Xmas gift ideas for biking kids

Recently I was asked for three suggestions for Christmas gift ideas for biking kids.  But how to stop at three!  Here are some ideas for all budgets (including no-budget) that will put a smile on the face of all kind of biking kids (and the not so young). Continue reading “Xmas gift ideas for biking kids”

Advertisements

Shopping for a kids bike?

Christmas is almost here, and you may have ‘bike’ on your list.  If Santa needs some help from you, then here are some tips to successfully choosing the best bike for your child.

Size Matters

  • Kids bikes are usually categorised by wheel size.  So when a bike is described as a 12 inch bike, it is the wheels that are 12″.
  • Usually the frame size is matched to the wheel size to cater for a particular age/size range.
  • Once you get into adult bikes, there are fewer wheel sizes (depending on the type of bike: road, MTB, etc) and a range of frame sizes from Small to Extra Large to suit the height of the rider.
  • Frame geometry and the type of handlebars (flat vs curved) will also determine how well the bike suits the rider.
  • The height of the rider, rather than their age, is the most important determinant.
  • Seat height and sometimes handlebar height are usually adjustable.

Top Tip: Don’t be tempted to buy a ‘too big’ bike to ‘grow into’ – there is a real risk that your child won’t be able to safely control a bike that is too big for them.  Second hand bikes are a great way to ‘work through’ the size range as your child grows, as is sharing bikes around family and friends.

This great chart from New Zealand’s Bike Barn helps show the heights for each range:

bike-sizes-kids

See also: First bikes 

Safety

  • Brakes are an important safety consideration.  Small children will find back-pedal brakes easier to manage than hand-squeeze brakes, because they often don’t have a lot of hand strength.
  • Some chainstore bikes are self assembly.  The assembly quality is a big factor in safety, so if in doubt, get a professional to assemble the bike or safety check your efforts.
  • Second hand bikes should be safety checked by someone who knows what they are doing or your local bike shop.
  • Helmets are compulsory and essential safety equipment.
  • A bell is a great idea too: Ding a ling: why I like bells on bikes

Quality

  • Not all bikes are created equal.  Generally whether buying new or secondhand, you get what you pay for.
  • Heavier bikes are usually cheaper, but harder for kids to manage
  • Safety is your next most important quality concern – brakes, protrusions, stability, reliability, assembly.
  • Unusual designs, like some retro cruisers or cheap knock-offs of innovative designs require a cautious approach and careful scrutiny.  They may look cool but are they stable, steerable, safe and comfortable to ride?  Will they last?

Its about the bling – Kids and Bike Shops

Taking a child into a bike shop is always an interesting experience.  If asked for their opinion they will mostly likely choose the bike that is their favourite colour or comes with the most exciting accessories (think streamers, bells, doll carriers etc).  Bling, accessories and decorations can be added to any bike.  So choose the right bike for your child and then add the bling!  Stickers, bells, spoke-dokes, streamers, tinsel, nameplates, artificial flowers, hooters, flags…. let your imagination run wild!

Want more?

Check out these great articles and blog posts

Family Adventure Project’s blog post on choosing kids bikes

What to look for when choosing a kids bike from ‘Two Wheeling Tots’ – great guide

A guide to bike helmets from NZ’s Consumer Organisation

Ethical considerations – A UK guide which includes some brands sold here

Kids Bike Buying Guide from Australia’s consumer organisation

A NZ design that converts from Trike to Balance Bike – clever

And a cool idea that would mean you would never need to buy another kids bike again, ever (video)

Ding a ling: why I like bells on bikes

iphone_28 10 12_0891_edited-1
Little sister can’t wait to try out the bell!

In Australia bells on bikes are mandatory. I think that makes good sense. Need convincing? Here are some good reasons for bells on bikes.

“Here I come!” A bell is a handy way to warn other path users of your approach. It avoids the “whoosh” surprise factor of having a cyclist “appear from nowhere” and frighten the life out of them. If you give enough warning you can also avoid those moments where you both move in the same direction instead of making way for each other.

“Wait for me”. Cycling with your kids or friends is a friendly activity. That means not accidentally leaving anyone behind. A bell can help with that by appealing “wait for me!”

“Look at that”. It would be a pity for the others in your group to miss some of the sights you’ve spotted, a bell can help call attention.

“Watch out for that”. A bell and some exaggerated gesturing can help warn your fellow riders of hazards like drains, glass, sand, etc

Choosing a bell. Some bells sound friendly. Others sound grouchy. Try it out and choose one that suits. I find ringing ones with a sliding lever and internal cog type mechanism last longer than the spring and ping type.

 

Spring into spring

Despite the cold blast of recent days, there are plenty of signs that Spring is here. The days are getting longer, the weather is warming up, buds are on the trees and the blue sky beacons me to head outside. 

