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.
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.