The thought of cycling with kids can seem like a daunting one. There are so many things to consider like safety, what equipment to use, and how to make it enjoyable. These questions can make people not want to cycle with their children. To avoid paralysis by analysis, we created the Beginner’s Guide to Cycling with Kids.
Cycling from an early age not only helps kids learn to ride independently sooner, but also allows you to spend more time with your children. Riding a bike is a helpful skill to know as an adult, and the earlier you can do it the better.
There are many benefits to cycling with your children, not just for them but for you as well. Whether you are a parent who wants to cycle or an avid cyclist who just became a parent. Cycling with children can be very rewarding and is easier than you think.
In this guide, we have outlined how to start cycling with your child. We will provide helpful advice on what benefits you can get from cycling with your child, what equipment you should use, and how to be as safe as possible on your cycle trips.
When Can My Child Ride With Me?
You don’t have to wait for your child to be able to walk or ride independently before cycling with them. In fact, biking with toddlers is encouraged.
The safest way to bike with toddlers usually includes adding specialized equipment to your bike, so that you can put your child on and cycle around with them, sometimes before they can even walk!
This equipment is car seats and trailers which we will go into more detail about later in this article.
In order to use this equipment, your child will need to have enough neck strength to hold their neck up, so they should be around 1 year old before cycling with you.
When considering riding with your child make sure you consult with your pediatrician beforehand, they may have extra advice you need to follow or suggest you wait to cycle with them. Your child needs to be 100% ready before joining you on a ride.
Once your child reaches about 18 months old they will be able to start practicing riding independently on a balance bike. A balance bike doesn’t have pedals; instead, the child uses their feet to walk the bike along.
Not only does this promote greater motor skills, but it teaches the child how to speed up or brake their bike with just their feet.
Balance bikes are a great stepping stone for learning how to ride a bike with pedals. They can be used at any age past 18 months and are a fantastic way to help them gain confidence.
This way when they start riding a pedaled bike they can get off of training wheels quicker.
This transition to a pedaled bike usually happens around the ages of 4 to 6. In order to make the transition easy it is recommended to get the lightest possible bike you can.
You may be tempted to get one that the child will grow into, but this will ultimately hinder them and make it harder for them to ride the bike.
There are services available that let you hire out bicycles so that way you are not spending lots of money on bikes in the early stages of learning to ride.
Once they are old enough that they stop growing so fast you can consider getting them their own bike.
Training wheels are a great tool for helping children to balance on pedaled bikes. You need to get adjustable ones so that you can slowly lift them off the floor as your child gets more comfortable riding a bike.
How To Encourage And Teach Kids To Ride A Bike
Encouraging children to cycle is not an easy task. You may be blessed with a child who wants to, but more than likely they will choose to stay inside and avoid activity if given the choice.
This is why starting early is such a good idea, it allows them to find joy in cycling from a young age.
You should set yourself some reasonable expectations when first starting to cycle with kids. They might be opposed at first but you need to stay hopeful that they will see the beauty in cycling as you have.
You also have to take into consideration the stamina of younger children. Even when they aren’t doing any cycling, children get bored fast and you may need to take frequent breaks in order to meet their needs.
This is a natural part of learning to ride a bike.
Benefits Of Cycling With The Kids:
There are so many benefits to cycling with your children. In fact, the more you cycle with them, the more benefits you will find.
Below we have listed some of the benefits you may experience when cycling with children. These are general benefits and you may find your own personal benefits that are your main motivation for cycling.
Spend Quality Time Together
Obviously, spending time with your family is the most important benefit of cycling. You get to spend time with each other doing a fun activity.
If you are cycling with younger children then you will naturally go at a slower pace. It is up to the more experienced cyclists to match this pace to make sure no one feels left out.
One way to help children stay motivated to cycle while also spending time with other people is by inviting other cycle families. This works especially well if the children of the families are friends as they can entertain each other.
Cycling is not only great to spend time together as a family but also a wonderful way to socialize with other people who enjoy cycling just as much as you do.
Keep Fit And Active
Granted, in the early days of cycling with children, they won’t be doing much work. But this doesn’t mean you don’t get a fun workout.