Has winter had you off your bike, enjoying some hibernation? If so your bike (and you?) might need a wee bit of attention. So use the arrival of spring as your inspiration to dust off your bike, give it a bit of TLC and head out to enjoy the splendor of Spring. 

Spring-tune your bike 

  1. Dust it off. Check the frame for any signs of damage or rust. 
  2. Pump it up. Check your tyres and pump them to the recommended pressure. A floor pump is a good investment for a biking family
  3. Chain reaction. Check your bikes chain and gears. Clean off any dust, grime or rust. Lube the chain (it should look silky)
  4. Accesorise. Make sure your helmet is fitting well and undamaged. Check your pump, spare tube, bike lights and other minimum equipment (see what’s in the bag) are all present and correct. 
  5. Check your brakes. Always do this before a ride (and after fixing a puncture). Make sure they engage well and don’t feel spongy. 

For more safety check tips check out this booklet from the NZTA. 

If you spot problems or are concerned about the state of your bike, pop into your local bike shop and talk about a safety check or service. 

Helping your kids perform these steps is a great way to teach them how to look after their bike. Now you are ready! Where will you go?

Kid Carrying Considerations

Baby seats, trailers, cargo bikes … How to choose between them and find one that really suits you?  As you research your options, consider each in terms of your needs for flexibility, ease of use, safety, parking, and cost.  If you are worried about making the wrong choice, remember there is a strong second hand market, making it easier to sell an item that is unsuitable or outgrown. Continue reading “Kid Carrying Considerations”

Let there be Light: Bike Lights

A good set of lights will have you happily cycling all year round!  Lights vary from tiny little LEDs to powerful rechargeable systems for nighttime off-road riding.  You can even get rear lights with in-built cameras.  In my house the general approach to lights is that more are better!  We prefer a mixture:

  • Little battery powered lights, front and rear, kept on the bike at all times. We use ones that attach via built-in elastic bands
  • Powerful front lights when it is dark or gloomy, with long lasting rechargeable battery packs, enabling us to see as well as be seen.

Remember: White lights to the front.  Red to the rear.  Go for powerful lights but try not to blind anyone!

NZ Consumer (www.consumer.org.nz) have tested bike lights and can recommend some good ones.  Greater Wellington Regional Council also offer some great advice at http://www.gw.govt.nz/be-safe-be-seen/

We found adding lights to kiddie trailers to be a bit tricky and ended up using a LED lit reflective chest strap, designed for runners, attached to the rear handle of the trailer.

What’s in the bag?

One of the interesting thing about having children is that – at least for the early years – each time you leave the house it is like preparing for a space mission.  Spare this, spare that, stuff to make mess, stuff to clean mess, just in case stuff, and absolutely necessary stuff, and importantly, food stuff.  Yep, your days of travelling light are over for a while.  But as they get older you reach the magical age where even the spare undies can be given the boot and you are free to leave the house unladen.

Well almost…. when you leave the house on your bike there are a few essentials you should have with you.  Storing them on your bike will make that effortless.

Minimum Equipment List #1

Here is the minimum that I take for a quick short trip: round the block, to the local playground, dairy (corner shop) etc.

  • Helmet
  • Phone
  • Injury covering device: handkerchief, tissue, bandana, sticking plaster.

Minimum Equipment List #2

These are things I always keep on the bike or always have on or near my person.  If you use your bike for everyday cycling like I do, keeping these items on your bike (or in your pocket) mean you can just pick up your bike and go.

  • Items from list 1: Helmet, Bike, Phone, Injury cover
  • Bicycle Pump
  • Spare tube and/or puncture repair patches
  • Tyre levers

Boy scout (“be prepared”) add-ons

Except for the lock, these items fit into the underseat bag on my bike, and I feel better having them there.  As I use my bike for everyday errands (like dashing to the shops or library), I need to be able to lock it up when I get there.  I hate that sinking feeling of getting to my destination and realising I can’t lock up my bike, which is why I keep the lock on the bike.

  • Bike lock
  • Multi Tool (bicycle tool in the format of a swiss army knife that helps you do up any loose bits on your bike and helps anyone who comes to your rescue and knows what they are doing to fix your bike if you have a mechanical problem)
  • Emergency cash (for catching a bus or taxi, or calming coffee)

Where to keep it?

On your bike.  Here are some options:

And of course if you are lucky, there a beautiful bike baskets too!

Let there be Light

If there is any chance you will be out on your bike during dawn, dusk or darkness then you will need lights on your bike.  Silly not to really.

And always take your smile!

What is your approach to equipment on your bike?  Do you wing it or carry the kitchen sink?

 

 

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?

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”