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Interview with a ByK Mum about enjoying life with kids and bikes

We interviewed Shelley 'Lightning McStitch', a ByK Mum, about life with bikes and kids.

She provides some great insight and advice into teaching your kids to ride and how riding plays a part in their everyday family life.

We found out Shelley was a ByK Mum when she kindly posted a photo of her son riding his bike and dressed in the infamous Evel Knievel costume, on his E-350 when he was 4 years old!

Even Knievel Kids Costume on a Kids Bike

What do you do?
I'm a Veterinarian, working part time, and of course a full time mum as well!

How many children do you have?
Two kids - a 3 year old girl Audrey and a 5½ year old boy Piers

What do you do in your spare time (prekids and postkids?)
Prekids - Ride bikes - racing and casual. Mountain and Road. I comfortably (and cautiously!) raced mountain bikes up until about 7 months pregnant when I could no longer lift off and back behind the seat was when I knew it was time to stop! The road bike I never had to stop riding, just stuck my knees out a bit to accommodate my 9 month belly.

1_first_ever_bike_ride_age_9_months_smlPiers' first ever bike ride, age 9 monthsI guess when its in your blood, its hard to stop!
Postkids - I still bike ride but there's not much time for racing or big weekend rides. I have taken up sewing and go by the blog name of 'Lightning McStitch'.

You obviously know your way around a sewing machine, as well as a bicycle have you always sewn or is this a new hobby since having kids?
I took it up since having kids and now sew nearly everything they need! I mainly do it at night after the kids are down its my hobby and my relaxation time.

How many bikes does your family own?
There are 17 bikes in the shed at home

Woah!... 17 bikes how big is that shed?!?
Yes, its big! But that does count the kids two bikes... We bought our first kids balance bike in 2010. We knew we didn't want a toy bike it was important to us to buy something with real spoked wheels and was not made of wood or plastic. It is still being used today by our second child, little Audrey (3 year old girl) who has just in the last 3 months started to lift her feet and run with it.

The benefit of buying a 'real' balance bike, and not just a wooden or plastic one is that Piers (now 5 ½) still rips around on it in the backyard like it's a toy he has fun using it in tight turning circles and doing things he can't do on his big bike.

3_pedalling_for_the_first_time_age_3.5_smlPedalling for the first time age 3 and a halfPiers' next bike purchase is coming up soon and he will probably get 2 bikes a commuter bike
for getting to school, and a mountain bike. We cannot justify making him own 1 bike that he has to change wheels/tyres over for the different rides, when we own so many different bikes
ourselves!

We also have a Cargo Bike, and a WeeRide seat which little Audrey still uses on family rides.

What sort of bike do you ride?
Ok, so I have a few bikes but the ones I use the most are my Cargo Cycles Bike, my Scott Sub10 Commuter Bike and my Scott Addict Road Bike for weekend rides. My mountain bikes are sadly a bit dusty!

How do you and your kids use your bikes in daily life?
We commute to school every day, and my husband and I commute to work.

Where's your favourite family ride?
Locally I would have to say South Kensington pump track it's good once your kid is properly kicking their feet up and rolling on the balance bike they can do small mounds quite well.

Out of town, we often visit the You Yangs where there is a great 7 km loop track that the family does together.

Tim and I on our mountain bikes with Tim carrying Audrey on the WeeRide, and Piers on his ByK E-350. Piers started riding on his own there when he was 4 as soon as he could pedal confidently he was out there.

Do you take your bikes when you go away with the kids?
Yes, we go on a family holiday to Bright each year around the time of the Alpine Classic. We put the adults bikes on the roof racks and the kids bikes fit in the back of the car (station wagon). Have not thought through what will happen when the kids are older and all 4 bikes will have be on the outside of the car...

6_school_shed_full_of_kids_bikes_smlDo your kids ride to school?
Yes, I ride Piers to school (he on his E-350, Me either riding solo on my commuter, or, when Audrey's with us on the Cargobike or using the WeeRide. Its a 20 minute bike ride for Piers (15 minute bike ride for an adult). I expect Piers might ride on his own when he's 8 or 9 but there are some big roads to cross so will determine that at the time. I'm hoping to find some other parents in the area riding their kids to school and create a 'bike bus' so parents can share the job of taking the kids on different days.

What one piece of advice would you give to other parents who want to get their kids started in riding bikes?
Use a balance bike, or just take the pedals and cranks off your older kid's bike. Piers started out on a Balance bike which he got for his 2nd birthday. It wasn't until he was 2 ½ that he really started to 'run' and glide with it.

Then a few months later he was riding it on the footpath and his mate was on his bike with training wheels, and every time his friend got to a driveway and the bike was off balance, the whole thing would tip over. Piers observed this and asked me when we got home why it happened. I explained that it was because of the training wheels that he kept falling over. I think its great that Piers observed his friend and was inquisitive enough to ask, and then understand, that even though training wheels might look like they help, they actually hinder you in many ways, not only with learning, but with confidence and ultimately, having fun. Piers could see it was not fun to fall over constantly! Plus I got to teach him some cool mountain biking words like "high-siding" and "off camber" as part of my explanation!

5_5_year_old_boy_riding_the_best_kids_bike_smlPiers riding his E-350What teaching tips do you have for mums and dads helping teach their kids to ride?
Watch some other kids riding their bikes balance bikes or with pedals. A big 'wow' moment for Piers was from watching a kid skidding on his balance bike, on a youtube video.

Piers had been braking with his feet but after watching this video, he attempted to use the hand brake and then pretty quickly learnt to use it for skidding and loved it!

Don't forget to teach them how to use a handbrake right from the start. That way, when they progress to a big bike with pedals, they not only have learnt how to balance and steer, but they have also learnt how to use a hand brake. So on the new bike, it's really just the pedalling that they have to master.

This is not a teaching tip, more of a parenting tip don't let your kids wear their good shoes when going out on the balance bike! It ruins the shoes almost immediately!

What's your advice for kids moving from a balance bike to their first bike with pedals:
Take the pedals off and let the kid get used to the new bike's size and proportions before tackling how to use pedals. Piers was 3½ when he got his first pedal bike the E-350. We took the pedals off so he could get used to the new size and feel, before having to worry about the pedals and how to use them. He used it as a balance bike for the first 3-4 months.

Then one day he woke up and declared he was 'ready to ride with pedals'. And that was that!

And lastly, what's your most endearing memory of bike riding when you were a kid?
I remember getting swooped by magpies a LOT, but that's not such a good memory. I think it must be that feeling of absolute freedom when you tell your parents that you're going somewhere and off you go on your bike. The complete independence and freedom that comes from being able to ride. That's what I still love today, only the roles are reversed somewhat!
Kids: "where's mummy?"
Dad: "she's gone for a ride"
Awesome!

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