Cycling Alongside Children

I’m going into my third summer of cycling with children who ride on their own bikes.  I thought I’d try to post a series of tips and tricks that my family have developed.

First I’ll explain our riding style.

We ride on the road with the car traffic.  95% of the time we ride with traffic, but being in a city and our house being on a very busy road with lots of traffic, there are a few times for less than 20 meters when we’ll ride against traffic.  In bike culture this is called ‘salmon-ing’ and is very frowned upon.  I’ll explain why I allow this later on.

Cycling on the sidewalk is just plain dangerous for many reasons (namely the cars do not see you!) and it tends to be very jarring.  It may sound silly but I can not think that the constant rattling over the joints in the sidewalk as being any good for young brains.  I know I end up with a head ache!

Second, I’ll explain where we cycle and when we cycle.

We cycle every where and every when.  We use the cycle to go about our daily lives.  We’re cycling now, in the midst of the Canadian winter.  We cycle in snow, we cycle in rain, we cycle in the wind (grr!), and we have cycled in hail.  My husband, who doesn’t cycle with the kids as often, has cycled to work year round and has only taken our motor vehicle to work twice in the last 14 calendar months.

Third, and last, I’ll explain who cycles.

Our son is now 11.  He has been cycling since just before 2 years of age without training wheels.  The summer he was 6 he and I did some 27 km rides.  These were in the countryside near the farm where we lived at the time.  He’s tall for his age but those were epic rides for him.  At 8 he cycled just over 170 kms in one weekend with me.  He frequently likes to freak me out but riding hands off bike in the middle of very busy traffic.

Our daughter is now 9.  She finally learned to ride without training wheels a the age of 7 and then it was at a rate of about 3 kph and frequently putting her feet down and scooting herself along.  She is my cautious child, and since we live in a hilly-ish city, I end up replacing her brake pads continually.  We eventually swapped out her cantilever brakes for drum brakes and special levers to maximize her gripping power.  She will now ride down inclines greater than 15% at about 2 inches per minute.  Just kidding!

Then there is myself.  I’ve been riding lots my whole life.  I grew up overseas and I remember my father cycling us across the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh to school on days when there were military hartels.  He’d bike ahead to the intersections and I was under strict orders to drop into the open sewers with my brothers if he got shot.  As a high school student I’d ride my road bike to my babysitting job, 60 km from the house.

My husband rode as a child, but only for pleasure and on his paper routes.  When he could drive, he abandoned his bike.  His family culture is quite different from mine and when we married I had 6 bikes and he had none.  I no longer have any of those bikes, but he has two of them heavily modified and my son rides another.

In this series I’ll cover items I think important to have while cycling with kids, some safety measures we take, and some of the mental issues when cycling with children.

Hopefully this series will be helpful to you!


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