Semi independence

What do you do when your child is getting too old for their bike seat or trailer; but aren’t quite ready for cycling independently?  They may be able to ride their own bike, but perhaps not for the distances you are covering.   Or maybe they spend your adventures napping and then outmatch your energy levels at bedtime?  Thankfully there are some options in the middle that allow your child to pedal whilst you determine speed and direction.

Joining forces: Trail Gator

The ‘Trail Gator’ is a tow bar device that enables you to tow your child on their own bike.  It lifts their front wheel off the ground and attaches their bike to yours via a rigid bar.  Their bike can be easily detached, whereby you fold the bar and stow it clipped to the side of your bike.  That way they can ride when they feel able, and be towed when the going gets tough.  It also means they have their own bike to play on when they get to your destination; handy for riding to bike tracks or playgrounds.  They can be tricky to install initially, but offer great versatility.  

Trail Gator is just one brand, and is sold in New Zealand.  There are other brands sold overseas.

Add-on to your bike: Trailer cycles

Also known as a trailer cycle, and trademarked names such as Trailerbike, Trail-a-bike, Half wheeler or Tagalong.

On a trailer biker the child sits upright on a standard bike seat, with their own pedals and handlebars.  It usually attaches to the seatpost of the adult bike and follows (pretty much) in line with the adults bike.  One quite different option is the ‘Weehoo’: the child sits in a chair type seat which gives them enough support for a nap along the way.  It also has useful on-board storage pockets and panniers.

We found the WeeHoo offered some tumble protection.  In freak weather on the Otago Central Trail, we were blown off our bikes.  Whilst I was bruised and bleeding our Wee-Hoo passenger was completely uninjured.

Tandems & Kiddy Cranks

Another option is to use a Tandem, with ‘kiddy cranks’ which adapt the pedals/cranks for a child to use.  I’ve not experience with these myself so will point you to someone who has: Family Adventure Project.  They have great advice and lots of experience: check out their pictures and see how many members of the family you can get attached to one bike/tandem.  Amazing!

What towing options have you used? Which would you recommend?

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The reluctant learner

What do you do when your child doesn’t want to learn how to ride a two wheeled bike?  It is not unusual for some kids to be quite resistant to learning, and they may not willingly engage with the idea until they are older.  This can be frustrating for parents and siblings who want to ride together as a family.  It’s baffling for parents when they know of other kids the same age who are already happily and independently riding their own two wheeler.  If they’ve successfully taught their older kid(s) to ride, they might be especially perplexed:  what is it with this kid?

So in the brilliant words of Stephen Covey, let’s seek first to understand: what’s going on?  A kid who doesn’t want to learn might have a clear idea in their head as to why, and they may be able to articulate it, or they might just clam up, hunker down and refuse to engage.  Either way it will help to spend some time trying to guess where they are at.   (Parenting guess-ology).  Perhaps they resemble one of these:

Scared

Although they may not be able to name it as fear,this can be the real reason why they don’t want to ride a two wheeler unsupported.  Especially older kids who have more experience with falling and getting hurt.  Evolution necessitates that we avoid activities that might cause us pain and injury: our bodies are wired to run and/or hide and avoid sabre tooth tigers.  For your child, riding a two wheeler unsupported may be their ‘sable tooth tiger’.  Just mention it and their body goes on high alert and tells them “don’t do it, it’s dangerous, best avoid this one…..”  Although they probably voice it with a pout and “no, I just don’t want to”.  You can poke and prod and ask them why, and you’ll get the same answer, possibly with more emphasis.  That is because our sabre-tooth-tiger-avoiding is hard wired in our brain, and not a conscious or rational thought process that they can easily explain.

Ideas for Making it less scary: make it feel safer.

  • Soften the landing: e.g. grassy playing fields.
  • Make it flat
  • Create privacy for kids who may feel self conscious or inadequate
  • Provide support (physically and emotionally), e.g. training wheels, running behind holding on, etc.

Worried

Kids can worry about all sorts of things.  Some kids worry about disappointing you, about getting it wrong, about not being good at things, about not meeting their own expectations of themselves or their ideas of what others expect from them.  Sometimes this is called perfectionism, but for now let’s call it worrying.

How can you help the worried child?

  • Tune in to where they are coming from.  Listen with empathy and being open to the possibility that they might have a wee world of worry going on in their head.
  • Make it okay for them to try and fail by reminding them that they’ve overcome challenges before.  After all they learned to walk!  Tell them funny stories about learning to walk, how they tried and fell, but kept trying and got there eventually.
  • Make sure they know you are proud of their efforts as much as their outputs, and that you don’t expect them to be an expert at the outset.

