Part II: April Sister Cyclist, Laura Roberts on Family Cycling

With Spring in swing, I see more and more families out on their bikes with their kids. How does one begin that journey with their family? For many people, it may just be where to start. With more of my friends having kids, I've had those questions on my mind too because, selfishly, I want them to keep cycling with me! And, although not in the current cards, I have wondered if, one day, there is a cute little rugrat I need to transport with me via bike - how will I do it? Well, earlier this month, I spoke with Riyoko's April Sister Cyclist, Laura Roberts, about her experiences in cycling, and we got talking about her family's experiences as well. Laura and her husband have been cycling with their children since the children were babies. It was a perfect chance for me to ask! And I couldn't think of anyone better to ask than Laura.

For your family, what has been the process for getting the kids prepared to ride on two wheels?

We started both of our kids on balance bikes around 12-18 months once they were steady on their feet and tall enough to stand over the bike. Along with the *balance bike, we also had them riding a *fixed gear tricycle to get the hang of pedalling.

For my oldest, we purchased a 14Spawn pedal bike when she was just over 3. We took her to a grassy field, gave her a few pushes and she was riding on her own! Shes now on a 20wheeled BMX bike as she is really tall. My son is almost 3 and he recently started riding the Spawn pedal bike. We followed the same approach with him and he has done really well.

We are now going on increasingly longer familycoffee ridesevery weekend. The kids swap back and forth between riding their own bikes and riding with us. We installed bike mounts on the back of the Surly Big Dummy so we can tow their bikes. We are hoping to do some longer day trips maybe in Kananaskis this summer.

I would also say that you need to be prepared to change things up over time as childrens size and abilities change. We purchased the Surly Big Dummy with a child seat when my oldest was around one year old. 













Eventually we transitioned her to her own handle bar set-up and put our son behind her in the child seat. Last year, with them getting so much taller and heavier we decided to purchase a Metrofiets Box Bike as it is more stable with their weight low to the ground. We are also now able to put one kid on each bike and tow their bikes. We are really fortunate to have so many options now!








  What is a balance bike? A fixed gear tricycle? And, where did you get them?


A balance bike or run bike is a small bike with no pedals that allows kids to learn steering and balance with their feet on the ground before they learn to pedal. They are available in every bike shop these days. We found it was helpful to get one with a hand brake as our son is a little bit of a speed demon!

A fixed gear tricycle requires you to actually put force onto the pedals to move the bike forward. This helps teach the pedalling movement. We had to look around a bit to find one, and actually purchased it when we were living in another city. If you can find an old school metal tricycle, they will typically be a fixie.

When we were talking the other day, you'd mentioned you get extra attention when you are out riding the Metrofiets cargo bike with the kids. Can you give us an example? 

When we go to playgrounds with our kids, other parents often come up and ask us about the bikes, especially the the Metrofiets box bike because you don't see many of those in Canada. We love telling people all about how easy and fun riding with your kids is!

What are a couple of the questions asked most often?

People typically ask where we got the bikes and if it's hard to ride with the kids.

How do you answer those questions?

We usually point them towards our local shop, BikeBike, as they have the best cargo bike selection in the city of Calgary, and they really cater to family riding. Regarding riding with the kids, I would say riding with kids has its challenges just like taking your kids in the car, but they are typically in better moods being outside on a bike. Our kids are on the big side for their ages, so we definitely find it easier having them split between the two cargo bikes. Riding with both of them on one bike is definitely a good workout though, and the Metrofiets is more comfortable and stable when riding with both kids as their weight is lower to the ground.

Can you give us some tips on how you chose your bikes? What kinds of questions did you ask?

I would suggest:

- Use Instagram,Twitter, and/or Pinterest to check out family riding and cargo biking set-ups. Some good hashtags are: #yycbikekids #morekidsonbikes #cargobike, #familybike, and #carfreefamily

- Read online reviews and blog posts of people that have tested various cargo bikes

- Go to your local shop and test drive a bunch of bikes

- And think of your current needs but also how you will be able to adapt or re-purpose the bike as your family or cargo biking needs change.

