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Cycling with Kids

Want to share your passion for cycling with your kids The idea of a long ride may not have the same appeal for your kids as it does for you. Here are a few tips and tricks that will help make your next family ride a success.

Safety

  • Helmets are standard equipment for everyone who rides and kids are no exception. Go to a reputable cycling shop and seek expert advice. A correct fit is critical to ensure safety. The helmet should be snug (not tight) and centered squarely on your child’s head. It should not tip forward, tilt back, wobble or move when they ride.
  • Ride single file when you’re on the road or a bike path. When approaching pedestrians use your bell and announce “bikes on the left” when passing. Open trails offer a little more freedom.
  • Let them lead. Keeping the kids in front of you allows you to survey the road ahead and ensure that no one gets left behind.
  • Don’t forget the first aid kit.
  • Pack a pump, patch kit, tire levers, and multi-tool. A spare tube is a nice extra. Most adult mountain bikes have 26-inch wheels, but kids’ bikes will vary. Consider taking a basic bike repair course. If you break down and don’t know how to fix your bike, it could be a long walk back to the car.

Ages
Generally, if your child is strong enough to hold up their head, and big enough to fit into a helmet, they are old enough to sit in a trailer or bike seat. If unsure about whether your child can ride with you, consult a pediatrician.

Depending on their desire, strength, and maturity, kids can start riding their own bike at about age five. Of course, children should not ride in congested areas until they know basic safety rules. There are numerous bike safety programs for kids, either as summer camps or after-school classes.

Note: We strongly recommend that you do not transport an infant on a bicycle, by trailer, rear-mounted seat, side-car, or otherwise.

Trailers vs. Bike Seats
If you are ready to mount up with your young child in tow you have two options: trailer or bike seat. If you have slightly older child, consider a tag-a-long.

Trailers
Usually mounted to the seat post or rear stays of the bicycle, trailers keep your child completely covered and protected from the elements. Some are better suited for smaller children; others carry two or more larger children. Look for a bike trailer hook-up that remains standing even if the bike falls over, and a robust harness system to keep your child safe.

Tag-A-Longs
This is a great solution for kids who are too big to lug around in a trailer, but too small or inexperienced to ride alone either because it is too congested areas or they don’t have the stamina to ride as far. Essentially, a tag-a-long is the back half of a bike. It has a seat, handlebars, and a rear wheel connected to pedals and a chain. But instead of a front wheel, the cross bar mounts to the seat post of an adult-sized bike. Because they’re actually pedaling, your child is an active participant in the ride.

Bike Seats
These are usually mounted on the rear of the bike or on the crossbar near the handlebars. Because the child sits so high off the ground, and there is great potential for injury in a crash, we don’t recommend them.

Longer Trips

  • Listen to the local weather forecast and have a contingency plan for a rainy day.
  • Keep them motivated. Track your progress on a map the visual image of the distance you’ve traveled can be inspiring for the whole family. Equip your kids with a cheap or disposable camera for taking their own pictures. Create a log book or box for your adventures.
  • Bring lots of food. Take lots of breaks. Your normally hungry child will become ravenous when riding. Snacks are also a good distraction for young ones bored with trailer life. Frequent breaks reduce boredom and frustration. Children in trailers will need a break every ninety minutes or so to stretch their legs.
  • Don’t underestimate the additional weight and drag of a trailer or on a trail-a-bike. Plan your route so you don’t lose energy halfway through the ride. If your motivation wanes, theirs will too.


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