Mom on a bike Part II: Riding with kids
Riding around town with my two kids in tow, I am often asked about how to get young children on bikes. How old do they need to be? What type of gear should I have? Where can I find a helmet small enough?
There is an overwhelming amount of information online, complete with opinions about what is safe, legal, works best, etc. I did my own research and made decisions that felt best for my family. Here is what we found:
Both of my children had their first bike rides around 9 months of age. At that point, each was able to sit independently and had great head control. Holding up a helmet was no problem. We never tried using infant carriers in the back of trailers or in bucket bikes, but friends of ours have.
Where to ride
I love to ride my bike, and I try to ride as often as possible, including commuting to work, closer social functions and errands. When riding with the kids, I have different goals than when I am trying to get somewhere quickly and efficiently, so I choose my routes differently. Here is what works for my family:
- We pick quiet streets and paths when possible. Neighborhood streets, parks and bike paths are some of our favorite places to cruise.
- We make ourselves visible with lights, flags and bright clothing. We may look like a UFO going down the street, but the kids like the flashy lights, and they make us super visible.
- We allow extra time. Adding time for surprise playground or ice cream stops along the way, children who fall asleep or other unexpected circumstances (flats on our bike AND trailer—yes, it happens) helps.
I had dreams about all of the fancy gear we would get to buy once we had kids. I also have an ongoing wish list of gear I would like, including an Xtracycle and a Dutch bucket bike. Fancy gear can be expensive though. Do what works for you. We have tried a variety of things and found a few favorites:
- Front seat: We were given a Yepp Mini front-mounted bike seat before my oldest was born. Both kids love that they can see everything, and we like having them right there between our arms. The seat has a comfortable full-harness buckle and a front armrest (affectionately known as the “steering wheel” by my daughter) to keep little hands out of the way.
- Back seat: We also have a rear-mounted seat that we may use more once my youngest gets too big for the front seat. My daughter finds it comfortable enough for napping but seems to prefer being in front.
- Trailer: My almost 3-year old is a huge fan of our trailer. She loves to bring books or toys in there with her, and I can usually hear her singing happily to herself as she gazes out the window. The trailer can fit two kids or one kid with plenty of gear.
- Push bikes: We have a couple of these. My daughter is just beginning to glide around on both her Joovy Bicycoo and traditional Strider.
- Helmets: While parents know there is a “gently used” market for everything, helmets should be purchased new. Finding good helmets for small heads can be challenging, but we’ve found that both Lazer and Joovy helmets work well for our kids. Getting kids used to wearing helmets early is key. Once they’re used to them, they won’t want to ride without them.
When purchasing specialized bike gear, take your kids and bikes with you to the store. We found out the hard way that certain seats are more compatible with one bike over another, and helmets that look like they would fit in the store actually might not. It helps to try everything out before purchasing.
Make It Work For You
I have seen so many creative setups when it comes to bike gear and getting kids exposed to the world of bicycling. I think we can all gain from each other’s experiences, much like in the bigger world of parenting. Please comment and share what works for you and your kids.
All that aside, each family bike ride reminds me that regardless of what gear is today’s favorite, which bikes we are on or whatever else has happened that day, riding bikes makes me happy. My kids seem to feel the same, and they both get a huge thrill out of hearing the ding of my bike bell. That’s all I need.