There are many wonderful benefits of going on family bike rides: instilling healthy exercise habits in your kids, getting in quality family time, improving moods, and so much more. Even if your young child is riding as a passenger, introducing them to biking at an early age can result in a healthy, lifelong habit and love for riding. But how do you begin riding bikes as a family? The following tips for biking with kids will ensure every family bike ride is smooth, safe, and most importantly -- fun!
1) Pick the Proper Bike
Kids’ bicycle needs change considerably as they learn, grow, and develop their skills. So, while one bike may be the perfect fit for your 6-year old, another, larger bike will be ideal for an 8-year old. One mistake that many parents and caregivers make is buying a bicycle that their child can “grow into.” While you may think you are saving money, we advise against this as a bigger bike can make riding awkward, difficult, and unsafe for a smaller child.
Here are some general guidelines on choosing the proper bike for your kid:
- Age 0-6: Bike seats or trailers are the safest way to introduce your little one to bike riding. Once they grow beyond infancy, they can typically leave the trailer and safely ride with you on an attachable bike seat.
- Age 3-6: Once a small child reaches toddlerhood, they may start wanting to do their thing independently. Plus, once they reach the age of 6, they can sometimes get too big for a bike seat. A balance bike will help your child focus on steering and balancing so that they can safely transition to riding a training bike with pedals and breaks.
- Age 6-7: A first “real” bike will contain six or seven gears. Look for a lightweight bike that fits your child well to ensure they enjoy the ride and are safe.
- Age 8+: By now, your child’s bike should have 21 gears so they can navigate more difficult, hilly courses with ease.
How to cut down on bike costs for your child: One way to get around spending too much money on a new bike every couple of years is to buy a like-new, pre-owned upCycled kids bike that is serviced and certified by roll:. You can also think about using our Kids Bike Trade-Up program. When you buy any new kids bike, we'll give you 50% of your purchase price back in credit when you trade your bike in against the purchase of the next size up!
2) Get the Right Gear
Choosing the right biking gear will help keep your child safe and happy on every ride. Some tips:
- Make your child wear a helmet. The best way to prevent head injuries is to wear a properly-fitting bike helmet -- not just sometimes, but Even if your family is just riding up and down your block, helmets can protect kids and parents from severe head injuries and even death.
- Dress for the weather. Not only will dressing for the weather keep your child dry and warm, it will keep them safe, too. If it’s raining, ensure your child is wearing the proper rain gear for cycling in wet conditions. And if it’s cold, invest in a good coat, warm socks, mittens, and a beanie that can fit under a helmet. Ski masks can also be a good idea for chilly weather.
- Reflective tape is your friend. Whether your child is riding in the trailer, or on their own bike, adding reflective tape to trailers, bikes, and helmets will make your family visible to other cyclists and motorists. Adding a safety flag to a trailer is also a good rule of thumb when it comes to family cycling safety.
- Low light calls for proper lighting. When your family is riding in low-light conditions, it’s important to use both bike headlights and taillights so you can see better, and so motorists will know when they are approaching you.
- Bring refreshments. Bringing some snacks and water along for the ride will ensure everyone stays hydrated and energized. Place snacks in a pannier for safe-keeping on the ride.
3) Practice Bicycle Safety
While a family bike ride is meant to be fun, it’s important for your child to know that a bicycle isn’t a toy, but a vehicle that must be treated as such. These bicycle safety tips can ensure that your child stays safe on every ride:
- Teach your child proper hand signals and the rules of the road. It’s important to review bike safety rules -- with younger children, especially -- before you start any ride.
- Perform a basic bike maintenance check before each ride. Better yet, teach your child how to check their own brakes and tire pressure to get them used to performing their own bike checks.
- Ensure your child knows to ride on the far right-hand side of the road with traffic -- never against.
- Always wear brightly-colored clothing and use lights when in low-light conditions. Reflectors should also always be worn to ensure your child is seen by other motorists.
- Stick together. On family rides, make sure everyone stays together until your older kids know the rules of the road like the back of their hands, and are ready to ride off by themselves.
4) Choose Kid-Friendly Routes
If you’re a seasoned cyclist, you may not mind where you ride off to as long as you’re out there! But if you want your child to stick with bike riding, they will need to not only feel safe on the route but entertained and engaged with the family biking experience. Here’s how to ensure kids enjoy every ride:
- Check bike routes before you head out. Avoid overly hilly routes, busy roads, and other things that a kid couldn’t navigate easily. Checking routes will also allow you to plan shortcuts in case your little one tires quickly.
- Plan your family bike rides around safe, quiet roads and cycle paths.
- Don’t ride too far. If you take the family out on an extensive ride, your kids may look at the ride as too hard and a chore -- then crankiness will ensue. Shorter routes will keep them engaged and wanting to ride more in the future.
- If you have a very young child who is using a balance or training bike, a family ride on the pavement of your neighborhood is usually your best bet, unless your child can fit on a child bicycle seat or inside a trailer.
- Always allow the slowest rider to set the pace for the ride. This will keep things more enjoyable for young or inexperienced riders.
When you include your kids in your favorite activities you can strengthen your bond and improve their quality of life. Whether you’re biking up and down the sidewalks of your neighborhood, riding through a park, or heading out for ice cream, a family bike ride is a fun, active way to connect with each other and view your community from an up-close perspective.