Sufferfest for Kids

Hi All and especially the @coaches
I have seen the bit on Data Protection on Sufferfest not being for kids, but is it suitable for kids on a training level?

My son is coming up to 14 and has trained on the road with me and a bit of Zwift over winter which he didn’t really engage with (there are free accounts for kids).

He has started training more and recently did some group sessions with me on Circuit Zolder in Belgium, doing some laps at 40+kph. He did his first race for 14 year olds (born 2007) this weekend and came 25th, without really training for racing, just having fun with dad. The race was at a blistering (for 14 year olds) 38.3 kph average.

He said he’d never done anything that hard despite running cross country running competitions and track and field. Rather than being disheartened, he would like to race more and is signed up next week for another race here in Belgium.

He would like to get more organised about his training and is more than prepared to “Suffer”, so is there any reason why over winter, I shouldn’t put him on a 12 week road plan in “Novice” mode?

I’ve always trained and used to race but stopped racing several years ago, but got back into it more seriously lately (inspired by my son and wanting to keep up with him for a little longer) and my FTP has gone up 21% with 2x12 week plans, one on Intermediate, one on Advanced, so I know it works.

So, any reason he should not do Sufferfest apart from Data Protection/GDPR and the odd swear word, which he has heard worse from dad when we’ve been cut up on the road by a car driver?? And I’m sure he’s heard worse with his friends!!

Your advice greatly appreciated.

I guess it’s indeed not about the odd swear word but about the underlying irony of the over-martial win at all cost sufferlandrian mentality. I‘m not sure how well a 14 year old (no matter how far developed) can handle the irony in sufferfest. I mean even I as a grown man get sucked in an want to „destroy“ the rider in front of me.
Really not sure if a kid can keep this to the trainer sessions and understand that cycling is even in competition about mutual respect and camaraderie.
as you said … he has already seen everything anyway… however a training Plan at sufferlandria exposes him to this level of humor on a regular basis. Will he be able to laugh at gva or will he become overly competitive and result oriented and afraid to fail his father?
Only you can know :wink:

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@Mowag My son is incredible in his maturity and can handle all of that with a pinch of salt. It was more to do with the training maturity required. My son is mature in his outlook more than his years. I remember a conversion with him about discussion and argument and a comment he made that I realised he was more mature than his physical years. “in an argument or discussion daddy, as soon as you make it personal. you have lost the argument”. In the face of Halo and Skyrim, I thought this was so mature. His first race her “suffered”. “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done daddy”. (call me sad, but he still calls me daddy). But he is up for another race next weekend. He will be able to laugh at GVH. He got dropped out of the lead group with a couple of laps to go and finished with one of the local Belgian kids brought up on this sort of thing. He sprinted with the kids to get 25th (and beat him for it) and after he finished, he went up to him and fist bumped, which was returned. That for me, was the most awesome moment. We under estimate our kids at our peril. I think Sufferfest has missed a market with our kids and the last thing I am worried about is the “mental” aspect of Suffefest. It is more the physical effect. My son has defended galaxies, slain dragons and demons and can still discuss politics and his political position in the world, so a bit of Sufferfest humour is not a concern. I don’t think he will be overly competitive with others, but maybe himself. He has found this route himself and I have not pushed him at all, rather opened the door and let him walk through. I’ve seen other fathers offer love and affirmation for achievement in cycling and I have backed away from that. He does it of his own volition. He’s flirted with track and field and even American football (he would make a good quarter back), all of which I would support. But it is up to him. I think he would see totally the humor in Sufferfest (though not all kids would) and would react positively with it. I just don’t want to put him down a road that would be physically unhealthy to him.

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As it is, The Sufferfest or SUF, as it will be known as, is not designed for ‘children’. However, you as the parent, have to make the choice whether or not your prodigy is able to handle the stresses of the programs full on. It looks like you are willing to make him suffer. If he says it’s too much, then listen. If he wants more, well you have a true athlete on your hands. In other words, it’s your choice if you want him to use the Sufferfest.
BTW, this applies to any child. I’ve seen six year olds get sucked into our world. Just hope you don’t have to explain the more adult things that exist here.