This early cycling does get your children used to using their bodies. Either by just trying to naturally balance themself on the bike, or practicing with a balance bike.
Getting used to the idea of exercise early on helps to promote healthy activity later on in life.
Explore The Outdoors
On a bicycle you are not restricted to just the roads, you have access to parks, cycle paths, and trails. This helps you find new and amazing places to explore that you previously had no idea existed.
Nature is full of wonderful things to explore and a bike allows you to do that effectively and for fun.
Exploring nature is also a great way to learn about the world around you. This includes wildlife, plants, and the environment. There are plenty of books about nature that can help the whole family better understand the world.
Learn New Skills
There is the old phrase “just like riding a bike” which references knowing how to do something even if you haven’t done that task in a long time.
Of course, you must first learn how to ride a bike before you can fully appreciate this phrase. It truly is a skill that stays with you for life.
Not only does cycling with children teach them how to ride a bike, but it also teaches new skills like communication and road safety.
Out of all the exercises, cycling is one of the most relaxing ones. You are able to think and take a moment to breathe while being surrounded by nature and the love of your family.
Reducing stress can also help to improve your mental health. A research study found that adults who had exercised three times a week had reduced their chance of suffering from depression by 19%.
So not only can cycling help you, but it teaches your children good skills about how to improve their own wellbeing.
Getting The Right Kit:
Cycling with children is not as simple as cycling with adults. You need to be able to get the right equipment for them so that everyone of all ages can have a safe and enjoyable experience while cycling.
While the laws regarding what equipment you need for cycling with children vary from place to place, we find these to be the most important and will give you the best cycling experience.
Buying A Kids’ Helmet
This is very important. Not only do you need to have a helmet, but your child needs one that is specifically designed for their age group. Children’s heads are different from adult ones, and their helmets should reflect this.
Not only does the helmet need to fit your child properly, but you need to consider its weight.
Younger children may not have the neck strength to hold it up, in which case you need to get a lightweight one that can protect your child without it being too uncomfortable for them.
When buying your child a helmet make sure you check the reviews for them. A helmet can protect your child from serious injury and should be of the best quality available.
Once your child starts riding independently it is especially important they wear a helmet as a 10 year study found that the median age of bicyclists being treated for injuries after being struck by a motor vehicle was 11 years old.
Some countries require helmets to be certified in order for them to meet safety requirements. When buying a helmet make sure you check the certification your countries give to helmets and if the one you’re planning on buying meets it.
Finally, you have to consider the color or pattern. While it does nothing for the protection level of the helmet, a good-looking helmet will make your child want to wear it more.
Try to pick one in their favorite color, or better yet let them pick their own helmet.
Summer And Winter Clothing
You need to make sure your child has comfortable and weather-appropriate clothing for cycling. This is best achieved through layers that can be easily taken off if it is too hot.
Remember, if your child isn’t peddling they may feel colder than you do. The wind while cycling can make them feel colder too.
You don’t need specific cycling clothes unless you are very serious about it. Comfortable athletic wear will work just as well.
In fact, some people go cycling in their everyday clothing, as long as you have the mobility you can wear whatever you want.
You may want to invest in a good pair of cycling gloves. Not only do they increase your grip on the handles, but they also protect your hands when falling off the bike. Even the most experienced riders fall off their bikes.
If you have ever ridden a bike before, you may find getting on and off it a breeze. However, it becomes a whole new task with the addition of a child. It is not just additional weight, it also wiggles a lot.
To make this job a lot easier we recommend getting a double-sided kickstand to keep your bike stable when putting a child on it.
A child seat can attach to either the front or back of your bike, just make sure you check your bike’s manual beforehand to make sure that one can be attached.
A front-mounted great is great to allow your child to see exactly where they’re going, it also makes it easier to have a conversation with them while you’re riding.
Most front seat models can handle up to 35 pounds before it has to be moved to the back of the bike.
A back-mounted seat can take up to 50 pounds of weight and gives you more space upfront for your legs. However, the weight at the back does make it harder to handle your bike.
Child seats are a great way to allow your child to feel involved in the cycling experience.
Before cycling around with your child in the car seat, practice with something of a similar weight in it like a sack of potatoes.
