For Beginner Cyclists: How to Make Family Cycling a Part of Your Routine

Beginner cyclists


Bike blogs and cycling advocacy sites have been steadily gaining momentum over the past few years. Among the many blogs dedicated to the growing bike culture in North America, a smattering of those focus on family cycling. A Simple Six, Totcycle, Tiny Helmets Big Bikes, and my own blog, Simply Bike, are just a sampling of the blogs focused on cycling with kids in mind. While all of these blogs present diverse family structures and biking set-ups, they overlap in showing just how doable and enjoyable it is to integrate cycling into your family’s daily routine.


Regardless of how committed you are to making biking a part of your family’s routine, even the tiniest of change will provide benefits: Just one bike ride a week will improve your health and fitness, lower your gas spending, and reduce your carbon footprint. But you likely already know this. Maybe you’ve been wanting to bike with your kids but don’t where to start. Especially if it’s been a while since you’ve been on a bike as an adult.


Remember how much fun riding a bike was when you were a child? The good news is that it’s never to late to start biking again.


Here are a few tips for getting started with your kids by bike:


1. Find a good bike for the adult(s) in the family


If you don’t have a bike that’s a good fit for you, you likely won’t want to go for a bike ride no matter how much your children love the idea. The ideal bike will be the right size for you, will match the type of terrain making up your daily commute (ie, if you live somewhere hilly, a single-speed cruiser might not be best for you), and it will also come equipped with carrying capabilities (think a basket, rear rack, panniers, etc), so that you can easily take the things you need with you as you bike to the park, the library, or to the grocery store. Consult a bike shop employee or the internet for tips on finding the right size bike (and learn more about bike terminology here).

2. Find a child carrying system that meets your family’s needs


Just as there are many types of bikes for the adults in the family, there are numerous options for transporting your kids. You can choose between bucket bikes, electric cargo bikes, bike trailers, and bike seats (front or rear mounted). I prefer a front mounted bike seat (you can read my review here, along with a trailer review as well). Your local bike shop should be able to provide you with at least some of those options, giving you a chance to test ride each system to see how you and your child like it.


3.  Start slow and make it fun!


If you haven’t been on a bike since your childhood days, start by plotting a short route to a nearby park or to the library. Pack a picnic, hit the swings, or visit a friend. The point is to keep it manageable and non-intimidating. Avoid busy roads with heavy traffic and plot quiet residential streets to get you there. Practice signaling and get a feel for the trailer or bike seat affecting the steering of your bike. Most importantly, keep it fun!


For our first bike ride with the child seat we stuck to quiet trails near our home and barely covered a mile. Today we ride for the majority of our commutes and have made biking with our one-year-old a central part of our transportation options. It brings us together to do something we all enjoy while getting exercise, fresh air, and that rush that we so fondly remembered from our childhood bike riding days.


Beginner cyclists

Ruxandra Looft

About Ruxandra Looft

Ruxandra Looft is a writer and editor based in Des Moines, Iowa. Originally from Romania, she’s called Germany, Austria, and Canada her home before settling in the Midwest. She holds a PhD in German and Comparative Literature and writes about parenthood, academia, and life on two wheels on her blog Simply Bike. Find more of her writing on her website and on Twitter @Simply Bike.


5 thoughts on “For Beginner Cyclists: How to Make Family Cycling a Part of Your Routine”

  1. Starting slow and making it fun is a smart tip for sure. When it’s fun the whole family will want to keep at it. We have a lot of local parks with trails that are great for riding bikes with the family. Our kids love it.

  2. I was an avid cyclist before I got pregnant, but I’ve had to adjust in a few ways that might be helpful to new cycling families. About halfway through the pregnancy our in-laws gave us a car, and we also had a 12-year-old, move into the house whom I am spend a lot of time attending to. Some days it was difficult to convince myself to cycle, and other days it was difficult to to explain to her why we’re cycling and not taking the car.

    I basically just set boundaries on places where it just makes more sense to bike to, in terms of how long it takes and ease of parking when we get there. We’re smack-dab in the middle of a twin-city, so it’s 10 minutes to either downtown where it’s much easier to park a bicycle than a car. So even at 8 months pregnant I can still convince myself and her that it makes more sense to cycle there, because she and I both know that if it was really going to be an arduous journey somewhere further we’d have the option of driving.

    So while my boundaries are getting smaller as the birthdate approaches, new cycling families might find they can slowly expand their cycling routes and add more destinations to their daily routine as they feel comfortable.

  3. Great post! There are so many possibilities, and seems the only part left is to just make it the only choice! [img][/img]

  4. I found a helmet for the baby and a Gerry Baby back pack to be the right combination for cycling. Other baby back packs are too bulky, and with a backpack the kid stays with me. (besides a Gerry Baby back pack was what my mother used for me … so it _must_ be the right thing to do) I like the back pack because the kid stays with me … and I can manage things like locking the bike, shopping … loading the panniers, etc I found the back pack could double as a high chair if we stopped somewhere to eat while we were out.

    And the picture of the swing has it right. I found that if the bike trip included some time in the park with a swing (even in 30 deg weather with the baby bundled in her snow suit ) made a bike ride something the baby was always happy to have as part of the day.

  5. Great tips! We ride with our tot a lot, and he asks for a quick spin around the block everyday when we get home from work by asking for his “bi” (bike) and “hat” (helmet) – it’s great to get them started early. We started slow though, like you suggest!

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