There are spontaneous bike rides, and then there are planned bike rides. While we all love the thought of just hopping on our bike and going wherever the road takes us, with kids, at least a little planning goes a long way.
Are they potty trained? How often do they need to eat? Are they still napping? How long can they last? And can they nap in the bike trailer? These are all things to consider and plan accordingly. Here are a six tips to get the whole fam rolling in a way that will make everyone want to do it again, and again, and again.
- Time It: As the saying goes, timing is everything. What time of day do you and your fam function best? For most with younger kids, it’s morning. But whatever your magic hour(s) may be, plan to get rolling then! Of course it’s not only when you’ll go, but how long you ride for also makes a difference. Can the 2-year-old hack being gone for 5 hours or is 3 more manageable? For infants in iBert seats, maybe an hour max?
However long you plan to be gone, be sure to build in some buffer time for flat tires, meltdowns, unexpected roadside attractions, or just some breathing room to stop and smell the roses.
- Watch Weather & Layer: Nothing is more unappealing than a cold, soggy toddler or a hot, overdressed tween. Be sure to check the hourly forecast before you go and dress in layers. It can heat up or cool down quickly on the bike. Accessories like gloves, lightweight beanies for under the helmet, UPF tees and arm warmers can help. Fair weather fares best, but you can still have fun in the mist under a natural tree canopy.
That said, you may need a bike bag, bike basket, panniers or backpacks to stow your gear. A jacket around the waist just ain’t safe, with sleeves flopping in the breeze ready to catch on whatever they please.
- Pick Safe, Simple Routes: When in doubt, always go the safe route. Riding with kids (especially those on their own bikes) can be a bit chaotic, so pick a ride with minimal cars and obstacles. The bike path is popular with families, but less traveled gravel roads and dirt paths are a great alternative. The terrain should have minimal hills (especially if kids are on their own bikes, or you are towing a trailer), but a few rollers are fun for everyone.
- Plan a Park or Café Visit: Plan to take a break or two at a favorite park, beach or attraction. Get out of the saddle to run around or spread a blanket and picnic. And if you want to leave the cooking (and carrying) to someone else, a favorite café or restaurant does the trick. Just be sure to pack a little snack (and always bring plenty of water) in case the line is long and the kids are hangry! The anticipation of treats and fun stops can actually help you cover more mileage. Get kids from point A to point B more easily by enticing them with something exciting up next like, “Oooh, when we make it to the other side of the lake, then we can feed the ducks,” or “When we make it to the ice cream shop, then we can stop for a scoop!”
- Plan for Potty Stops: Perhaps almost as important as stops for eating and drinking are potty stops. Make sure there are plenty of places along your route for diaper changes and big kid potties. Most parks and restaurants are a good bet, but it helps to think ahead.
- Bring Essentials & a Lovey: And finally, in addition to the essentials you should bring on every ride (helmet, tire pump, tire lever, spare tubes, cell phone, ID, cash or card, food, water, and extra layers), bring a fun toy or lovey you can strap on safely to keep them smiling. Just don’t lose it, or you’ll hear about it all the way home…
Now go have fun!
About the Author: Lori Hinton is a freelance writer and Diamondback contributor based in West Seattle, Washington. She loves riding with her family.