), is a family physician with a busy and varied practice in Amherst, Nova Scotia (Canada), where she and Gisli have been living since she finished her training. She enjoys running, biking, and community development work. They have three sons: Oskar (2005), Tomas (2006), and Peter (2010).
Oskar is athletic, conscientious, kind, and hard-working. He enjoys running and learning about math, chemistry, and space travel, and you can often see him watching YouTube videos about those and other STEM topics.
Tomas is the tall, handsome middleman of the herd. He is a brooding introvert with a razor-sharp intellect who says very little but doesn’t miss a beat. Tomas is interested in psychology and ridiculously complex strategy games.
Peter is the joyful, empathetic, and idealistic youngest whose sheer grit and passion for friends and fun mean he’s involved in as many things as he can squeeze into a day.
The whole family collaborates to participate in Baha’i children’s classes and youth groups every week. They also enjoy camping, hiking together, and, more recently—Zwifting!
All Is Not Lost
My boys are working very hard, just in their way, on their paths, sometimes inscrutably. If I’ve learned anything as a mother, it’s destiny that their path will surpass mine. I may think I’m bringing them up to my worldview, work ethic, and vision.
Certainly, as a mother, it is my job to teach my little ones and accustom them to hard work. But my children are no longer little ones. The tools I gave them were only their starter kit.
They’ve opened that kit and followed the directions, figured out what gets them, and they are well past that, on to life visions and projects larger and more evolved than anything I ever grasped.
Their Mount Everests Lie Elsewhere
So, I’m back to Zwifting with other moms. I love their company: my friends with other challenging careers and children. We sweat together, trying to keep our bodies fit so we scale the hills of each day and perhaps live to serve the next generations that our children may eventually bring forth (spring makes you think of these things).
We talk about parenting while we climb, troubleshoot challenges at work and in our communities, and learn together about the Mount Everest of our own lives. It doesn’t matter what challenges we encounter in Zwift or life. Tackling them with all we’ve got, plus the willingness to learn, will bring us higher and somewhere better.
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!