In an effort to stay active and spend time outdoors, more families are taking the streets on two wheels rather than four. The benefits are multiple: spend quality time together, keep the whole family fit, and care for the environment all at once. With the right equipment and a bit of planning, cycling with kids can be easy and fun.
Start at the top: helmets that are in good condition and fit well are a necessity. Small children can be resistant to wearing a helmet, but be firm about this one. They got used to seatbelts; they’ll learn to love their helmets. Make sure the chin strap is tight enough to keep the helmet from sliding around on their heads. When my sons were young, I let them decorate their helmets with stickers. That seemed to make them more amenable to having the helmets strapped on.
If you have little ones, choose a child seat that’s right for your family and the type of riding you’ll be doing. Some children do just fine in trailers, others prefer to be up front near the action. Other options include rear-rack and center-mounted child seats. Whatever you choose, make sure it meets ASTM safety standards.
If your children are older they may be ready for an add-on bike, like an Adams Trail-a-Bike. This allows kids to help with the pedaling while leaving the steering and braking to an adult. The other benefit is that kids can pedal greater distances when attached to your bike than they would be able to reach on their own bike.
Special cycling clothing is not necessary, but layers are never a bad idea, especially in the Northwest. Keep a waterproof outer layer handy in case you get caught in the rain – a warm, dry kid is a happy kid.
Where to ride
Choose your routes carefully. Look for roads that have generous shoulders and good visibility. A day out with the kids is not the time to try out a new route. Local rail-trails (like the Burke-Gilman Trail and the Sammamish River Trail) are a great way to enjoy a bike ride as a family. Plan a route that will include a good rest break along the way, like a park where the kids can get their wiggles out, and make sure you know where the nearest bathrooms are.
If you have kids, you know that meltdowns are often either food or sleep related. Even if you are the one doing the pedaling, make sure you have snacks handy to keep your little rider well-fueled. And don’t forget the fluids! You might be the only one breaking a sweat, but kids can get dehydrated easily while riding along.
If your child is ready to ride on his or her own, consider signing up for a class through an organization like the Cascade Bicycle Club. Cascade offers cycling basics classes, skills rodeos, and camps covering everything from urban cycling to mountain biking!