With spring here and summer just around the corner, you can finally dust off those bicycles and hit the road. Biking with the entire family can be fun but, let's face it, requires more planning, especially if your kids range in age and one of them might be strapped to your bike, or just getting off training wheels. Here are six tips for fun but safe family bike rides.
Helmets. Ah, remember the days when no one wore a helmet? Well, those days are over. Not only do they make biking safer, but it's the law in many counties. And if you're going to expect your kids to wear a helmet, you should too. You know how kids copy. Helmets should fit snug and not loosely and not block the eyes or face. The straps should fit snugly under your neck, forming a "Y" under your ears, but make sure they're not too tight. Make helmet wearing consistent to avoid kids becoming helmet-adverse. Whether they're riding down the block, to the end of the driveway, or on an all-day getaway, helmet wearing should be something they can't ever wriggle out of.
Bike mounted seats or bike trailers. No child under 1 year old should be on a bike or be wearing a helmet, but if your kid is old enough to take on a ride, you'll want to decide between hitching him to a bike seat behind you or pulling her on an attached "trailer." Trailers won't flip over with you like a bike-mounted seat will if you fall, but since they are low to the ground, keeping the trailer in other people's sightline becomes important. Equip the trailer with flags and light reflectors.
Check your bike. It's important to check everyone's brakes and tires before you leave. Most tires tend to leak air if left unused for even a little while, so a small pump of air is usually required before taking off.
Choose your path. With kids, it's safer to keep to a bike trail than to head onto busy streets. You might want to drive everyone to a trail to avoid the streets getting there. If you need to ride to the trail, then put the kids in front of you so you can watch them as they bike and call out warnings or instructions if you need to. Keep trails easy for kids. Avoid ones with big hills and keep the excursion shorter than you normally would.
Refreshments. Kids are definitely going to get hungry on a ride, so make sure to take snacks like powerbars or nuts and dried fruits or cheese and crackers. Water is an absolute necessity. Feed the kids a good meal before you leave, but make sure they hit the bathroom before the bikes.
Be prepared. In case of emergency, make sure you have a cellphone and that it's charged. Carry sunscreen (slather on a half an hour before you leave the house), sunglasses, and some experts recommend a bike pump, provided you can find room for it. (Bike trailers are excellent for storage.) Tissues can really come in handy for runny noses; have some Band-Aids, antiseptic wipes, and first-aid cream for wipe-outs. If you're on a trail, make sure you have a map so you know where you're going. It's easy to think you do until you get lost. Stay on trails that are trafficked by other people, and avoid steering off into uncharted territory.
What do you like to do and bring on your family bike rides?