Tready&Me has been on my back for ages to write something on the blog. Having taken the kids out for a trundle on the Bicycle Victoria Bike Path Discovery Day, it inspired me to produce my 5 tips for riding with kids. Now most of this is just common sense, but here we go:
1. Choose your route carefully
Off road shared paths are ideal for cycling with kids, but don't ignore riding on roads. Although kids don't have the same peripheral awareness as adults, it is good for them to get experience cycling in traffic with adult guidance.
Probably best to avoid too many hills. Even if kids have gears, chances are they don't understand how to use them properly, and a long up hill can wear out even the most enthusiastic junior rider. However the odd up hill stretch is a good opportunity for kids to learn about using their gears.
Don't expect to go too far. My primary school-aged kids can quite comfortably ride more than 40kms, but they are pretty fit (they walk to school every day, play team sports and prefer running around in the backyard to watching TV) and they also ride often. You can slowly build up distance as your kids gain in confidence and fitness, but keep it real—don't expect to be putting in a couple of hundred kms with them in tow.
2. Make sure everyone's bike is up to scratch
Ok, so you keep your beloved bike in good order, but what about the kids? In my opinion, kids bikes are too often treated as toys and cared for in the same way. Make sure the bike is in good order (especially if it hasn't been ridden for a while) and the seat is correctly adjusted so that junior is riding comfortably. Kids should be encouraged to look after their bikes. Before a ride, help them to make sure the tires are pumped up and give the chain a bit of oil.
Helmets are compulsory, but make sure that it is correctly fitted. Replica team lycra is for tossers, but some "bike clothes" for the kids can make them feel like going on a bike ride is a special event.
3. Take care of the WIIFMs
Telling the rug rats that "we are going for a family bike ride because it's a jolly good thing to do!" will hardly inspire the young-uns. Altruism is not a concept that kids understand or readily embrace. In fact Treadly&Me oft mentions that a good bike ride should include a coffee shop stop off (and I prefer to finish a ride at a good microbrewery for a couple of post-ride ales), and while this is all good for the adult riders, consider the "what's in it for me" from the kids' point of view.
Here are a few incentives to inspire junior riders:
- Load up your panniers with kid friendly picnic goodies
- Make sure there is a good adventure playground on route and plan to stop there for a decent (at least half an hour) break
- Stop at an ice cream parlour, lolly shop or bakery for some treats
- Invite the cousins, the kids friends and/or grandma and grandpa to join in the ride
- If you can manage to combine some or all of the above you are definitely on a winner!
4. Pace it
Remember you're out with the kids—it's not a training ride or a commute—so while you won't be able to go clocking along at 30+kph, you can probably get along quite comfortably at 10–15kph with primary school-aged kids (which isn't too shabby).
Be prepared to have a decent stop every hour or so and some short drink stops along the way (young kids can't manage to ride and squeeze a drink from their bottle at the same time).
Also make sure that there is an adult rider at the "back of the pack" to keep things moving along, encourage the stragglers and ensure that none of the kiddly-winkers are lost out the back!
An adult up the front is also useful to reign in the over exuberant tear-aways, particularly at the start of the ride!
5. Praise and encourage
Most important of all: heap on the praise and encouragement! Let your kids know how great it has been for you to be out riding with them!!! Guaranteed they'll soon be pestering your for the next ride!