What makes a family bike ride successful? Answered simply – planning and preparation. Grimace at this little list it shows lack of planning and preparation that was all my doing….
- One very sad 3 year old who was rather late for kindy after Mum thought she had tightened the tailgater (metal bar that joins a child’s bike to an adults). Turns out they twist when a little loose so Isaac was riding at a peculiar angle behind me causing cars to toot. What tools did I have to fix this? NONE.
- An unconscious 4 year old who had gone over the handlebars into the Maitai River (one of my worst parenting moments ever). Later on she explained, “I started to go fast and forgot how to stop”.
- “I’m in front!”, “No, I am!”, “We’re going this way!”, “No, my way!!” I’ve now got two really angry kids riding as fast as they can in opposite directions.
The list could go on and had nearly brought me to a point where I was asking myself why I was trying to do this when it seemed to always end in broken bike bits, injury, or fighting.
So why do I keep taking my kids for bike rides? Because I love to ride and I want my kids to love to ride. I want them to be challenged and learn new skills. I want them to experience and love the outdoors. I want them to move their bodies and feel strong. Mostly I want them to feel that freedom – the smile, the zoom moment that comes with riding.
So the serious bit – the advice – directed at you with the aim of decreasing your broken/injury/fighting moments. You simply need to be prepared for the unexpected – accidents, weather changes, water bottles that leaked, a new trail that is simply too hard, time delays… I’ve learnt from my many mistakes that planning and preparation is really important. I’m not promising miracles these are unpredictable children we are talking about who need a bit of adventure, pain and effort in their lives but I would like you to come through these bike rides with your sanity intact.
These steps become easier and easier the more you do them.
Get Ready to goRide – The Kids Guide to Riding
PLAN the destination. Consider time, distance, equipment you have or can borrow, skill level of all the children involved, terrain, what you know, what they like. Be creative and inventive, challenge them or make it easy. Every family will have a variety of levels to deal with – keep all the kids in mind, giving them different roles depending on what you have chosen…remember to tell them this is todays ride for these reasons, next time it will be different. Whatever you choose influences the next 3 steps.
PREP your gear. Start with the bikes and helmets because if they ain’t working, you ain’t going nowhere. Get a tool kit organised, attach it to a bike or put it in a backpack. At goRide we believe that almost anything is less intimidating when you know how it works. Does this apply to your kids and their bikes? Does this apply to you, your bike and your tools? Think this through and look at some of our great resources; goRide Essential Pre-Ride Bike Safety Check, The Tyre, The Helmet, Am I Safe? Gear includes comfortable clothing that’s right for the weather conditions. Consider padded bike underwear if you’re going to ride regularly or do a multi day cycle trail…goUnders for Kids – padded riding underwear.
PREP their fitness/skills. If you want them to enjoy a ride it should match their current fitness and skill level. If you have a longer or more challenging ride in mind for the future, now is the time to get them ready – endurance building and working on skills like riding in a straight line, being able to look over their shoulder, braking correctly.
PREP the kids. Get them as involved as you can as early as you can. You know your kids. How much info is ideal? Do they need to know all the details or prefer the basic outline? Should you tell them days in advance or 20mins before leaving? What jobs could they do? Choose the food/fill the water bottles? Food is a lifesaver and a huge motivator. Get a jersey, find their shoes? Depending on the length of the ride, the weather and the age of your child always check what you’ve asked them to help with.
The toughest part of this whole equation is knowing on any given day what the skill level of your child will be. So many factors are involved here and every child learns at a different pace and in their own way. We all have good days and we all have “shockers”. Please don’t push them if they are tired e.g. end of term, after a sleep over. Kids also have the added bonus of a growing, changing body and they are excitable, stubborn and easily distracted. These traits can lead to some pretty frustrating or frightening moments when you’ve given them full responsibility to move a bike from point A to point B. Don’t give up or give in. Seek out the information you need and be patient. Hopefully our Kids Guide has given you some areas to begin to work on.
Final piece of advice:
On the day (or days) your mantra is ‘Fun & Flexible’. That’s it repeat after me ‘Fun & Flexible’. At this point a number of things can disrupt the best laid plan, so set out prepared to embrace change. Who really cares if you didn’t get to where you were going on time because the craziest looking tree jumped out and had to be climbed?
Thanks for reading. Used together our stories and resources support you to achieve and develop as a rider.
Related goRide Resources:
goRide is a shared journey, so we would like you to assist in guiding it along the way. Contact goRide. Your thoughts, comments or feedback are welcome. Thank you for being a part of our community.