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I won’t make the choice of him “suffering” that is up to him. He could have climbed off in his first race, but carried on to finish. I have put off so long and tried avoiding him coming to the world of Suffering. I have not encouraged, but shown him a door. I don’t have to explain to him the more adult things that exist in the world. He is at a school where taking drugs recreationally is accepted as the norm as well as seniors having “relations” in the toilets is tolerated!! Such is the world we are in. I hope to help guide him through all of this. I have seen young children sucked into this and tried avoiding it myself, but it is what daddy does and my son has seen some pleasure and achievement in this. It is interesting being British in Belgium and seeing the level the Belgian kids are at. That almost seems unreal and I have never pushed my son into it, but it is so much part of the culture, more so than soccer. The easiest thing for me is to explain the more adult things that exist here. He knows only too well. I hope he can see his way through the world and Sufferfest is tame to what the world can offer.

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Hey @FatSprinter ,
I know this is not the answer you want to hear but I would not recommend SUF as a training tool for your son. Finding programs that emphasizes skill and training development focusing on youth for any sport is the route I would advise. If cycling is his passion, then getting coaching , training with others and having fun is far more valuable than what SUF training can offer a 14 year old. And don’t underestimate riding with you for fun.



Thanks Sir Spencer. I was looking for something similiar as Sir David also has recommended against using only The Sufferfest (SUF) as THE tool for youth.

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@Coach.Spencer.R Thank you for your answer and I am open to hear any answers. Funnily enough in the meantime I have contacted another club that is solely road orientated and are meeting with them with my son on Wednesday afternoon.
The club we are currently in is great, but are solely MTB orientated and my son loves the road but still enjoys MTB.
The new club has a good coaching set up, but alas is a 50 minute ride away!! They will give him the skills training of riding in a large group and cornering in a group at speed which is what need needs some more of.
I will take their advice on winter training too. Winter in Belgium is not fun and hard to train during the week without resorting to the indoor trainer, hence why I got into Sufferfest. I like the structure.

My son tried Zwift but couldn’t get into it, which is why I thought of Sufferfest to add some mid week training in for him that is fun but has a purpose and to continue riding with him at the weekends. (although he is as fast as me now, it won’t be long before he is much faster!)

What I cannot do however, is know how training fits in around his running for cross country which he wants to keep on doing, so I will take the club coaches advice on this.

After having seen the race my son was in last week, the level of kids racing here is high, so I am sure they must put on some quality training sessions and not all “fun session”. The race he did averaged 38.3 kph.

I hope it works out with the new club, they seem really geared up to support kids.

Thank you for answering what I didn’t want to hear. I like reasoning and justification why and will always question things, including my own views and opinions.



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I’m a little late to the discussion, but I have questions on this topic.

I’ve been doing Sufferfest for almost two years (I think) and I love it! My daughter, who is 13, has asked to try some of the rides, and I’ve helped her select rides based on what she wanted to do. She’s also done some strength training and yoga with me, and she really likes it

She just finished her first mountain biking season as 24th out of 46th, and she begged me for a Sufferfest account so she could train over the winter to improve.

You mentioned programs focusing on youth development, but in Minnesota, we don’t have any options until summer. She isn’t going to ride the trails during winter (too much snow and ice), and there aren’t any local coaches until summer season.

She is so passionate about riding and wanting to be stronger, that I’m willing to hire a coach who could set her up with a Sufferfest program. If we’re willing to work with a Sufferfest coach in our winter season, I see this as a BIG win for both my daughter and Sufferfest.

Will you please consider this request?

Nearly-Desperate Mother who Loves to Suffer (while having fun)

Systm does have customized training plans, whether they will work with kids, I’m interested to hear

My son went to a team info session about Strength training for off season and they are doing some “winter” mtb before the training kicks off proper in the new year. He has been doing cross country running racing up to now training 3 days a week (with team coaches) and races most weekends. Bit of general fitness and cross is great, but…

I hear what you are saying. Contact the coaches and see if they will consider it. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

When it is all said and done, the kids suffer as much during racing. I saw my 13 year old son put himself through the ringing with the 3 races he did end on season. Interested to hear how you get on. Good luck.

While not precisely on point, the article attached (I hope you can read it, let me know if you can’t) talks about the importance of FUN when training kids on bikes. I think the key quote is

“ If you make biking all about training, it’s hard,” she says. “And if you can’t find the love in it, you’re just going to end up quitting.”

