23 Things to Know about Biking With Kids
How to choose your gear, stay safe and have fun.
by Sierra Black
September 16, 2009
Biking with kids can be a blast. For a lot of families, it’s also their main form of transportation to do everything from commuting to grocery shopping. A green alternative to cars, bikes are gaining in popularity. But it can be intimidating to get started, especially with little ones in tow. Here’s what you really need to know to have a safe, fun ride with your kids. – Sierra Black
Why would you want to bike with your kids?
Psych yourself up with these stats: One family, riding 20 miles per week, saves $720, 52 gallons of gasoline and 1,009 pounds of C02 annually.
In addition to being good for the planet, biking is great for your body.
You’ll burn about 700 calories an hour on a bicycle.
Biking might make kids smarter.
Shane Jordan, the Director of Education and Outreach for the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, says that recent research shows kids who get regular exercise have higher grades and fewer discipline problems in school.
Biking is safer than you think.
The British Medical Association reports that, “Even in the current cycle hostile environment, the benefits in terms of life years gained, outweigh life years lost in cycling fatalities by a factor of around 20 to 1.” And by taking to the streets on your bike, you make the roads a little bit safer for every cyclist out there.
To get started, you’ll need a kid who’s at least a year old.
The baby needs to be able to hold her head up while wearing a helmet and sit independently before being strapped into a bike seat.
Next, you’ll need a bicycle.
The key thing you’re looking for in an adult bike is fit. Even if you’re buying a used bike, get a bike mechanic to help you find the right fit for you.
Finding a used bicycle.
Craigslist+patience = a very fine bicycle at a fraction of the cost you’d pay in a shop. Buy a brand name like Trek, Bianchi or Cannondale. Avoid Huffy or anything from a department store; these might have unsafe parts. Scratches in the paint don’t matter, but steer clear of bikes with more than a spot or two of rust. On a test ride, pay close attention to the brakes and the gears. Finally, talk to the owner about the bike’s history and make sure it hasn’t been in a crash.
Finding the right kid carrier.
When you’re biking with a young child (under age six or so), you’ll want to carry the little one along on your bike. The two classic ways to do this are with a seat that sits over the rear wheel of the bicycle and with a bike trailer.
If you have slightly deeper pockets…
Darrah Bowden, sales manager at Bikes Not Bombs, suggests looking into the Xtracycle, a kit that expands your bike into a “family van on two wheels, with room for cargo, more than one kid, or even an adult passenger.” This is the cutting edge of kid seats, Bowden says.
For a luxury ride, there’s the Dutch Bakfiets.
These bikes have a built in bucket seat that holds several children, a large grocery order, or small pieces of furniture. They’re built to carry this extra weight and look good doing it. They cost as much as a used car, but many people use them to replace the family auto.
Big kid options.
Slightly older kids may want to pedal like Mom and Dad, but probably aren’t up for riding independently. For these kids, consider a tag-a-long bike that attaches to your bike, turning it into a child-size tandem.
To teach your child to ride on his own, get him a balance bike instead of one with training wheels.
A balance bike is just like a regular bike, but has no pedals. The child sits on it and uses his feet to scoot along. Don’t want to buy a balance bike? You can take the pedals off any bike to get the same results.