You will find that the extra weight will completely challenge the balance of the bike and you need to be comfortable with it before riding with a child.
This is a more expensive option than a child seat, but it can be used for kids up to 6 years old.
Trailers attach to the back of your bike and are relatively easy to steer with. Granted, the extra weight may mean you need to put more power into your pedaling and break carefully.
The short size of the trailer means that you need to attach a flag on top of it so that cars can see it.
With the trailer not being directly on your bike, it means it is harder to communicate with your child. This means you will need to provide them with some entertainment, or at least hope they fall asleep.
When compared to child seats, trailers are safer. Not only because they won’t fall over with your bike but because they protect your child from the environment. The cover surrounding the trailer will protect them from rain, harsh sunlight, and bugs.
Another great benefit of a trailer is that it provides extra storage.
Most trailers can hold more than one child so if you only have one you can use the extra space to hold snacks, clothes, diapers, wipes, and toys. You don’t even need a backpack with a trailer.
With the higher price point, some trailers can also convert into a stroller for convenience and fold down flat for easy storage.
Tag-Alongs And Trailer Bikes
These special bikes are more popular in Europe than in the US but are becoming more common.
Trailer bikes look like long bikes with either a long rack or a big bucket. The bucket has buckles and the rack allows you to install a bike seat. This kind of bike is ideal for multiple children.
A tag-along is a smaller bike, typically with only one wheel, that attaches to the end of your bike. This creates an almost attachable tandem bike and works as a halfway point between pedal-less bikes and independently riding.
Tag-alongs are great for children who are able to ride their own bikes but not at the same pace as adults or can go as far as them.
As a specialty bike, these are a considerable investment when compared to bike seats and trailers, but if you love cycling it might be a good purchase for your family.
For Bigger Kids, Consider A Tow Rope Or Tow Bar
This is a more budget-friendly option than a tag-along. It is for children who ride their own bikes but need help to keep pace or travel farther distances.
One of the main benefits of using a tow rope or tow bar is that they can be taken off easily. This way your child can ride independently, and then attach to your bike when they feel tired.
This is especially good when you have a destination in mind as they can freely cycle around when you get to the location and then safely get towed back.
While it may not be considered a safety feature, a good quality bike can help reduce damage and allow your child to ride safer as it fits them properly.
You are able to purchase a lot of good quality second-hand bikes, just make sure you thoroughly check them over to make sure nothing is out of place,
Always Wear A Correctly Fitting Helmet
If a helmet doesn’t fit your head properly that can be dangerous. If it is too loose it can fall off, but if it is too tight it can be uncomfortable and not as effective in a crash.
You want your helmet to be snug against your head but with a little bit of movement.
As well as helmets, you have to make sure you have the correct padding to protect you when falling over. This could include knee and elbow pads as well as gloves.
Make Sure Feet And Fingers Are Not Able To Go Near Any Of The Moving Parts Of The Bike
Especially if your child is in a child seat you need to make sure they can’t reach any moving parts, this means wheel covers, side panels on the seat, and seat spring protectors. Anywhere that their fingers can get trapped needs to be covered.
You also need to consider any clothing that may be caught. Anything that will dangle like laces, strings, and mittens needs to be properly tied or tucked away.
Never Leave A Child Unattended In A Child Seat
While it is generally agreed that you should never leave your child unattended, this also needs to be carried over to child seats.
Even with a kickstand, your child can move and wiggle enough to cause your bike to fall over. Since your child is strapped into it they will have no choice but to fall over with the bike which can cause injury.
Leaving your child in a child seat also gives people a quick and easy way to get away with your child. Even if you have chained your bike up, don’t leave your child on it.
Wear Sun Cream Or Cover Arms And Legs When Riding Under The Sun
When riding a bike you may feel cooler than it actually is. You need to assess what parts of your body and your child’s body are going to be exposed to the sun while riding and then protect that exposed skin with sunscreen.
This includes protecting the back of the neck which is often forgotten about but is very exposed when cycling.
When cycling in the sun it is important to take regular breaks in order to hydrate. Remember to pack extra sunscreen and a refillable water bottle on every trip.
Regularly Check Tightness Of Bolts And Screws
No matter how well you attach parts to your bike, there is a chance that it can loosen. This is why it is important to check all parts of your child’s seat, trailer, and tag-along before putting your child in it.
