Tips & tricks: Biking with kids
Biking fun: Going beyond handlebar fringe and bells! You’ve made it past teaching your kiddos how to ride a bike. You got beyond running awkwardly beside them, trying desperately to avoid even the slightest bump that would inevitably cause a tumble of epic proportions (at least in their minds). They wobbled; you wobbled. They fell; you fell. They cried . . . well, you cried, but for different reasons. Now what? Bike riding is a great excuse (as if you even needed another one) to get outside with your family. We’ve put together some tips to make the experience even more fun.
- It’s all about the bike: When the time comes for your kiddos to shed the training wheels, do a little research to find the best bike for them. Whether you’re in the market for a single-speed bike, a multi-speed bike, a mountain bike or a hybrid, the best advice is not to follow the “room to grow” adage. After all, you’re not buying a shirt. Buying a bike that’s too big or too small will cause setbacks, so spend time investigating sizes and maybe even take your child to a bike shop. (Watch for our upcoming post on how to properly size a bike for a child.)
- Brush up on skills: Whether you’re pedaling around the neighborhood or hitting the trails, make sure your child is comfortable with basic bike handling skills. It’ll be frustrating for them, you, and other riders if your kiddos aren’t quite ready for the open road. The day will head south pretty fast if your child can’t get going and decides to walk their bike for the rest of your ride! Make sure your child can start and stop their bike, ride in a straight line and not swerve and can stay on the right side of the road/path. A fun way to practice is to draw chalk “paths” on sidewalks and have riders follow straight lines, twists, and turns. Also, be sure to add stop signs to practice their start and stop skills.
- Pick a destination: Choose a ride with a fun destination – a park, a favorite lunch spot or an ice cream shop. Kids like goals, so think about what interests them and pedal to your destination! You might have a favorite nature trail, but your kids may not find it quite as interesting, so plan for your group.
- Set a good example: Biking isn’t a “do as I say not as I do” kind of activity. Kids need to be taught to stay on the right side of the road/path, use hand signals, and obey traffic rules – and they need to see you follow those practices, too. If you expect your kids to wear a helmet . . . and we ALL do . . . you need to, as well.
- Have fun: Whether you’re headed out with your family or having one-on-one time with your child, you want to enjoy it and share the experience. Try to find a time when you’re not rushed and ride at your child’s pace. Ileana Street, Avid4 Adventure’s senior vice president of new business, agrees. Street recently went on a bike ride with her 7-year old and said, “It was great that I didn’t have huge time pressure around what time we needed to get home. That allowed us to stop and look at whatever she wanted to look at and allowed me to focus on the journey. We stopped at a creek. She noticed a tree that had fallen and spoke to me about how the flood had probably caused that. We stopped at amazing tree carvings done by a Native American artist. We talked about how she had Cherokee blood in her. She showed me a poster a family had put up regarding their dog that was stolen—she sees it every day on her school bus ride and had the opportunity to show it to me in person on our bike ride.” Savor the quality time spent together!
- Know your child’s limits: If your child is just starting out, don’t plan a long bike ride. A short, successful ride to your neighborhood park is far better than a longer ride that comes with meltdowns. The flip side to knowing limits is recognizing your child may be more capable than you think. Street noticed this when she was braking so she and her daughter could stay together, and her daughter said, “Can you go faster, Mama? I don’t want to run into you.” Street realized that she saw her daughter as slower and younger when, in reality, she was stronger and faster. As a parent, you know your child, so just go with it!
Kids and bikes belong together, so start early – even before kids can pedal – and get riding! Enjoy the outdoors, get exercise, and discover new things on your bicycles! Visit Avid4 Adventure and learn about our single sport Mountain Biking camps and Valmont Bike Park Bike Skills program! Looking for more information about bikes? Visit our partner, Specialized Bikes! About the Author: Lynne Marsala Basche spent most of her career on the island of Manhattan at two New York publishing companies. A multi-year Avid4 Adventure mom and a new contributor to the Avid4 Adventure website, Lynne’s writing adventures also take her to championing volunteerism and regional recreation stories as a staff writer for the Castle Pines Connection newspaper, as well as supporting separate large corporate communications programs. By trying to keep pace with her mountain biking, rock climbing, snowboarding, lacrosse playing, unicycling, tae kwon do-loving 11-year old son, she, like most Avid4 parents, loves sharing the value of outdoor recreation and its positive influence on children’s health and confidence development. Lynne lives in Castle Pines, Colorado and regularly immerses herself in outdoor activities with her family where she also runs her freelance writing company, Blue Spruce Creative