Bicycling as a Family
Bike riding together as a family is a great way to bond, makes exercise fun for each person, and get’s everyone to share their passion of cycling . Although as an adult, you can just get up and ride, it’s important to take the time to get the rest of the family, especially kids, ready for the adventure.
First, make it FUN! When starting out, keep the good feeling after a ride in mind. It’s not about distance, speed, endurance or perfect technique. It’s doesn’t matter if you have to make frequent stops for snacks or because someone is tired. All that matters is that as a family, you’ve had a great time.
For most kids, riding the bike itself is fun. However, it might be the first time for other kids. Either way, it’s best to be prepared.
To Think About Before the Ride:
Beginner terrain: Start in your child’s comfort zone, which is likely a flat, paved path, away from traffic, a few miles long. In time you can increase distance, incline, amount of traffic and explore unpaved trails.
Helmet fit: Helmets are a must. They should fit snugly and not rock side to side or back and forth. Helmets should sit level and low on the forehead, about 1-2 finger widths above the eyebrow. Side straps should form a V under each ear, and the chin strap should be snug, allowing room for no more than 1-2 fingers between chin and strap. Then ask your child to yawn big and the helmet should pull down on the head. Make sure you set an example to your children by wearing yours too.
Saddle: Kids like to have their seats low when starting out, but make sure their leg is almost fully extended in the 6 o’clock position (bottom of the pedal rotation) to get enough power when pedaling.
Clothing: Dress in layers so kids can easily take off a sweatshirt if they get too hot or add a rain jacket if it should start to sprinkle. Also try to wear tapered sweat pants or tuck pants in socks to avoid fabric getting munched in the bike gears.
Snacks and Protection: Make sure to bring sunscreen, plenty of water and snacks. Make hydrating easy by keeping water handy.
A-B-C check: Make sure tires have plenty of air, the brakes work and the chain has plenty of lube to work properly.
Safety tools: First aid kit, as well as a bike tool kit!
Brief Instructions: Best thing to do is keep the instructions short and sweet, and have them spend more time learning by experience.
Awareness: Tell kids to use their eyes and ears to "stop, look, and listen" to avoid potential hazards such as cars, potholes, curbs and broken glass. Depending on their age have them try pointing out interesting sites along the way like animals, road signs, creeks and trees.
Food: Include a special treat on the ride, either by stopping for something delicious or by bringing them something as a surprise treat. Making it a healthy treat is even better!
Awareness (for the adults): Pay attention to what your child might be needing throughout the ride. See if they need a break, or make it a little more challenging if they’re doing great.
Be positive: Words of encouragement are always a good idea.
Dependent upon the age, it’s safer for children to ride on the sidewalk (given it’s allowed) instead of on the road. We’d recommend looking up your state laws to double check.
However if you feel your child is ready for the road, here are some tips!Bikes acts as vehicles: A bicycle is considered a vehicle, and you and your child are both expected to obey the same traffic laws, signs and signals that apply to cars and drivers.
Stay alert: When crossing the street or turning, always look both ways and make eye contact with drivers to make sure they have seen you. Watch out for doors opening from parked cars.
Be visible: Wear bright colors, make sure you have both front and rear reflectors, and use a bell or horn to be heard in traffic.
Ride with the flow of traffic: Always ride in the same direction as traffic, not against it, and ride in single file.
Familiarize your child with rules of the road: Rules of the road include such things as using arm signals, positioning your bike correctly in the road when turning right or left, obeying traffic lights and signs, dismounting when crossing in crosswalks, letting pedestrians know when you’re passing and slowing down at intersections and railroad crossings to ensure it’s safe to cross.