I’m far from a biking expert: I have a hard enough time spelling ‘derailleur,’ let alone explaining what one does; I leave flat-fixing and chain-aligning to my husband; and I don't give a grip shift about the range of “gear inches” my bike offers. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the mechanical minutiae, I love to ride my bike and I’m a big believer in the benefits of a bike-centric approach to “getting around.”
I’m aware of the quantifiable advantages of bike versus motor-vehicle travel (gallons saved, emissions prevented, calories burned, etc). But as we’ve grown into a bike-dependent family I’ve also come to appreciate many advantages of biking that are harder to put a number on: the independence, fun, happiness, and sense of accomplishment that comes from “getting around” by bike. Furthermore, biking helps us better manage our pace of life, enjoy each other’s company, celebrate our strengths and encourage each other through struggles. There is time and space to interact with our kids and the world around us on a very tangible level.
How many of your car commutes were noteworthy enough to remember? Invariably, something happens on every bike ride - a new max speed achieved, a new route learned, a flat or two or three - that makes it memorable for one reason or another. We have the luxury of engaging in conversation with our kids that would otherwise be interrupted by the distraction of driving. While we ride, we deliberately work to help teach our kids safe biking practices, the rules of the road, how to be courteous on the bike paths, basic bike maintenance, and safe routes from our home to the places we frequently visit. The necessity of physical effort on everyone’s part provides a sense of accomplishment and teamwork just for getting to our destination and back home. Riding provides us an opportunity to share in an activity that is both healthy for our bodies and the environment and we all get a chance to embody a “can-do and I’ll try” attitude about life.
Although we bike year-round, summer gifts me extra time to go out riding with my kids. I like to call our bike outings “Urban Bike Adventures” because that is just what they are! We make a plan for where we want to go, how we will get there and what we need to bring. Then we hop on our bikes and set out. This summer our Urban Bike Adventures have taken us to Blue Mounds for a camping trip, across town to shop for Legos, to Picnic Point to roast marshmallows, to the library, out to lunch, just to run errands and more.
Urban Bike Adventures with kids can be easy and fun. Here are a few tips to get you past the “I could never do that” barrier and out on your bikes:
- Choose a fun destination. Some of our favorite destinations include the the ice cream shop, the library, a friend’s house, and to our favorite restaurants for breakfast.
- Anticipate delays, detours, impromptu play dates and changes in plans. Remember: It’s an adventure! Being prepared for a change in plans especially on longer rides can mean the difference between a positive experience or a challenging one. Be prepared to go with the flow. Pack snacks and water bottles to avoid hunger and thirst emergencies.
- Plan a route that feels safe before you head out. Use bike paths, bike boulevards, neighborhood streets, and streets with bike lanes. A slightly circuitous route that is quiet and more bike-friendly is worth a few minutes in extra travel time. Know where you are going before you leave.
- Make plenty of stops along the way to take breaks. We like to visit friends and make stops at the park to play if we need to rest.
- Always shout “Woo Hoo” when going down the big hills! Enjoy yourself and make it fun. Get out and ride together-it's so fun!
Do you go on adventure rides with your kids? Share your tips and stories in the comments!