Today’s summer activity for kids, #10 in our 51 Summer Family Fun Activities series, is to get active and go for a family bike ride. Whether you are tackling a new trail or just heading out for ice cream, a family bike ride is the perfect way to get exercise and spend time together. What I love most about a family bike ride is that it doesn’t matter how old your kids are. If they are too young to ride themselves, pull them behind. They’ll enjoy being outside just as much as the rest of the family.
Here are some tips for how to plan the perfect bike ride together.
- Wear helmets. Wear your helmet every time you ride, and set a good, safe example for your kids. No exceptions, wear your helmet! Make sure the kids’ helmets fit comfortably. Ponytails and hair accessories under a bike helmet can sometimes lead to headaches for kids. Make sure kids’ helmets are secure but not tight and that the straps are comfortable. Here’s a good post and video from ConsumerReports.com on how to choose the right kids bike helmet.
- Kick the tires on your bike. Make sure your tires are inflated and your brakes are working well before heading out. We like to ride around the bike once or twice before starting on our long trip just to make sure everyone’s bike is riding well.
- Dress for comfort. For adults and kids, dress in layers when you go bike riding. Remember that even on cold days, you get warm as you bike. We like to take a backpack for carrying jackets, water and other possible necessities. Also, if you are pulling the kids in a carrier behind your bike, they might get cold even if you don’t. They aren’t exerting themselves. Throw a blanket in the carrier to block cold or wind.
- Pack smart. If you are planning a longer bike ride, remember to bring water, a small bag for trash, a small first-aid kit with bandages and antibiotic ointment, snacks (tired kids can quickly bounce back with fruit, peanuts, and crackers), a bike pump, your camera and a cell phone. We also carry some money with us. You never know when you’ll find an ice cream truck or ice cream shop to stop and get a treat.
- Protect yourself. It’s summer and that means bugs and sunburn. Make sure you put sunscreen and bug spray on the kids before you leave. Throw both in your backpack to reapply if you are going to be gone a long time.
- Ride in a pack. Stay close together when you are riding with an adult in front and one in the back. If you can, get a mirror for Mom and Dad’s bike so you can see the line of bikers behind you. Cars pull out of driveways, kids hit bumps on the sidewalk, and even dogs can cause a problem that you want to see immediately.
Now, for the fun!
- Ride to their level. Think about how well your kids bike. Can they handle hills? Do they get upset in the heat? Take it easy for your first couple of rides to gauge how well they handle the rides. It’s not fun for anyone if they get tired and start whining. It all depends on your child but usually around 8 or 9 years old, they can handle biking for an hour or more. Take a few rest stops on the way to take photos, grab a snack and get rejuvenated before riding again. You want it to be fun so they kids look forward to these outings.
- Take a friend. Ask your kids if they want to invite a “friend” along like a special toy or stuffed animal to enjoy the ride with.
- Have a destination. My kids like when we bike someplace special like the ice cream shop, park, library, duck pond, etc. If they know where we are going and what’s at the end of the ride, they tend to enjoy the journey more. This tends to be a good incentive for younger children. Instead of driving to a local restaurant for dinner one weekend, ride instead. That way you won’t feel guilty ordering dessert if you are going to work off the calories. Pick a new trail to try. In Chicago, we like to pack up the bikes and ride in the Chicago Botanical Garden and along Lake Michigan at least once a summer. The new scenery makes the trip a true adventure.
- Be silly. Sing songs while you ride. Decorate your bikes for a special ride with streamers or balloons. Organize a neighborhood bike parade ride.
- Pack a Picnic Basket. We like to pack some sandwiches or ride to a local sandwich shop to grab some and then have a picnic in the forest preserve during our trip. It’s a nice way to stop and relax, eat, throw around a football, or look for cool bugs while you are on your trip.
How do you find good trails for families?
If you don’t have a particular destination in mind, and your kids are a little older and more adventurous, try choosing a bike trail that you can explore together for some family fun. How do you find good bike trails for families? National, state and local parks are great places to look. Ask at your local bike shop. Ask around at your local recreation centers or nature centers. Shoot an email to some of the local bike groups you find online to ask for suggestions. They are usually willing to help.
For more tips on organizing a family bike ride, here’s another great article on biking with your family from FitFamilyTogether.com.
Where does your family like to bike ride?