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A Guide to Family Riding

Steven Nichols of Wheel & Sprocket's Internet Store, provides advice for riding with kids.

Steven Nichols

Location: General Manager, Internet Store - 12 years with Wheel & Sprocket

What kind of bikes do you ride?

Trek XM 700+; Surly Long Haul Trucker

Where do you ride with your family?

We don’t really limit ourselves: We ride trails and streets, we ride to restaurants, libraries, we have ridden to church. Our average family ride is probably 6-10 miles.

How often do you ride?

During Spring, Summer, and Fall we ride together as a family at least twice a week. Sometimes we ride every day.

Why do you ride bikes?

We ride for the experience. It is fun. Our kids love it. We enjoy riding to distant parks where we picnic, read, and play. We ride with family friends. We ride to garage sales and we ride to explore the city. We ride for the satisfaction it bring.  Replacing a car trip with a bike ride adds to the adventure of the outing.

Organizing Your Ride

Destination riding with kids, grandparents, and friends takes just a bit of planning.  Set a great tone about the ride.  I start with talking to my kids about the fun we’re going to have on a ride and at the destination. 

Make it fun!
Talk to the family about where you’re going and what you’ll do once you get there. For instance, we tell our kids that we’re going to the park. We pack a picnic and have them bring a book to read when we get there. Biking becomes a great way your family gets to that fun outing. It becomes a very positive part of the entire experience.

Learn to Ride A Pace Line

Family riding requires keeping order to keep everyone safe. Teaching kids to ride in busy areas (cars, pedestrians, etc.) is really important. Remind everyone to slow down, stop at corners, and stay with the group. Pacelines are fun to use on non-busy streets. In a single paceline, everyone lines up behind the first rider. We rotate our pace line by allowing our kids to take turns leading the group. I will call out to each kid whether it's time to swap out, peel off, or pull through. It’s a great way for them to experience a safe group ride.

Ride to your ability

Match you ride with the riders. Don’t badger kids to go beyond their speed and ability. Your family should grow into biking and celebrate every new milestone along the way.

Pack Snacks and Water

Bike child carriers (like Burley or Thule) are useful for packing favorite treats and drinks. Get your kids involved as well by carrying water and snacks in their bike baskets.

Bike Advice

Like adults, kids bikes need to be right for the ride. Make sure your child’s bike fits, has the right tires, and includes safety features like lights and reflectors.

Bike Size For Longer Rides

Matching kids to their bikes means a happy family ride! Nothing is more discouraging than riding a bike that won’t make the longer trips. Save the 16” wheel bikes and kids trikes for riding around the block. I really like the Weehoo kid trailers for our trips until the child can ride a 20” bike.

Kids tires

Our family rides are typically on pavement. I switch out my kids bike tires from larger hybrid (standard with most kids bikes) for narrower tires and increase the tire pressure. Their bikes ride smoother and go farther making for happy riders.

Accessorize bikes for safety and fun

Your kids are more invested in biking when they can make the bike their own.

  • Lights - See and be seen! Daytime front and back running lights are a must.
  • Bells - That ring helps kids communicate on the ride.
  • Helmets - Make sure they fit your child’s head now (do not use helmets they’ve outgrown or haven’t grown into yet). 
  • Bags and Baskets - Give the child something useful, like a small bike pump, to help carry supplies and keep them invested in the ride. 
  • Stickers - Let your kids dress up their bike and be safe at the same time with fun reflective stickers.