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 14” Spawn 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! She’s now on a 20” wheeled 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 family “coffee rides” every 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 children’s 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks so much Laura! I had so many questions and you answered them all. Happy Biking everyone!