So whatever you do, don’t lose the fun. Cycling with Dad is fun. Racing sometimes is fun. Training in a pain cave when you’re 14……? Depends on the kid, but….


Do you have any idea what the other 23 riders do in winter?

I mean, where I live, the obvious path would be to join a local club and train with team mates of similar ages. They have their own winter programs and have age appropriate training schemes. Not sure how it works at your end of the pond?

Just dropped my son to a friends house as it is a public holiday here in Belgium and talked to him about training and racing. He is 13 (14 in December - very important at that age).

On reflection, the first thing that comes to mind is that you are a caring parent wanting the best for your daughter and unsure what to do for the best and this is why you are reaching out (fairly obvious I know - but needs pointing out).

I spoke to my son about why he likes training for XC running and he said he likes the camaraderie, being part of a team and the jokes/team bonding that go with it. He also likes the sessions when he pushes himself hard.

I asked him why he likes competition and he says he loves competition and pushing himself against himself and other people and doing his best. He likes the thrill of competition. He likes the fact that at 13 (nearly 14( he’s been picked to train and race with the junior varsity team and he is holding his own, even though he could have gone for the easy option and raced with other 13 year olds and probably won. He doesn’t want the easy option.

I asked him what he likes about training on the bike with his team and he says he likes his new team and being part of the team and talking with the guys and pushing himself against them. He finds it fun to push himself.

Sadly being an English speaker in his last club he was a little ostracised and more of a target to drop, cut up or exclude rather than include even though on the face of it, it was a great club. He didn’t feel welcome. That’s kids I suppose, he isn’t Belgian and different!!

His new club is very international with Belgians as well as international riders and he feels right at home and is loving it. He also likes the cachet that they have had riders go on to be professionals.

I also asked what he likes about training with daddy (or dad in front of his friends) and he says he likes the longer rides to see new things, be in the countryside and see nice sights as well as spending time and talking with daddy. (wow my teenage son likes spending time with me and is willing to admit it).

@AkaPete The article he sent was great and is what a good club can be. If you don’t have that and can’t train in Minnesota due to the weather (I’ve just looked up the weather forecast Brrrr) you have to look elsewhere and be creative.

The focus on the article was on fun. Whatever that may be for your daughter. Fun is hard to describe. Do I find a 4DP fun, or Nine Hammers, hmmmm!? Do I sometimes feel reluctant to do a session because it is hard and afterwards feeling “I’m so glad a did that, I really enjoyed that and don’t know why I put it off”.

To my son, it is fun pushing himself, having camaraderie, time with daddy, racing, joking with friends to name but a few. He also realises that it is comfortable to stay and play on the XBox and he sometimes procrastinates, but when he gets out exercising he loves it.

I set him up on Zwift last winter as it was too dark to do anything outside and too bad weather. I asked him if he liked it and he said he liked racing other people virtually (he has an XBox!!) and he liked pushing himself. He like doing his own “intervals” - not suggested by daddy, I left him to it and that is what he ended up doing. What he didn’t like was the fact that the trainer was rubbish (it was a 20 year old trainer on virtual watts and well past its use by date).

I’ve now got the cheapest off wheel trainer (Elite Suito) and he says that he is looking forward to. He says he’d like to do some Zwift racing after his XC running seasons is done (last race Friday) and is looking forward to a more accurate trainer. He likes the fact that he can listen to his music and has a Spotify playlist for training, like his has another for chores!! Having the music motivates him and when it is any up tempo track, he pushes himself.

So, what is my point. Hmmm. I think it is to know you child and make it fun but take into account what they feel is fun. Talk to your daughter, which you clearly have. If she is asking without prompting, then it is worth considering. As long as she wants it and his having fun and you keep a mindful eye on how she is doing/feeling.

I remember when my son tried out for the XC race team. He had to be at school for 7am, so had to get up at 6am. He also had bike team training in the afternoon. He did his try out enjoyed it, but also during the day played lots of basketball with his friends. I picked him up to take him to team training and he was tired. I asked if he still wanted to do team training and he said “yes”. I took him there and he fell asleep in the car and when we got there I asked him if he still wanted to train. He really did want to train, but had clearly done a little too much during the day and was not up to a 2 hour training session, so I suggested he miss this one. He did and fell asleep on the way home.

Knowing your child and knowing what and when to do things and miss things is important. You as a parent will know your child the best, more so than a coach/doctor/teacher/whatever (I am an educator by the way).

