Family Cycling Made Simple
Ready for some affordable family fun? You can’t beat cycling along scenic bike paths, connecting with your kids, and exploring out-of-the-way sights as you go. Here are some tips on how to get your family safely on its way.
- Inspect your bikes a few days before you plan to ride. If you’ve ever gotten the family excited about a ride only to be derailed by a flat tire, you know it’s not pretty. Allow yourself some time for minor maintenance or major repairs and avoid the cycling-day delays.Not sure what to “inspect”? Check the Internet for free videos, like this one covering your bike’s ABC’s (air, brakes, and chains).Or follow this basic checklist from Chicago’s Safe Bicycling handbook, where you’ll also find great tips on sizing bikes, fitting helmets, and general safety.
- Let your kids help with any needed bike maintenance or minor repairs. Working on bikes with your kids builds their self-sufficiency and gives you valuable connection time. Don’t worry if you don’t even know how to change a flat. There are plenty of free resources to help:
- Online. Just enter “bike repair videos” in your favorite search engine and choose from dozens of free, easy-to-follow videos on everything from cleaning a chain to adjusting your saddle height.
- Local bike shops and clubs. Many local bike shops and clubs offer free workshops covering the basics of bike repair and maintenance. Check for age limits and, if appropriate, bring the kids along to learn from experts who know all the tricks.
- National cycling organizations like the League of American Bicyclists or Adventure Cycling Association offer many helpful “how-to” articles on their websites. And KidsHealth® offers both maintenance and safety tips.
- Map a safe route and set realistic expectations. Converted rail trails and dedicated bike routes are ideal for beginning cyclists and stress-free family fun.
Check out the nonprofit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy for a list of 30,000 miles of trails by state, detailing the terrain, distances, and amenities.No dedicated trails nearby? Contact your local or state Transportation Planning Department for bike maps of your area.As you plan your route, consider your child’s fitness, endurance, and interests. A meandering, two-mile ride may take an hour with your first grader and just 15 minutes with your middle-schooler.
- Load the bikes and snap a photo. Whether loading bikes in a car trunk or on a bike rack, it takes some trial and error to load two or more differently sized bikes securely without damage to your bikes or patience. So snap a photo of your successfully loaded bikes the first time, and you’ll save yourself frustration later.
- Track progress. Children (and adults) enjoy “racking up” miles on their bikes. Invest in an inexpensive odometer and watch the confidence and fitness soar as the miles climb.Beginning in September 2011, Connections Academy first through eighth graders will be able to use a new Activity Tracker to track cycling and other fitness activities online for PE. In the meantime, Smartphone apps or manual logs can add to their sense of accomplishment.
So now that you know the basics, grab your kids, your helmets (ALWAYS!), your bikes, and water, and get rolling! And let us know how far you go or what fun cycling activities your family has planned!