Preparation before each ride
Considering there can be a lot to prepare for taking the kids out riding, I like to prepare the night before the bike ride.
1. Check the bikes – make sure the tyres are sufficiently pumped up, and if not, pump them up. Check the brakes and seats are okay.
2. We have converted the axles and hubs on all our bikes to quick-release skewers. We learnt the hard way from a puncture on my youngest’s bike, with fortunately only 5km to go back to the car, that we didn’t have spanners and other tools to change his flat tyre. We rode back to the car with his front flat tyre and my hand on his shoulder helping him, but not a perfect solution. Having quick-release wheels are worthwhile in case you get a puncture. Make sure you have at least one spare tube that is the correct size for each child’s bike wheel, at least one set of tyre levers, and either CO2 to inflate the tyres or a pump.
3. Have a water bottle on each bike full of fresh water.
4. I like to put the bikes in/on the car the night before and lock them on, but obviously each person has different logistics in terms of where their cars are parked and where the bikes will go on the car (inside the boot, on the roof, on a rack on the back etc…). Check they are safely attached to the car and secure (give them a bit of a wobble to see they are not loose).
5. Because our rides take a few hours to all day, I pack a backpack full of snacks:
- A 250mL juice ‘poppa’ each.
- A 250mL milk drink (like Up n Go) each
- Nuts (subject to allergies), fruit, muesli bars, or LCM’s each
- A mini pack of chips each
- Ovalteenies or Freddo Frog (or similar chocolate treat) each
- A Chuppa Chup lolly pop each
- Sandwiches (if we are unlikely to pass a bakery to eat at on the way). We snack at most playgrounds. Most of these rides have more than 7 playground stops
- In addition to this, we aim to find something to eat at a local bakery, sushi-bar, or gelato shop along the way.
6. Spare clothes:
- An extra layer in Winter
- Perhaps something in case it may rain if the weather looks iffy.
- Spare sunscreen (on top of what will be applied the morning of the ride) especially in the warmer months.
7. All of these, bar the 250mL drinks can be packed the night before the ride, just leave a reminder of sorts with your backpack, so that you don’t forget the 250mL drinks for each person.
General Preparation and Training
If riding as a family is new to your family, start easy. Set small “goals” or distances. Keep it local and see if you can ride to a local playground and back.
Start on quiet footpaths close to home, or bike paths (ideally). It is my understanding that kids under the age of 16 and their supervising adult are allowed to ride on footpaths in NSW. Teach them how to use their bell and to ding it as they approach pedestrians, and that they should give way to pedestrians, not the other way around (explaining what “giving way” means may also be necessary 😉). Get the children used to stopping and waiting at each intersection and never going until Daddy or Mummy says it’s okay. I personally like to block the road as they cross in case any unexpected car appears, but that is personal preference.
Progress to nice bike paths. Initially choose bike path routes that have plenty of parks to play in so they feel the bike riding takes them to somewhere joyful. Enable lots of time for them to play in the parks, on the swings, to play tip etc. Narrabeen Lake, Parramatta River foreshore, Homebush / Bicentennial Park, The Cooks River Trail and Brighton Le Sands are just some of the rides we have done that can be almost entirely on bike paths, so these are good starters.
Safety on roads. When progressing from bike paths to bike lanes on roads; first check you are content that the road is sufficiently quiet and the traffic isn’t too fast (or the bike lane is wide enough). If I’m content that the road with bike lane is safe for my irreplaceable assets (precious children) to ride on we ride it in one of two formats. Firstly, if it is a wide bike lane we ride 2-by-2. I put the two older children on the front, and I ride in the rear pair on the traffic side of the youngest child. Secondly, if the bike path is narrow, I instruct the children to ride close together in single file (not to get ahead of each other), and I ride next to (on the traffic side) of the rear child – this becomes 3 children in line and me poking out a little as a “blocker” for our little peloton. I don’t like kids to follow me on the road, I like to have them in front of me, so that I always have them in my vision to keep an eye out for any safety issues.
If you go on a longer ride, stop at multiple playgrounds to rest and have a drink. If the bike ride is greater than 2 hours or 15km take a backpack with nutrition to keep the kids energy levels up (as discussed above).