Do you have a tip or trick for making the process from in-the-home to on-the-bike with kids more seamless and efficient?

Having all your gear ( and the kids gear) in one accessible place is really helpful. We have hooks set up at kid-level for their helmets and bins for their jackets and gloves, so that they can help get themselves ready. 

 Do you have any tricks or tips for riding on the road with kids in the cargo?

In general, we like to make ourselves as visible as possible with bright helmets and other gear. The Metrofiets is great because it has lights that are continually on when you are riding. We also like to stick to bike routes, city paths and less busy streets in general. i'm very excited to see some more bike lanes into downtown Calgary in the works!

Any favourite gear you use for riding with kids in the cargo?

Wool buffs or neck warmers they can pull over their faces. Sunglasses. A good waterproof blanket. Little toys to keep them entertained on longer rides.

What is one thing you never leave home without?

Probably sunglasses or snacks for my kids.

Any other info you wanted to share?

If people have any questions, they can get in touch at bikefamyyc@gmail.com.

Thanks so much Laura! I had so many questions and you answered them all. Happy Biking everyone!

Part I: April Sister Cyclist, Laura Roberts

Riyoko's April's Sister Cyclist is Laura Roberts. Laura and her family bike everywhere, and their cycling ways have grown through different stages of their children's growth. Cycling as a family may not seem doable, but as Laura and her family know, it absolutely is. For many people it may just be where to start? I know I wouldn't know where to begin. I had too many questions for Laura to fit into one blog post, so I split the interview into two parts. In Part I, we get to know Laura through own her experiences in cycling. And later this month, in Part II, we'll talk more about her experiences cycling as a family and as a cargo bike family. Here we go!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a mom of two little kids and work part-time as an environmental engineer for an oil & gas company. My family is bike crazy, and we spend a lot of time cycling together. For me, the best days include a family bike adventure exploring the city, playground hopping, and good coffee or craft beer!

What do you like best about travelling in your city?

I love exploring the city by bike because you get such a good sense of the topography, and you see so much more than you can in a car. I love seeing the seasons change - sometimes overnight! Many of the bike paths in Calgary traverse such beautiful areas along the rivers. On a bike, you have the opportunity to chat with people as you travel along. I really enjoy that interaction. When I take the kids on the cargo bike, one of my favourite parts is that every person you pass smiles at you. You can't help but feel happy!

Of the places you have traveled to, which one(s) have you like travelling to/ through the most, and why?

Before we had kids, my husband and I did a cycling trip through Barvaria. It was great to see the countryside by bicycle. That area of Germany is really well set up with secondary roads and bike paths to get you in between towns. Lots of great beer to get you through your ride as well!

Tell us a little about your bike.

For commuting to work and errands around town, I ride a purple Glitter Dreams Surly Straggler with a Brooks saddle that gets better with age! I probably spent the most time riding one of our two cargo bikes around with my kids though. We have a Surly Big Dummy long tail with seats on the back, and a Metrofiets dutch-style box bike. We always get a lot of attention and questions from other families.

What started you biking?

I didn't do a lot of biking as a kid because I grew up on a big hill! My husband and I met in University, and he has always been into cycling, especially mountain biking. I've slowly worked into it over the years. I really enjoy all kinds of cycling now, especially mountain biking with my girlfriends in Bragg Creek! The Trek Dirt Series and Calgary Spin Sisters really helped me progress my mountain biking skills. I also did a couple cyclocross races last fall (Dark Knight - yippee!!), and I'm planning to do some more this year with the Bicisport Club. Cyclocross has a great atmosphere plus the races are short!

Do you have a favorite riyoko piece

My favourite riyoko piece are the Bamboo Fleece Tights. They are amazing for commuting on cold mornings or under dresses for running around on the weekends with my kids.

Tell us a trick or tip you have for cycling and/ or traveling.

I try to keep all of my gear in one place so I can grab it quickly and go! We recently converted a big part of our garage to a mud room and gear storage, so this helps a lot.

What is your philosophy?

Do it now! Life is too short to wait for the perfect weather, the perfect age or perfect time!