When cycling with children I find the best way to get a good experience is to plan ahead. Make sure you have what you need but to also consider what you are going to do and where you want to go. I guess I’m talking about using cycling as a mode of transportation here.
We’re at the stage where we go to several places when we head out on the bike. And, for the record I think it was always this way.
But if I were starting off from scratch I might consider that the first few trips would be mainly pleasurable experiences. Heading to the park for a picnic, to the beach for some sun and sand, the museum, whatever you happen to have within a reasonable distance from your home. So, realistically, heading to the corner store for a bag of treats ;).
We live by the river, so for us several of our bike trips look like this:
We are also at the stage that we all take part in planning our route. Our city is relatively hilly. We live close to the river which means that it is nearly impossible to head somewhere without climbing a hill. The exception to that is school, which happens to be on the opposite side of the river 2.5 kms from our home.
However, initially I would take the time to plan routes with mapmyride and carefully consider elevation. I find that with my daughter it is much better to take a longer but more level route. However, on a really hot day she will sometimes now request that we modify the route to climb the steeper hills but take the shorter route home. I find we end up taking the same amount of time.
Another blessing we have in this city is that it is one of the older North American cities and was originally planned for pedestrians. This is a huge advantage to the cyclist. Also, city planners here have worked hard to maintain an extensive number of trails and paved walkways that are designed for pedestrians and cyclists.
All of this adds up to amazing cycling.
The river plays another factor into our route planning. Both in and out of our favour. For example, to cycle from our home to the school actually works out to the same amount of time by cycle or by car. In fact… its a 50/50 tie between the modes of transportation as to who will return home first.
These factors aside, there are things you should consider when planning your route with children.
First and most simple. Put the stops in order. Don’t zig zag. My tip here is to do the farthest away first and work your way home.
Second be reasonable. I can plan to be gone for hours with my children. My children covered 1500 kms in the summer of 2010.
When thinking about your children, realize they cycle much slower and I would wager they’ll cycle much farther than you think. Certainly much farther than they’d walk.
Third plan rest stops. IF you are doing a series of stops plan rest stops. If we are gone for several hours I also consider making sure that we can refill our water bottles. Water is actually pretty heavy so if we can stop and refill and take a smaller bottle I take that option. Its a little thing but for some reason the kids think that way too.
It is not uncommon for us to stop at a grocery store in the summer and grab a box of ice cream drumsticks. Since there are typically 3 of us, we’ll randomly gift the 4th to a stranger.
If we are able to use the trail, sometimes we’ll pull off and lay in the grass.
Fourth, be flexible. In the beginning it is important to be willing to forget your agenda. The worst thing you can do, if your goal is to teach children to enjoy cycling, is to force them to one more stop. If you are cycling places because you absolutely must get to place ‘A’ today, take the vehicle. It will be better for all of you. Then come home and do something on the bikes for fun.
Well that’s enough for today 🙂