Springtime is the perfect time of year to go cycling with kids. After months of clouds and rain, the wide open blue skies beckon with promises of adventure and cherry blossoms. Families with kids of just about any age can go cycling together, as long as you’ve got the right equipment. Here’s an overview of the different ways families can go cycling together.
Trailers that attach to the back of the adult bike are perfect for families with preschoolers and toddlers. In a trailer, the child is safely strapped in, protected by a sturdy aluminum cage and able to play with toys, eat snacks or look at books during the ride. Trailers are not safe for babies under one-year-old due to the risk of a neck injury in the case of a rollover or sudden stop, but they’re ideal for little kids.
Another good option for toddlers is a bike seat, either mounted on the back of the bike or in front, just behind the handlebars. Both locations have their pros and cons, so finding the best fit for you may mean going to a bike shop and taking a test ride. Rear-mounted seats provide lots of room for long-legged parents to pedal, but can feel tippier and make it harder to communicate with a child who is behind you. Front mounted seats provide lots of closeness and better balance, but take up valuable leg room.
When a child has outgrown a trailer but isn’t yet able to ride independently, the trailing bike is a good option. This is either an attachment that converts a child’s own bike into a trailer that follows behind the adult bike, or a custom trailer that has pedals, handlebars and a rear wheel only. Kids riding on a trailing bike need to be old enough to balance and stay on, but since they’re trailing behind the adult they don’t need to be able to navigate traffic on their own.
These unique bicycles are great for car-free urban families who want to be able to transport children, groceries and other cargo by bike. Boxcycles are larger than regular bikes, with a big space in front where kids, shopping, picnic blankets, swimming gear, spare clothes and pets can ride. With two wheels in the front and one in the back, they look like a reversed tricycle, but they’re sleek and European in design.
Children riding their own bikes
At some point, kids will learn how to balance and ride their bike by themselves. It’s important to make sure that children who are riding on the road know how to stay safe and navigate traffic, especially understanding and following the rules of the road. The age at which children are able to do this will vary, but it’s important that kids who are just starting to ride on the road have an adult nearby. Bike safety courses are available for kids aged six and up in Greater Vancouver.
Families with multiple children may need a combination of trailers, seats and independent bicycles to get everyone on the road together, but as long as your baby is older than a year, cycling together is a great family activity. Cycling is a multi-sensory activity that brings you in contact with the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of the world around you, whether you’re cycling down the road to the farmers’ market or along the seawall in False Creek, and kids and adults alike will benefit from the fresh air and exercise.
Michelle Carchrae is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom to two girls. With a serious love for Vancouver and an equally serious need to get out of the house with two young kids, Michelle searches out the best kid and parent friendly places to go. Michelle also writes about parenting at her blog, The Parent Vortex.
Michelle Carchrae is often asking those important life questions: "who moved the scissors?", "how would you do that differently next time?" and "are you finished with the glitter glue?" Homeschooling two girls, ages 6 and 3, is her full time job. The rest of the time Michelle can be found blogging at The Parent Vortex, hiking in the forest or knitting and reading simultaneously. She recently published her first ebook, The Parenting Primer: A guide to positive parenting in the first six years, and moved to Bowen Island.