Getting help

You might not feel physically up to the task of running behind your kid whilst they develop confidence and balance.  Or the battle of wills, or their fear of disappointing you, might be getting in the way of moving forward.  Either way, you can ask for help.  Most parents have been there and done that.  It was a friend of my Mum’s who taught me how to ride, and I am so grateful to her!

Small Rebellions – The three D’s

Disinterested

It takes all kinds to make the world and some kids are way more interested in other things and don’t want to invest their precious free time, commitment and energy into mastering a skill that holds little appeal to them.

Defiant / Strong-willed

Some kids need to assert themselves more than others.  Oh the joy of parenting!  Sooner or later kids decide they don’t want to be told what to do anymore, and they will pick an issue to take a stand on.  This happens in small doses at age three and huge ‘OMG what has happened to my child’ doses at age 13.  At various points in the middle, kids may choose one or a number of issues to take a stand on.  Cycling might be theirs, and you’ll be left wondering why they couldn’t have chosen brussel sprouts like any ‘normal child’.  (Quick note: as you’ve probably already realised, the ‘normal child’ doesn’t actually exist, so let yourself off the hook there… phew….)

Differentiating

Humans are funny creatures.  Often we are herd like animals, seeking to follow norms and be part of the bunch.  Other times we like to carve out our own place in the world and assert our own personality, tastes and opinions.  In families kids have different ways of differentiating themselves: sport, academia, vegetarianism, compliant vs defiant, passions, dress, etc.  They find it helpful to have their own niche where they can be the best (or worst), the expert, the one.  I imagine you don’t get this with only children.  So perhaps your kid has chosen to be the non-cycling member of the family, or perhaps more broadly to be disinterested in anything vaguely sporting, active or outdoors.

But what do I DO?

You might be thinking “Yes well!  It is all well and good to get in your kids head and try and understand what is going on.  Those educated guesses and time spent contemplating the world from their point of view are all well and good, but how can I get my kid riding their bike with the rest of us?“.  Ah, where is that magic wand when you need it?  Unfortunately, I can’t give you ten easy steps to get your kid on their bike.  But based on the experiences of those parents who’ve dealt with this, you may find these suggestions helpful.

  1. Empathy.  Focus on understanding where they are coming from.  Given time, space, and a lot of tongue-biting on your part they may start to work out for themselves how they are feeling about this and talk about it.  For some kids, once they’ve been able to sort through their feelings and feel heard and understood they will be ready to move on.  It can help get them un-stuck.  My favourite parenting website ‘Aha! Parenting‘ has some great advice on empathy.  (And some audio for those who find listening easier).
  2. Patience.  Sometimes you just have to wait them out.  Take a leap of faith and tell yourself they will do this when they are ready.  If they are defiant or differentiating, then patience may well be the key to success.  If you are patiently, supportively and quietly waiting them out, then they have nothing to rally against.  Once they stop seeing it as a battle to be fought they might move on to considering giving it a go.  All in their own time.   Does this work?  Yes, for families I know backing off and being patient got them there in the end.
  3. Life goes on.  So they don’t want to ride: Okay, no problem.  Without being punitive about it, show them life goes on.  The rest of you want to ride and you will.  What will they do? Go to Nana’s, read a book, watch, scooter instead?  Get them to come up with options that work for the whole family.  It isn’t about punishing them, but it is  important that they learn that life goes on and the rest of you don’t want to miss out because of their choices.
  4. Problem solving.  Sit down and brainstorm the issue with them.  Be creative, silly, patient and empathic.  Get them to come up with some potential solutions or alternatives.  There are some traps to avoid when problem solving with you child, so have a quick read of this great guide to problem solving with your child from NZ’s own Parenting Place.

One last thing  to help you tough it out

I’m a huge admirer of Celia Lashlie, author of “He’ll be OK”.  She talks a lot about creating strong foundations with your kids when they are younger so as to ease the journey through adolencence. She advocates kids learning about consequences, risk taking and decision making: so that they will be better at it when they are 17 and behind the wheel of a car.  Learning to ride a two wheeler is a major milestone in a child’s journey toward independence. It requires their self belief, an element of risk taking and sometimes, huge amounts of emotional (and sometimes physical) support from you.

Don’t underestimate the long lasting value of the support, encouragement, patience and attitude you bring to this. When your kids face the challenges of adolescence you want them to know that you’re there for them, that you can ‘get them’ and accept the parts of them that are different from you.  That’s huge…… so maybe this is about MORE than just getting that kid on that darn bike!  (Like a lot of parenting really!)  Good luck to you!

