Not unlike learning to swim, riding a bike is a skill that’s retained for life, and one that a lot of parents would like for their kids to continue to use into adulthood. No matter if you’re an avid mountain biker or just enjoy a leisurely weekend cruise at the park, having the kids along can be a wonderful experience for everyone.
Never Too Young
You don’t have to actually be able to ride a bike to enjoy the fun that cycling has to offer. Even young infants can participate with the use of a baby seat or trailer. The different types of stimulus that this provides, including the trees and plant life, bodies of water, fresh air, sunshine, birds and other wildlife all combine to make an exhilarating experience for any child.
Often, by the time children reach the age of two or three, they’ll already be all set to start learning how to ride a bike themselves, usually with the help of training wheels, or even better, a balance bike. A balance bike is a small bicycle designed for toddlers learning to ride. They don’t have pedals, a chain or gears, but are low enough where the child can put both feet on the ground to balance themselves. Before too long they’ll be coasting around and easily learning to balance themselves in preparation for a standard bicycle. The video below gives a good overview:
Whenever your child is able to safely navigate his or her own training bicycle you can start to go out for short rides, increasing the length of your trips as the child’s skills continue to develop. It’s best to take go on these initial outings in low traffic areas such as a park or bike paths where you can focus more on increasing coordination rather than road safety at this stage.
Obviously, it’s crucial that little ones know that wearing a helmet is mandatory, and every time they ride a bike they must wear one without exception.
A Bike That Fits
Having a bike that’s the right size for your child is an important detail to keep in mind. If the bike’s not big enough, your child will be unable to keep up with other riders; if it’s too big, he or she won’t be able to maintain proper control. As kids grow older, they will also likely outgrow their bikes, where upgrading to a larger size or different style can make a big impact on the quality of their riding enjoyment, including being able to go faster and uphill with less effort.
Have a Good Time
Riding bikes together as a family is a fun and rewarding pastime, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors, get some exercise, and spend quality time with those you love, all at the same time. Here are a few ideas to help get everyone involved and inspired:
- Aim for targets Entice your kids by challenging them to a ride somewhere nearby, like the park or convenience store, then gradually up the ante by going to farther destinations or terrain that’s a little rougher. Or start out with easier routes for the first half of the trip and take the more challenging paths on the way back. Encountering challenges together as a family can be a great way to bond.
- Getting equipped Like any hobby, assembling the tools and equipment that go along with it is half the fun. Kids might enjoy acquiring any number of bike-related gear, such as jerseys, shorts, gloves, bags, or even a bicycle computer to keeptrack of their progress.
- Home-made fun You can help the kids build a track or obstacle course using easily-obtained supplies (like scrap lumber, safety cones, etc.). Not only does riding a course help develop cycling skills, but building it together as a family is almost as fun as riding it!