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How to ride bikes with kids

The only thing better than a bike ride? A family bike ride.

Bike rides are always better when they’re shared. And they’re best when they’re shared with the ones we love the most.

Riding with your kids is a fun, meaningful activity and a great way to help build healthy habits at a crucial stage of development. But, like everything you do with them, riding comes with some unique challenges.

We’ll help you address them here. Whether your kid is already riding or they’re not quite there yet, here’s everything you need to know to start making memories they’ll hang onto forever.

What if my kids are too young to ride?

If your littles are too little to ride on their own, don’t despair. There are plenty of options for bringing the kids along. The sooner you expose them to the simple fun and freedom of a bike ride, the easier it will be to transition them to their own bike when they’re ready.

Bike trailers

Multiple trailer brands offer options for pulling kids and more cargo than you could ever actually use. Passengers need to be able to support the weight of their head with a helmet. Bonus: the trailer’s motion is great for putting down tough nappers.

Pedal trailer

Pedal trailers teach the motion of riding while staying attached to a parent, who keeps the bike upright. When kids pedal, it moves you both forward. When they don’t, the freewheel coasts. They’re also great for demonstrating road etiquette!

Picking the right destinations

Universal harmony exists when everybody is excited about the destination of the ride. Every ride does not have to include an ice cream stop (though they probably should), but it’s great to aim for a park or playground.

That said, don’t be afraid to be spontaneous. Unexpected stops are when everyday bike rides become adventures. If your children have difficulty with daycare or school drop-offs, a bike ride to and from the location is a great way to make the process more desirable and give them something to look forward to rather than dread.

Packing for adventure

Like everything with parenting, the key to keeping your kids going while riding is preparation. A backpack with a few essentials will keep everybody happy. Our recommended bike ride backpack:

- Water
- Crackers/pretzels
- Band-Aids
- Sunscreen
- Change of clothes
- Hat
- Cell phone
- Multi-tool and flat kit
- Books (if using pull trailer)

When your kids are old enough to ride

All right, so we’re ready to ride untethered! This is where things get really fun. Before you set out, there are a few things you should consider.

The first step for full family enjoyment is to make sure your kids can ride safely on their own. There are a lot of different methods, but our kids’ bike experts pulled together their collective knowledge in this handy how-to.

Essential gear for riding with your kids

A few choice items will go a long way toward making your early adventures with your little ones more enjoyable. This is the essential gear we recommend for keeping your kids riding safer, happier, and more confidently.

A kids’ bike

This one might seem obvious, but every day we see kids struggling to ride small adult bikes. A kids’ bike is built from the ground up to accommodate the size and needs of smaller riders. But not all kids’ bikes are created equal. Learn more here.

A kids’ bike helmet

A good bike helmet is essential. They do have useable lifespans and, if involved in a crash, should be replaced. So, hand-me-downs are not recommended. The best way to find a kids’ bike helmet that fits properly is to visit your local bike shop.

Lights

Just like on your car, bike lights should be used on every outing, day and night. Bontrager’s Daytime Running Lights are designed to help riders stand out to drivers. Along with a helmet, lights are an essential safety accessory for all riders.

Our final words of advice

First, kudos to you! The fact that you’ve invested time in reading this says you’re setting your family up to make memories that last a lifetime. That’s a powerful thing. Here are a few final pieces of wisdom for you to keep in mind as you take this next step.

Teach cycling etiquette: the basics

Knowing what to do when traffic and other pedestrians are present is not the same as doing loops around the cul de sac. Start with basics—traffic flow, riding in a line, traffic signs and lights, and the distances required for stopping and starting.

Teach cycling etiquette: advanced

Once they know the basics, layer on more knowledge like when to ring a bell to alert people of your presence, how to safely pass, and signaling your intentions. Knowing your kids understand these principles will do wonders for your peace of mind.

Riding bikes with your kids is one of the best shared experiences families can have. Enjoy it. Make it count. Make it meaningful. And remember these final pieces of advice.

Be patient.

Humans are not born with the ability to ride a bike or the knowledge of how to ride in a quickly changing environment. Teaching takes patience. You’re giving them life skills. Take your time.

Be prepared.

A little forethought ahead of your rides will make everything better. Eventually, your pre-ride prep will become routine.

Be present.

The time we have with our children when they are children is finite. It moves quickly. Don’t waste it looking at them through a screen. Take a photo now and then—you’ll want it for later—but wait until you get home to post it to social media.

Be the example.

Parents are the heroes in their kids’ lives. That may change eventually, but take advantage of this moment now. Model what you want them to do. Practice good etiquette and safe riding and your kids will, too.

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