I have taken two great guest posts written for Loving the Bike on the topic of cycling with children and combined them into one big post. There is a lot of great information in here, so if you have kids and would like to know more about what Alexis and Ron have to share…please read on.
Cycling with Children
by Alexis Bonari
Cycling is more fun when experienced with others. Who better to share fun with than family?
Kids and cycling can be tricky, but the good news is that they’re usually eager to close the gap themselves. Much of how a child does on a bike ride depends on the child’s comfort with the bike itself. If you introduce cycling to your children early on—even before they can pedal—they’ll be more likely to enthusiastically join you later.
Working Together: from the Child Bike Seat to the Trailer Bike
Begin with a bike seat—most attach to the back of your bike and can carry a child up to 40 lbs, but he or she must be at least a year old and wear a helmet according to some laws. Your bike might be a bit slower to respond than usual, and there’s always the fear of falling and bringing your child down with you. If you’re not comfortable cycling with your child, however, how will your child ever return the favor?
Between the toddler to elementary school years, switch to a bike trailer (not to be confused with a trailer bike; see below) so your child can enjoy the sights while you cycle without worrying about bringing your kid down with you on a fall. You’ll have to ensure your child’s comfort with a pillow or two, and make sure you’re not around too much traffic on the ride since your child will be closer to the exhaust gas than you.
Meanwhile, consider giving your child a push bike to practice coordination and balance in the driveway under close supervision. This will make the transition to a trailer bike or training wheels smoother.
The trailer bike allows your child to cycle on a detachable, single-wheel bike that trails behind yours. Your child is basically attached to you and relies on your sense of balance but gets to pedal him- or herself, feeling a touch more independent.
Training wheels—and taking them off—are the next steps some of us might even remember for ourselves.
Cycling Together: Preparation and the Ride
By the time your child can ride comfortably on a kid’s bike, he or she is ready to be your cycling companion. As the parent, of course, you still have a few responsibilities.
- Teach children proper safety: avoiding hazards, obeying traffic signs, looking both ways, etc.
- Avoid spontaneous trips with destinations with which you’re unfamiliar. Long rides to seemingly nowhere will not make a happy camper out of your child.
- Kids might value cycling trails for different reasons than you; just because you’d enjoy 4 miles of solitude with the trees doesn’t mean your child will. Take frequent short breaks to hydrate, eat snacks, and explore surrounding walking trails or scenes.
- Bring along a first aid kit as well as a tool kit. This teaches your child accountability and safety.
- Have your child partake in carrying supplies. Your child will feel purposeful and “grown up.”
- Bring plenty of water and snacks that can take some abuse, like trail mix. Hungry children are rarely happy children.
- If you’ll be cycling in an urban environment, avoid rush-hour and try cycling in the morning.
- Invite the rest of the family or your child’s friend. Shared fun is more fun.
When your child has become your trusty cycling companion, consider taking the hobby a step further by signing them up for bicycle tours or charity rides. If they show enough interest, your children can try their hands (wheels?) at BMX, mountain, and road bike races, too.
Pull A Bike Trailer For More Bike Love
by Ron Fritzke
It goes without saying that Loving the Bike is a given for most of us. After all, how can you beat the exhilaration of moving through some of the best scenery in the world…under your own power? But what are you supposed to do when little people join the family?
There are some very satisfying reasons to get a bike trailer and take the kids along with you on your rides.
One of the many joys of being a new parent is looking at the world through the fresh eyes of your toddler. When you combine your love for cycling with your love for your kids, you definitely have a winner.
From Swing Sets To Bike Trailers
The Burley bike company is one of the pioneers in the industry. But interestingly enough, the concept of pulling a trailer behind a bike didn’t arise from the founder’s love for pulling his children behind him on the scenic paths surrounding their home in Eugene, Oregon. It was much more mercenary than that.
It all began when founder Alan Schloz disassembled his kids’ swing-set in order to use the materials to put together a primitive bike trailer. It seems he wanted to pursue his passion for a car-free lifestyle. He figured that the swing set would be better utilized by being transformed into a trailer to transport the bike bags he was sewing together and selling at a local flea market.
So began one of the main companies in the bike trailer industry.
Back in the earliest days of bike trailers, I wasn’t a parent yet but I wasn’t too far behind. I started pulling my kids around in one of their first trailers during the early 90’s I used a forerunner to the Burley Honey Bee. The Honey Bee is a no-nonsense trailer without many of the bells and whistles that grace more expensive models.
The Bike Trailer Industry Has Exploded
From those early utilitarian bike trailers have emerged a host of specialty models as well as luxury editions. In the world of passenger trailers, one of the major improvements has been the addition of a primitive suspension system. The Burley D‘lite uses an elastomer plastic between the body of the trailer and the axle in order to smooth out the ride for the kids.
There’s a wide range of quality in the bike trailer world; all the way from glorified strollers to $1000 models with enough engineering in them to rival a finely-made sports car.
While my tendency is to stay away from low-end models, I have to acknowledge that economy trailers make sense for casual cyclists. Let’s face it…you don’t need all the luxuries of a Burley Solo to tootle along a bike path at 5 miles per hour, stopping at every drinking fountain and rest stop.
The range in quality isn’t the only variety in the bike trailer world. There are now specialty trailers that can haul cargo for those cyclists who want to increase their bike’s carrying capacity. Flatbed cargo haulers have more diversity when pulling oddly shaped loads, while covered trailers are more suitable for keeping loads protected from the weather.
The pet trailers are interesting. The ‘pitch’ for them is that you can take along the pet that can no longer keep up with bike rides under their own power. I hadn’t thought of it that way, since I’ve never seen the practicality of taking your cat for a stroll…and have always thought that having a dog following on a leash behind the bike was a bit dicey.
But then again, I’m more of a parent type of guy, rather than a pet owner.
Get The Kids Started Right
It’s pretty common knowledge that our newest generation of kids can fall into the trap of never getting away from their digital devices long enough to get outside their rooms. Of course this lack of physical activity is leading to all sorts of health conditions, not to mention the loss of appreciation for the great outdoors.
Starting your kids out right by taking them along for a ride may encourage them onto the right path toward healthy living. And who knows…you may see some interesting sights along the way; sights you’re only aware of because of the newest pair of eyes in the bike trailer behind you.
Just when you thought Loving the Bike couldn’t get any better, a whole new cycling world awaits you and your little passengers.
Thanks to these two guest posters:
Alexis Bonari is currently a resident blogger at College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching student loan corporations as well as education MA scholarships. Whenever this WAHM gets some free time she enjoys doing yoga, cooking with the freshest organic in-season fare, and practicing the art of coupon clipping.
Ron Fritzke is a cycling product reviewer with a passion for ‘all things cycling’. A former 2:17 marathoner, he now directs his competitive efforts towards racing his bike….and looking for good cycling products.