Family bicycle outings are a great way to get the kids outside for fresh air, exercise, and contact with nature. Quiet neighborhood streets make a great place for kids to ride, but the many bike paths and rail trails popping up around the nation make an even better choice. These paths often pass through parks and recreation areas with plenty of wildlife and scenic views. In urban areas, they can make a great way to explore a town or a city while staying off the roads. And the hills are never too steep on “rail trails” (old railroad lines converted to public use), making these a great option for families with small children.
Another great thing about paved bike paths is that just about any bike will do. As your kids get older and want to take on greater distances, dirt paths, or road riding, you should consider graduating from “department store bikes” to name brand bikes from a Legitimate Bike Shop (LBS). These are often lighter, longer lasting, and your local LBS can keep them in good working order. Another great choice if you want to tackle longer distances or road riding is a trailerbike or tagalong, which lets a young one help with the pedaling while leaving the driving to the big folks.
When biking with kids, remember to keep it fun, keep the distances short enough so the little ones don’t become tired or bored, and be ready to stop regularly for whatever they spot along the way.
More tips for riding with kids:
- Wear helmets
- Make sure the bikes are in good working order, with tires inflated properly
- Stop for fun and snacks along the way
- Bring water, since drinking fountains can be scarce
- Teach young ones to ride to the right and stop at stop signs
- Slow for pedestrians and warn when approaching from behind (a bike bell is great for this)
Larry Hogue has written numerous articles on outdoor recreation and is the author of All the Wild and Lonely Places: Journeys in a Desert Landscape. His ever-expanding guide to Michigan cycling can be found at lawrencehogue.net.