May 29, 2014
Less-Stress Family Biking

Watch this great ABC’s of family biking video:

Kidical Mass DC from Stone Soup Films on Vimeo

1) Food at the end. Food in the middle. Food at the start. When you start your family bike rides, it seems best to make the first one or two low-stress occasions. Just to test out the systems, see what works, see if they work. That means a treat is in order at the end of the ride. But don’t be a slave to plans. If a treat is needed in the middle, do it. Heck, if you need a treat or the promise of one to get your kids on their bikes, don’t hesitate. Endorphins will hopefully kick in once the pedals are turning. Experienced mama-cyclist Sarah Gilbert (an original UrbanMama) now brings utensils and paring knife along with the apples and carrots so she doesn’t have to prep snacks in advance, and everybody’s ready to dig in to farmers’ market or other food finds on the way.

Photo devinf via flickr.

2) Car-free starts. Family biking doesn’t mean you have to bike to everything. It means you some time, some day, might bike together as a family. And the best first family biking outing is on a car-free street – whether a Cyclovia, or a Parkways, or any of the other global cities’ designated day for closing some streets to cars and giving them over to human-powered vehicles.

3) Create comforts. Sometimes we forgot for ourselves and everyone else in the family how far little extra creature comforts improve the riding experience.  So provide some padding – extra-great saddles and saddle covers for parents and others riding their own bikes, as well as small pillows and cushy-tushy pads for the little ones. Sheepskins are great and not just for babies, but memory foam is also sweet. And don’t forget some fun distractions. Urban biker Kath Youell, who runs the Portlandize blog, has jingle bells for her son Evan and a bike bell that her daughter Molly likes to have control of.

Photo credit: grrsh via flickr.

4) Panniers with rain gear, extra warm clothes, even blankies.  You can’t last long on a ride without the means to stay warm and dry. It isn’t easy to find great rain gear for kids for affordable prices, but even if your extra pannier only contains a supply of those plastic-wrap ponchos, they will at some point be put to good use.,, and, they double as picnic blankets on dewy grass.

Tandem biking for three. Photo via Twitter.

5) Try a Tandem. In the family biking realm there are two types of tandems. The first one is the classic tandem – a two-person bicycle so more than one parent takes on the heavy pedaling involved in hauling kids. The second type of tandem is a regular bike with an extension wheel and set of pedals on a curved pole, an add-on for children old enough to pedal but not yet on their own bike. Follow Me is one choice.

6) Or An E-Bike.  There are a lot of reasons to love electric-assist motors on a bike or cargo bike. They get you up the hills and deliver you to your destination without sweat on longer rides. For families, electric-assist can make riding more pleasurable and more realistic when there are lots of daily travel from school pick-ups to sports activitites. Just a few to take a look at: Yuba elMundo, NTS Works, and the three-wheeler from Velo Electrique.

7) You Are Already There.  Luckily, biking can help chase away the blues and the crankiness of everyday life. If that isn’t working too well, remind yourself what cyclist Sarah Gilbert thinks of as the art of family biking: “You are not en route. You are already there. The journey is the destination. I belive that there is not a trophy at the end of the ride for the person who got there the fastest. I go my own pace.”

Disclaimer: We cannot promise you stress-free family cycling. We can only hope for it for you and offer some tips from dedicated bike families.