5 Tips when planning a long bike ride with kids
Most kids who have been riding regularly from a very young age, will most likely have the skills, confidence and fitness to ride a 20km bike ride by the time they are 6 or 7.
The annual Bicycle Network Around the Bay in a Day bike ride is coming up soon and with kids under 12 riding free in the family friendly 20km event, here are some tips for planning from ByK parents. You can also check out the Bicycle Network’s great article of tips for riding with kids.
1. Ensure your kid is riding the right size bike.
Of course this is almost a no brainer but really making sure your kid is comfortable and the bike is the best size for their age, size and ability is a key tip. You might just find that the seat needs to go up a little if your child has grown since riding last - a good thing to check on a regular basis.
ByK Mum, Louise from Bikerax, said her kids “have progressed right through all the sizes from the little balance bike, to a 16inch, then a 20inch and now they’re on 24 inch bikes which will see them right through to their teenage years. Normally a 24inch bike would be too big but because of the ByK geometry we were able to take them up a full size. We’ve been riding with them right from the earliest age so they’re extremely confident riders.”
2. Plan to increase ride distances over time.
We asked a few ByK Mums their tips on getting their kids riding longer distances. Like anything, starting off with small rides and slowly increasing the length will be a great way to build up to the 20km bike ride.
ByK Mum, Shelley, is an avid mountain bike rider and she recommends just that when asked how she helped her kids build up to longer rides:
“We rode the same mountain bike trails quite a few times, and on each trip we would add a bit extra trail to our loop. Then, when we got back to the car and he wanted to keep going, we'd add another small loop, then another... By doing multiple "laps" of a shorter ride we were never far from the starting point if it all got too much.”
Shelley also suggests trying to plan a sort of clover leaf style ride so that there are opportunities to end early and be close to home if it all gets too much.
In their Tips for Riding with Kids, The Bicycle Network says, “Getting plenty of bike riding in before the day of a big planned ride will help you all a lot. You’ll understand each other’s rhythms, the sort of pace you can expect to ride at and you’ll condition your bodies for riding. You will also practice your communication and learn how to ride comfortably together as a group.”
2. Bikes have been checked over and are safe to ride.
Prep your bikes! Nothing ruins a good day out faster than a bike with a flat tyre, or a seat height that's not quite right. That goes for mum and dad too! Ride2School have instructions for a very helpful and easy kids bike safety check you can do at home - without being an expert.
Check out also the Around the Bay in a Day Family Bike Ride article: Are the bikes ready?.
3. Encouragement, and taking breaks as well
If your kids are already comfortably riding 5-10km rides, then all it probably takes to move up to the 20km mark is a little bit of encouragement. Louise from Bikerax says also… “Encouragement plays a huge part, plenty of rest if they’re tiring and a promise of a milk shake at the end!”
ByK Mum, Shelley, says also, “Practice learning to ride with one hand on your kid's back. A gentle push goes a long way to keeping up the momentum and having fun.”
But as the Bicycle Network point out in their tips for the Around the Bay in a day family ride, it is important to take breaks too. “Stop often—just about every time the kids want to. It might seem like too many interruptions to an adult but it breaks up the monotony. They never want to stop for long anyway—in a minute or two you’re underway again.”
4. Kids in Front and be watchful.
As the Bicycle Network point out in their tips for the Around the Bay in a Day Family Bike Ride, “Ride behind the kids instead of out in front. From behind you can see them and what’s ahead and communicate what to do. Try to keep together in a compact group and stop together when someone needs to pull over.”
Be ready for constantly reminding the kids to look ahead. As Louise from Bikerax pointed out, “[during a ride] we always point out the obvious things like dogs, boats, planes, but it’s mostly ‘watch where you are going’, ‘look up’, they lose concentration quickly so it’s a constant reminder to watch where they are going.
5. Invest in a cheap speedometer for the kids.
ByK Mum, Shelley, says:
“When my son looked at his bike speedometer at the end of a long ride, and realised how far he had pedalled, he grew a foot taller in that moment. He was so proud of himself!
Basic speedometers are quite cheap and kids love them. At the end of the ride there are buttons to push, numbers to count and the feeling of achievement from a achieving a measurable goal is enormous.