It is a good habit to quickly check over your bike before every journey. Not only can it ensure your bike is in top shape, but it teaches your child the same habit.
Plan A Safe Route Before You Ride
You want every bicycle ride to be as safe as possible and that is mainly about choosing the right area. Aim for parks, trails, and cycle routes.
Try to avoid main roads and urban areas as nearly three quarters of all bicycle deaths occur there. We recommend avoiding any areas with lots of cars when riding with a child.
When cycling, make sure you follow all the cycle laws of your local area.
Basic Tool Kit For Your Ride:
No matter what length of trip you’re planning on going on, making sure you are prepared for anything should be near the top of your list.
Even if you don’t ride bicycles, multi-tools are always handy to have as they can solve all sorts of issues.
You should always check your tires beforehand for air but carrying a pump is great for any unexpected punctures. It is also recommended to carry a puncture repair kit.
Accidents can happen and sometimes your inner tubes will need replacing. Having a spare set saves you from having to wheel your bike home.
This is a non-negotiable addition and is sometimes required by law to wear.
You need to pack enough helmets for everyone and ensure they all fit properly. Even if you are traveling a short distance, helmets are still needed. Helmets can help to save lives and should be taken seriously.
Learn Basic Bike Maintenance
Being able to take care of your bike is must-have knowledge for cyclists. You need to know how to properly check your brakes, ensure everything is screwed properly, how to lube up a chain, and how to fix a puncture.
Remember To Make It Fun!
Knowing how to ride a bike is different from enjoying it, and with only 17% of children cycling in 2019 compared to 27.7% in 2008, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get children to cycle.
One easy way to do this is to invite their friends, children love doing activities together. Below are some other ways to make cycling fun for children.
Choose Routes Your Child Will Find Interesting
Ideally, your cycling routes should be quite short. Try to pick a destination that your child will be excited about as they tend to enjoy the ride there more if they’re looking forward to where they’re going.
Letting your child pick the destination is an easy way of knowing they will be excited about it.
A lot of bike paths and cycle routes are very scenic and can be fun visually for children to look at. You are able to take stops at places of interest and you can teach the kid about the wonder of nature.
Include Stops At Playgrounds
Children naturally can’t go very long on bicycle trips so you need to take frequent breaks, why not make it fun by stopping at parks? Not only can you sit down and relax, but your child can make some friends at the park.
Playgrounds are also the perfect opportunity to have a snack or toilet break.
Treat Your Child To An Ice Cream Or Other Suitable Treat
You want to associate cycling with something your child enjoys so they enjoy cycling in turn. This can be through simple ice cream or a small toy. Whatever your child prefers.
Don’t worry about feeding your child sugar, the cycle will burn off most of their energy.
Have Fun And Relax, And Enjoy Cycling With The Kids
Children are influenced by what they see their parents doing, you are their main source of knowledge and if they see you having fun cycling they will also enjoy cycling.
If you don’t enjoy cycling and are only doing it to stay in shape or spend time together as a family then try to make a game out of it. You can play some common car games or even listen to music together.
Remember, going on cycle journeys is just as much for the kids as it is for you. Use this opportunity to not only do some exercise but to get away from the stresses of life and just enjoy the outdoors.
As you can see, there are many benefits of cycling with a child and it is not as difficult as it may seem. All you need to do is take all the necessary safety precautions and soon you will be riding around like a professional cycling family.
One aspect of cycling that we have yet to discuss in this guide is how cycling is an environmentally friendly form of transport.
Not only can you be happy in the knowledge that your family time together isn’t producing any harsh chemicals, but it is teaching your children the benefit of cycling when it comes to taking care of our planet.
While we have listed many ways to encourage a child to go cycling, one of the most effective ways is to simply accessorize your bike. It can also make cycling a better experience for you.
Your bike should be an extension of your personality and the paintwork, stickers, and accessories can express this. Overall, cycling with the family is one of the most rewarding experiences.
Not only do you get to spend some quality time together, but you get to do so with the knowledge that you are teaching your child key skills they will continue to use for the rest of their lives.
Last Updated on May 29, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic