Can I just start by saying cycling is a smart investment. It benefits the environment, the economy and all road users. So trying to ride more regularly as an active form of transport for your family is a great move. And no you don’t have to have a bike that is specifically designed for this, you can use a regular bike to transport your family. There are many ways you can improve on and add to your existing bike to be able to choose cycling as a family transport option…
ADDING THE KIDS
Where’s the space or where do you want them to be? You need to have a balanced bike that is safe for you to use. A couple of options we recommend have been discussed below but there are more – Bike Seats for Kids – What are my options?
ON THE BIKE – Front or rear kids bike seats – For around town travel, in and out of traffic environments, having the kids on the bike with you as an ideal set up. Either a front or rear option (or one of each) positions them close in a harnessed seat that can be used from the age of 1. Read more at The Best Kids Bike Seats for Town Riding
TOWED BY THE BIKE – Bike Trailer – A double bike trailer is designed for 2 children which gives you more space but you can also get single trailers. They are enclosed and provide great weather protection meaning you can ride in more challenging weather conditions. The storage is fantastic with this option as well. You will have less to worry about in terms of balance on your bike but be aware that the rear of your bike will be wider so cornering and passing objects needs to be practised.
For the larger family: Front, rear & bike trailer
To be able to choose your regular bike for more journeys you will need to provide yourself with the ability to carry stuff. Think about what you are likely to carry and how best to load this onto your bike.
Panniers – these saddle bags provide a significant amount of space. While they are normally mounted on the rear carrier you can also get front wheel carrier & pannier sets which might help with balancing load. The down side of front panniers is loading the front wheel effects steering. With all types of panniers try to balance out heavier loads between the two sides.
Baskets – incredibly handy for ease of access/throwing things into – water bottle, handbag, lunch box, jacket, camera, small grocery items, favourite toy, kindergarten bag. Think of this storage area as saving your body from having to carry a backpack. Don’t over fill or get too heavy as again weight on the handlebars effects steering.
Frame & Saddle Bags – while they can’t carry a huge amount, frame & saddle bags can be handy for simple journeys. They come in a great array of shapes to fit within/on top of your frame – you will need a top tube for mounting most of these types of bags. They are convenient for tucking away layers that are coming off in good weather, carrying tools/pump, your phone/keys, snacks. Good quality waterproof ones will last you a lifetime.
Towing – consider whether this is an option for your family. If you choose to tow the children in a bike trailer you will always have the option of using this for loading as well. You can get trailers with buckets designed for carrying loads. Check out the light weight trailers made by this amazing New Zealand business Cycle Trailers NZ.
Light weight trailer for bigger or heavier loads
Be aware that steel framed bikes are the better choice when deciding to add loads/weight because of their strength.
Gears – with any added weight on a bike you will discover that getting going is a little more challenging and climbing becomes difficult more quickly. A good gear range will help with this. So make sure your bike is prepared for this. Does it have a small cog at the front and a wide range in the rear cogs. If you’re not to sure about gears, read some of our stories starting with Understanding Bike Gears…. or go and talk to someone with knowledge
Brakes – with any added weight on a bike you will discover that stopping is a little more challenging and controlling your speed on a descent requires more concentration. Good well maintained brakes will help with this. Make sure you regularly check your brakes.
Add Electric – with any added weight on a bike you will discover that distances and hills become more of a challenge. This may be fine, you could be up for a challenge but if this kind of challenge makes you choose not to ride it’s a problem. Consider buying an e-bike or adding an electric battery to your existing bike. This assistance for your pedalling will allow you to have a much more enjoyable experience on your bike and will lead to you using it for more trips. E-Bikes can also come with internal gear systems which mean less maintenance.
See our story… Buying an E-Bike to Transport Kids or Grandkids
Town & bike path E-Bike with front basket
Adding weight to your bike requires adjustments to how you ride. Please practice for the first time in a safe environment.
When you have gained some understanding of which bike and what type of carrying set up is best, it will be time to either buy a bike or sort out your currant one. When you’re doing all this stuff please keep safety in mind
- where possible get good quality which will last the repetitive daily use that you want to get out of it
- visibility in traffic will be an important part of your everyday life – wear bright colours and get a great set of rechargeable lights
- keep your loads balanced and well secured, expect to have to adjust your riding and get used to riding with weight
- again good quality helmets that will last through the high usage, protect you in the environment you are riding in and if toddlers are involved, work in kids seats – toddler helmet
- you must have checking systems in place…Am I Safe to Ride in Town or Ride with Kids
- make good safe route choices. The direct way may not always be best especially if high traffic volume applies when you are well loaded
get Inspired and goRide – Using a Regular Bike to Transport Your Family
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