Family Fun on Two Wheels
If the beautiful spring weather is calling you to venture out on two wheels, whether brand new or dusty, and/or you plan to bring the family along, here are some tips for having a safe, fun adventure.
1. Make sure everyone is outfitted properly. helmets that are properly adjusted, gloves, closed-toed shoes. Life is just soo much easier when your kids (or you) can get up and dust off after a fall, and gloves make that much easier (for grown-ups too!).
2. Consider a full-face helmet for your lil’-shredder. My son knocked out two teeth and broke a third before we closed the barn door and got a full-face. Wish we’d started there! While they are more expensive, and are not for every kid, they are worth considering, because, you know, dental work is expensive.
3. Have water bottles for everyone, and let the kids have all the sugar (energy bars, chews, etc.). In fact this is my strategy for any outdoor activity I want my kids to love. They are working! They will burn it up, it will keep them happy, it will build positive associations (yes, love can be bought, Victoria). Just stay away from the caffeinated treats (#parentmistakes). If your kids don’t usually get much sugar, the appeal will be all that much stronger.
4. Make sure your child (and you!) know how the shifting works on their bike, and can shift. Then, work out a verbal code so that you can communicate what’s needed. This will vary depending on the type of shifting: e.g., “twist forward,” “twist back.” Telling your kid “easier gear!” may not compute while she is struggling up a hill, and trying not to fall over, but giving a signal to shift to an easier gear at the start of a hill (in language she can understand), will help her be successful. As your child gains mastery with her bike, switching to “easier gear”/”harder gear” language will help her develop her cycling sense. For starters, warn your child to shift into her easiest gear (using whatever code you settle on) before she hits that hill.
5. Check your child’s fit, especially with a new bike, or if they haven’t ridden in a while. Kids grow quickly, and the set-up that was perfect a few months ago, may need adjusting now. As much as your child wants to be flat-footed on the ground while seated, this is terrible for the knees. Try to keep your child on tiptoes as they perch on their saddle, and as they becomes more adept, demonstrate how to stand on one leg at stops. If you raise the saddle (keeping within the maximum height line on the seat post), remember to also raise the stem and handlebars if possible, to keep him comfortable. For a child over 8, who has been riding for a while, you can start teaching how to bring up their pedal, and start by pushing that pedal down to get moving rather than by kicking off.
6. Now that you’ve covered the fundamentals, you need a compelling destination. I ride with my kids quite a bit, but even so, they need a goal when we are riding. Pre COVID-19, that might be a fro-yo shop, the park, or a favorite place to eat. Now we have to be more creative. They are still motivated by eating sports snacks and the fun of riding, but telling them “we’re riding to the beach!” gets us out of the house. Choose something that appeals to your family, ideally that you can get to from home: local trails, park or beach, a dirt track or bike park (if you are lucky enough to have one nearby) or to pick up food at a favorite restaurant.
7. Pack plenty of food, to keep spirits and energy up, and do bring a small first aid kit, and plenty of hand sanitizer.
Now, ride like the wind, and let your spirits soar!