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A ByK Dad talks about passing his love of bikes and all things riding to his kids

We managed to pull ByK dad, John Czechowski, off his bike for just long enough to chat about kids and bikes and cyclocross (CX). As well as his long love of bicycle riding from working in his younger days as a bicycle courier, to riding CX 30 years ago in Canada, to road bike racing, MTB racing and now again CX racing here in Victoria.

As an avid cyclist, he provides some well rounded advice for parents not just getting their kids into riding bikes, but into bike racing of all types.

What do you do?
I’m an Architect

How many children do you have?
2 kids - Mae, 11 years old, and Nels, 10 years old.

What do you do in your spare time (pre-kids and post-kids!)
I got into cyclocross racing (CX) about 30 years ago whist living in Canada but in recent years, pre-kids, my love for road bike racing took off and that was a focus for some time.

Post-kids, I had been racing MTB from time to time with a little bit of road racing still (summer riding). About four years ago I started to add CX into the mix for winter riding which the kids are now enjoying too. I’m a member of Hawthorn Cycling Club now and get involved with their Summer Crit Series and still do a bit of MTB riding during the summer too.

The kids are members of the Brunswick Cycling Club - they initially got involved with this club through the ‘try a track days’ for kids to try out track cycling. The Dirty Deeds CX club is also based out of the Brunswick club and is very family friendly, so this involvement for the club is how the kids also got into CX.

How many bikes live at your house?
13 - just one for each of the kids for now. Mae has a 540R converted with knobby tyres to a CX model. Nels has a 510MTB. I have 4 bikes and Mae and Nel’s mum has 7…!

Mae and Nels racing in the CX Cyclocross Series in Victoria

How do you and your kids use your bikes in daily life?
The kids ride to school most days. It is a 10 min ride of about 1km with one major road to cross so they still need supervision as the route is not particularly quiet or removed from traffic. I myself ride to work every day, all year round.

At what age do you think they would ride to school alone?
Mae is turning 12 at the end of the year and Nels will be 10 by then so maybe next year they might together be ready to start on their own.

What do you think would make your ride to school route safer for kids?
It is a fairly safe route. There is one major road crossing with a push-button pedestrian crossing so safe for kids to manage that. There is now a cycling lane on the route which in some instances makes riding safer and other situations, where it is segregated from the cars, it can be dangerous if a pedestrian steps out without checking for cyclists first. For kids, this is one of the biggest issues of starting to ride on their own - their assessment of risks is not as thorough as adults so they may not always be ready to stop suddenly at the sight of an oncoming pedestrian, let alone cars stopping and starting around them. But I think sufficient road riding experience and knowing your route very well are two key requirements for kids riding to school safely.

Where’s your favourite family ride?
Lysterfield Park - there’s a great 6-7km loop ride that is easy to take the kids on - we can stop and start at different places during the ride for breaks and the terrain satisfies everyone’s skill level.

Do you take your bikes when you go away on holidays with the kids?
Yes, we often go up to Mt Beauty for bicycle races and to visit the MTB trails and parks. Mae rides the single track with her CX quite happily - we just have to run a higher pressure on the tyres to handle the terrain.

Taking kids bikes on the car

What bike gear could you not live without?
Always lycra, and proper clip-in cycling shoes. Whenever you do a lot of riding, you know the benefits of these accessories!

What's your most endearing memory of riding bikes as a kid?
Generally my memory of riding bikes as a kid was the ‘huge adventure’ it always seemed to be.

I lived outside a small, rural city that was surrounded by paddocks, forests and streams. There was a place about 5km out of the city centre called the Sandpits that had beautiful silica sand that motor-cross riders had turned into a loop track - a BMX type track but longer. I had a classic 70s dragster kids bike with a banana seat and sissy bar which I had many adventures on!

What one piece of advice would you give to other parents who want to get their kids started in riding bikes?
Riding is fun and if the parents can impart that fun to the kids either by riding themselves or encouraging it being just another fun activity and not a necessary chore, then the kids will naturally want to do it. Bikes allow kids to be free and letting them understand that for themselves will be a joy to watch as a parent. Both my kids rode scooters and rode bikes with training wheels - they learnt at their own pace and in their own time.

What about a piece of advice for parents whose kids are showing interest in off-road or on-road cycling?
Racing is something I love doing but I let the kids decide for themselves if they want to race or not. There’s other things they love doing too and ultimately it is up to them where they want to focus their energy and passion.

Taking the kids along to a tryout day at a local club was great and once they saw other kids having so much fun, it was easy for them to get involved.

I always try to just let them have fun and shape and control their own experiences.

I have also enjoyed watching some of the classic Collective Seasons MTB movies with the kids which has probably fuelled their own desire to get out and give bicycle racing a go!

Kids Bikes lined up at the start line of a CX Kids Bike Race

What teaching tips do you have for mums and dads helping teach their kids to ride?
Get into cycling yourself. Cycling and racing has enabled me to do things I never imagined possible - it has given me incredible mental strength so anything I do that assists my kids to reach those same experiences and strengths will be a positive impact on their own lives.

Kids Growing Up and Riding Bikes Outdoors with Family