Recreational biking can be a fun, affordable family activity that is appropriate for every family. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on fancy family activities; a simple bike ride to the park or bike ride in the country can be a fabulous way for the family to spend some quality time together. When you go biking with the family though there are a few things to keep in mind before you hit the road to make sure that everyone enjoys the experience and that no one get hurt or upset.
Pick a destination.
You can always take some detours along the way if you want but before you set out make sure that you have a clear destination in mind. Know where you’re going, what route you will take to get there, and how to get home. Nothing ruins family fun faster than getting lost.
Get ready ahead of time.
It’s a good idea to make sure that your bikes are all ready to go before the day of the ride. Make it a family project for the kids to check the air in their tires, make sure their chains are oiled, and that their bikes are ready to go before the day of the ride. It will teach them responsibility and give them some ownership in the family activity. They’ll love it, and you won’t get sidetracked twenty minutes before you want to leave by flat tires or other issues. Lay out the clothes you want the kids to wear and make sure they wear light layers of clothing, tight fitting jeans or pans, and comfortable socks and sneakers.
Lay the ground rules.
Sit down with all the kids before the ride and discuss ground rules. If you don’t want them riding more than a few hundred yards away from the rest of the family, make that clear. If you want to make sure that everyone goes slow enough to accommodate a young child or older family member, make that clear. Discussing the ground rules in advance can eliminate stress, tantrums, and general annoyance on the ride.
If you’re going on a long ride have each child carry a backpack or fanny pack with crucial items like a bottle of water, snacks, wet wipes for hands and faces and antibacterial wipes for scrapes or cuts. Parents should carry a larger backpack with extra water, snacks, extra sweaters or jackets, extra socks, diapers and formula if you are carrying a baby in a baby seat on your bike, a first aid kit with bandages, band aids, gauze, antibiotic crème or antibiotic wipes, an Ace bandage, Nu Skin for blisters, and some pain reliever, a map or GPS device, cell phone, and a small bicycle repair kit. It might seem like a lot of baggage to carry with you but on a leisurely family ride you won’t notice the extra baggage and if you find yourself in a situation where you need those items you will be very, very glad you have them. It’s also not a bad idea to have an emergency credit card in the pack as well in case you need money fast and don’t have a wallet or checkbook on you.
Biking with Small Children
When you first start looking for local bike trails or start looking to plan a cycling vacation for your family it’s important to keep in mind the ages of your children and to assess how much biking they can handle. While most bike trails are family friendly some are really meant for more experienced riders and not only will the slow pace of small children annoy riders who are trying to train for serious competitions or avid cyclists it could also endanger the children and they definitely won’t have a good time.
So it’s really in your best interest when planning a cycling trip to call ahead to your destination and ask if the trails are family friendly. Some places might have age restrictions where kids under a certain age are not welcomed but kids over a certain age are welcomed. Or there could be restrictions based on height or even on cycling ability so to make sure that there are no problems when you arrive, call ahead to check on any restrictions that might exist before you go.
Another thing to keep in mind when taking children cycling is the substance you will be riding on. Small children probably will do best on a smooth paved road. If the trail is sand, straw, dirt, or gravel it might be too hard for a small child to negotiate on a bike. Checking in advance will prevent a lot of disappointment and possibly some tantrums later on. If you can put a child’s bike seat on your bike you may want to do that when going cycling on unfamiliar trails so that if necessary your small child can ride with you instead of getting frustrated and upset trying to cycle on a trail that is too advanced for him or her.
If your family is serious about cycling and wants to undertake some longer cycling trips or vacations but worry that your younger children won’t be able to keep up consider investing in or even renting tandem bikes. There are tandem bikes made especially for parents where the parent rides up front and does most of the biking but there is a small child size seat and child size pedals on the rear of the bike so the child gets the experience of cycling without holding up the whole group. Parent tandem bikes are very popular with European families who like to go cycling.
Cycling as a family can be a wonderfully rewarding experience. It’s one of the few activities families can do together that doesn’t cost much and gets everyone out in the fresh air and being active. Families can use cycling as a chance to spend some quality time with each other and really bond. In order to make the most out of the family cycling experience parents can plan ahead for contingencies like restrictions on trails to make sure that the family cycling trip is a happy experience for everyone, even the youngest members of the family.