Do you have experience of a reluctant learner?  How’s it working out for you?

 

Why I love my cargo bike

I’m committed to active transport, especially as I live in a flat area within a reasonable distance of shops and services.  Before kids this meant cycling, but after I had kids it mostly meant walking, but I got fed up with pushing the buggy over 20km per week.

 Although our chariot cycle trailer was great for cycle outings, it was not the best for utility (everyday to the shops and library, errands etc) cycling due to it’s size and overall length of bike+trailer).  I started researching (and yes okay, obsessing about…) options.  I looked at cargo trikes, baby bike seats, even rickshaws!  

My daughter was old enough to sit independently on a bike, but not ready to cover our distances under her own pedal power.  Our WeeHoo was too cumbersome for short trips and I wanted something that was ready to go when we were.  Eventually my research (and a bit of luck) led me to a Yuba Mundo cargo bike which we call ‘Rocket’.

Continue reading “Why I love my cargo bike”

Bubs on bikes

In-between between cycling whilst pregnant and your chid’s first bike sit a few more options for getting out and having fun on bikes with your kids.

For babies and toddlers the options are:

  • a child/baby seat on your current bike
  • a trailer attached to your bike
  • a special bike that accommodates kids

Each option provides different levels support and protection.  Here are some considerations as you work out what is best for you and your child. Continue reading “Bubs on bikes”

A Very Useful Trailer

A Chariot CX2 cycle trailer was our major purchase when expecting our first child.  After two children and six years of use we were sad to see it go.  I made a photo slide show celebrating its usefulness:

We chose the ‘Chariot’ brand double trailer for its safety, versatility and protection.  We used it extensively not only for cycling, but also as a jogging pram, single and double stroller and cargo trailer for errands around town.  On outings, we’ve even put our daughters balance bike in the trailer with her, so she could self-propel from time to time.  It was light and easy to tow.  Our biggest accident with it was when we misjudged the track width and it jack-knifed off the trail and down a bank.  Our child, although surprised, was unharmed (and thought the whole incident was a blast).

Width and length of the overall ‘rig’ are the main downside of trailers.  Our local bike trail uses very narrow pinch point gates to discourage motorbikes.  To get past we had to unhitch it and lift it over, which is definitely a two person job.  As a stroller it was wide and not always easy to maneuver around shops and through doorways.  We found that the  disadvantages were outweighed by its versatility, durability, excellent weather protection and its gear/groceries carrying capacity.

What piece of family cycling equipment would you like to nominate for a hall of fame?

Riding on the road

The best way to teach children cycling skills is to ride with them.  Awareness, caution, predictability and visibility skills are grown layer upon layer with lots of practice, guidance and positive reinforcement.  When you introduce them to road riding, your position relative to them should enable you to be constantly observing and coaching.  And remember, a great coach tells us what we are doing right as well as where and how we need to improve. Continue reading “Riding on the road”

Share with Care

Mind your manners!

At some point you’ll be riding with walkers, dogs and other cyclists, and possibly farmers and livestock.  Use it as an opportunity to show your kids the life skills of manners, courtesy, and sharing. Continue reading “Share with Care”

Make it okay

Did you know that in New Zealand it is NOT LEGAL for kids to cycle on the footpath?

That means letting your kids ride on the footpath is encouraging them to break the law.  The alternatives are worse: restricting their bike use (so much for active lifestyles!) or letting them ride on the road (yeah, right!).

In Australia it is legal for kids to ride on the footpath.  In fact in Queensland, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory it is legal for adults to ride a bicycle on the footpath too.  When I moved back from Australia I was astounded by the New Zealand law which prohibits cycling on the footpath or adjacent berm with two exceptions:

You are only allowed to cycle on the footpath if you are:

  • delivering newspapers or mail, or
  • you are riding a small wheeled recreational device that has a wheel diameter of less than 355 millimetres (typically tricycles or small children’s bicycles).

A standard mountain bike tyre is 660 mm (26”), with children’s bike tyres ranging 406 mm – 660 mm (16” – 26”). That means all except the tiniest of bikes are required to be ridden on the road.  Sadly the days of kids delivering newspapers by bike seem to be long gone.  And it’s time for this restriction to be long gone too!  See Why Legalise Footpath Cycling?

On Tuesday 3rd May 2016 my request for a law change will be presented to parliament by MP Trevor Mallard.  I will post updates here as well as the Facebook page:

Footpathcyclingnz

Please show your support and follow the progress as we ‘make it okay’ for kids to ride on the footpath without breaking the law.

More information on this site:

Footpath Use