Sooo. @Coach.Spencer.R - I would probably contact Systm to see if this is something they can do. I good coach can take into context all of the factors both intrinsic and extraneous to the child/athlete. A good coach will look into things holistically and plan a training plan around all of those factors, or if not a training plan, sessions that would be fun to do and have a positive benefit for your daughter. A plan also has to be flexible and this should be considered as well. Being able to have a bank of sessions and a flexible plan would be possible I believe.

My son likes working towards a goal too. Sorry to be so lengthy in the reply. We beat ourselves up as parents about doing the right thing for our children, so I know how you must be feeling, wanting to encourage, but not do anything to put them off or even worse, harm them.

I notice it is the first time you have posted, so welcome to the Sytm/Sufferfest community. It is great. Hope my ramblings have helped and that perhaps one of the coaches can contact you or you can contact them with the personal coaching contact form and at least have the discussion.

It would be best to do this with expert help if you are going to do it, which your daughter has already started doing. But in the end, continuing being a good parent, make things fun for your daughter, do what she finds fun and keep a watchful eye that it really is fun and she is really enjoying herself.

Also make sure she is getting the nutrition she will need. My son wasn’t getting enough protein for amount of exercise he was doing so we have had to be creative with ways of ensuring he has enough in his diet. I have seen how much this benefits him.

Good luck for you and your daughter.


Thank you - I will read it. She’s already doing the trainer riding on her own and says she enjoys it. Last night she was studying for a test while doing a sustained effort ride (her choice).


@FatSprinter @horsebikerider You all are great parents! Respect to you. Ours are grown now. We have a 2 year old grandson so are watching the cycle of parenting from a new perspective.


Her friends are in a mix of activities (unfortunately no off-season cycling club, and she keeps telling me she wants to train for mountain biking). Her cycling friends mostly play hockey or Nordic ski.

She tried hockey, not her thing. She’s going to try Nordic skiing, and I think she’ll like that. She also told me I should train for another race with her (my first and only race was 2019 Michigan Coast-to-Coast gravel grinder - 210 miles of gravel and sand).

I like the idea of an off-season club. We (MTB team coaches) have talked about getting together at least once or twice a month over the winter to do something fun as a team (the kids, and parents, are very close). Maybe we can get some guest speakers or watch some videos or something, too. I’m going to look into that.

Thank you all for the ideas! Keep 'em coming!


Nordic skiing would be awesome fun and also aerobically. The European pros way back when used to do it in the off seasons. Who doesn’t like snow!! Maybe some “group training” session indoors or the trainer and for skills. I remember once as a student being challenged to ride down stairs inside a house on an mtb without putting a foot down. (not that I’m suggesting you do this inside your house). And I did.

Skills session inside a hall for fun and bike handling. Wobble board, riding on a plank on the floor, cones for slalom. Relay races round cones. If you could get a sports hall there is all sorts you could do. Slow speed races for handling, sprints round cones etc etc.

Even indoors, if you are on Zwift and get a group session for riders on Zwift then can ride together. Or even group trainer sessions at the same place. I used to do these with my team mates and it was fun.

My son likes doing metric fondos for the challenge and next year he has asked to do an imperial fondo. So, got with the flow and what they like and want, that is fun.

If she sees you training on Sufferfest, its like “well you do it and enjoy it, if its good enough for you, why isn’t it good enough for me?” Moderation and trusting you instincts is always best.

Maybe you could get something off the ground for your team?


They do grow so quickly, can’t believe my son is almost as tall as me. He could be leaving home in 4 years and I’m not ready for it. I’m sure he will be, its always harder for the parents. I see this in my job with High School kids graduating and it is always harder for the parents. Hope its fun being a grand parent. It is good to keep fit to be an active grand parent. I’m sure that is appreciated.


@FatSprinter you’re obviously a great dad (and your son recognises this) and this is beautifully and wisely put. “If she is asking without prompting…” is our key to our 11 year old daughter’s activities too. For her it’s singing, dancing, musical instruments and musical theatre. (She does not get those talents from us!). She works so hard yet none of it ever seems work. She thrives on it. We do our utmost to support and enable but never push, always being mindful of sleep/ nutrition etc but ensuring we don’t limit activities that are bringing her so much joy.

(Gee, I love this forum!)