Months into COVID-19 lockdowns across the world, some families feel they have exhausted just about every effort to keep the kids entertained—even Pokémon GO has its limits. But there seems to be one way to pass the time that hasn’t lost its lustre: the family bike ride. Cycling for leisure is the ultimate coronavirus pastime—it provides fresh air, exercise, a much-need change of scenery, and the ability to socially distance. If you haven’t gotten out and done it yet this year, or are new to biking with kids in general, take note of a few things before you go.
What equipment to use
This will depend greatly on two main factors: the age of your children and the distance you’ll travel. If you are picking out a child’s first bike, it is important to focus on safety, but pay attention to size, too. Many parents buy a larger bike than necessary in anticipation of the child growing into it. This can be a dangerous choice—a bike that’s too big can be difficult to ride and handle. A trip to your local bicycle shop should prove to be a very helpful use of time in picking equipment.
For smaller children, you can also consider equipment that enables them to ride with you. Just note that some of these can significantly impact your bike’s handling and weight distribution. You will want to get in some safe practice on an uncrowded street before embarking on longer trips. And always remember: Never give your kid food or a drink when riding with it in the back seat. This is far too dangerous as the little one can swallow a piece of it and get serious breathing problems.
Other safety equipment such as helmets, elbow pads and knee pads should always be worn by children. Also, always be sure to check the condition of each bike before hitting the road. Check the air in all the tires, test the brakes, gears and chains. Bring along a spare air pump wherever you go.
What to pack
Again, this has more to do with where and how far you’re going. But even on a small trip around the neighborhood, there are some important items you won’t want to go without:
- Portable first aid kit
- Sealable box or bag with snacks
- Lots of water to drink
- GPS or map (if you are biking in unfamiliar territory)
- Air pump
- A blanket (if you plan to stop in a scenic area for a picnic)
- Face masks (if in a crowded area, or mandated by your regional government)
Make a plan
Where do you want to go? For a ride through your neighborhood? A down and back on a local bike path or trail? Or do you want to load up the car and drive to a trail further out? If so, you will definitely want to pack more to eat and drink, as well as research local restrooms. During this time when access to public restrooms is restricted, you may want to call around to find out if anything is available.
In addition to mapping out where to go and what to do, get familiar as a family with the rules of the road. In potentially more crowded areas, it is advisable to wear masks and stay off to one side of the path in a single row if possible.
If you are traveling in a row with a toddler behind, you will need to establish communication that is clear and consistent. Remember that young children may not know their left and right as well as older kids. Before taking a big trip, practice in the driveway or your residential sidewalks to get a feel for navigation and traveling together. This same concept applies if you are trying out new equipment such as a tandem bike or a bike with a baby attachment that may affect your handling.
And before you ever get into an area where bikes share the road with cars (avoid it as much as possible with very young children), talk with your children first to make sure they understand important rules and how to avoid accidents. There are many helpful videos on YouTube you can watch with them to educate them on this.
And now enjoy the bike ride as a family!
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