10 Things Cycling Teaches Kids

Do you remember learning to ride a bike? Chances are you do: it was scary, exciting and a big deal.  Mastering your first two-wheeler is a big milestone.  Teaching your kid to ride a bike is a huge gift that lasts a lifetime.  When you ride with them, you get to teach them so much more than the technical skill and physical coordination needed to avoid falling off…. in fact without even realising it you are teaching them some great life skills.

1. Resilience

Put simply, our resilience is our ability to bounce back and persist even when things go wrong.  It is the ability to get back on and keep riding, even in you fall off.

2. Overcoming Fears

When you’ve had the security of a trike or training wheels, it can be a scary experience to try and balance on two wheels.  Other challenges along the way might be a bigger bike, a particular trail or hill, or learning to ride on the road.  Providing the challenges are age appropriate and the child is ready for them, they can be a positive experience of overcoming fears, and enjoying the satisfaction of ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’.

3.  Sharing

Whether it is passing a too-small bike onto a younger child, or sharing a path or trail with other users, using a bike is all about sharing.  Especially about sharing space safely.  That means learning about other peoples different needs and about respect.  Wouldn’t our communities be even better places if we all learned these lessons well when we were young.

4.  Adaptability

Going on a bike ride, whether it is around the block or bigger adventure, will toss up some surprises along the way.  We can’t control the weather, the roadworks, or the odd tumble.  Chances to practice adapting to life’s curve-balls helps adults stay mentally flexible.  For kids, it gives them a chance to see that even when things don’t go as expected, we can modify our plans and approach to make the most of the situation.

5. Persistance

Falling off and getting back on; again and again.  That’s how we learn to ride a bike right?   And unless you’ve got an e-bike, you can’t get to the top of a hill without a fair does of persistence too.

6.  Independence

As kids our parents do so much for us.  Being able to safely and confidently ride a bike opens up a world of independent mobility for a child.  If you can also teach them basic repairs and maintenance then they are literally ‘set for life’: a lifetime of active transport, adventure and fun.  And you won’t be playing ‘taxi’ to your teens for years.  Increasingly, young adults are turning their backs on car ownership, and fewer are gaining their drivers licenses.  They’ll love being able to ‘cycle instead’.

7.  Road Sense

Even as bike passengers, kids are exposed to the world of roads and traffic.  They learn by observation.  As you add in age appropriate instruction, their knowledge of road safety, etiquette and ability to keep themselves safe around traffic will continue to grow.  It is no coincidence that a survey of Auckland driving instructors found that kids who cycle regularly make better drivers.

8.  Self Confidence

When I wanted to know more about how kids feel about riding a bike, I asked teachers at my kids school if the students could do some writing on the topic.  The results were awesome, and one of the repeating themes was the sense of mastery and accomplishment they felt when they pushed their limits, such as tackling a tough hill or track, or just keeping up with Dad.  Biking is an activity where kids can participate on a fairly equal footing with Mum and Dad, especially as they get older.  And because you can tailor it to their age and abilities, they can enjoy the thrill of achievement and the resulting boost to their self confidence.

9. Self care

Using bikes for everyday trips help develop healthy habits of regular physical activity.  Longer rides emphasise the importance of good food and adequate sleep.  And on all rides, taking proactive personal responsibility for staying safe is a skill we want our kids to have.

10.  Risk Taking / Consequences

More and more we are realising that we don’t do our kids any favours by ‘wrapping them in cotton wool’.  Put it this way, would you rather a seven year old experience the consequences of riding at speed and losing control; or a seventeen year old experience it behind the wheel of a car?  So much of learning is experiential, and as parents we have the balancing act of keeping our kids safe whilst teaching them how to keep themselves safe (so they can do the job when we aren’t around).  I’m not talking about putting your 7 year old on the main road to learn to ride; but am suggesting that blatting around the local school bike track at break-neck speed will soon teach them a thing or two about the laws of physics and the consequences.

What would you add to the list?

 

 

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Ding a ling: why I like bells on bikes

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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.

 

10 Reasons to bike with your kids

Do you need a bit of motivation, or some well reasoned selling points up your sleeve?  Here are my top 10 answers to the question of “Why cycle with kids?”:

  1. It is fun.  Kids know it, and just to convince the grown ups…. have you noticed how many bikes are used in advertising these days.  There is a reason for that: bikes are a symbol of fun, freedom and adventure.  Biking is about simple, un-rushed pleasure.
  2. It is slow.  Huh?  Aren’t we too busy to be slow? Well, yes, exactly!  Sometimes we just need to slow down and see what we are missing when we rush through our lives.  Biking with your kids means really experiencing the world around you, stopping to explore or chat, and moving at a more child friendly pace for a while.
  3. It is time.  Of all the gifts we give our children the ones they remember most are time and shared experiences.  Getting out on our bikes and sharing some time together, undistracted by chores, devices or interruptions is a precious gift indeed.
  4. It is learning.  Some of the best learning of all comes so well disguised that we don’t even realise it is happening.  Biking together is an opportunity to learn new skills, impart knowledge and tell family stories.  And not just about cycling: about the world around us, perseverance, courage, trying new things, respect, tolerance, navigation, self-management…. the list is huge.
  5. It is sharing.  Paths, tracks, footpaths, road space – when you are out on the bike you are sharing space with other people.  People on foot, cars, other bike users, farmers, disabled users, dog-walkers, etc.  Learning to share with care is a life skill worthy of it’s own mention.  Our kids will be much better and safer drivers from having been coached in this skill from an early age.
  6. It is healthy.  1 in 9 Kiwi kids are obese and plenty more are overweight.  We are not moving as much as we should, and are surrounded by lots of yummy treats that are just a little bit too easy to get hold of.  So have your cake (ice cream, chocolate…)  and eat it too: food is energy in, cycling is energy out.  My kind of maths!
  7. It is green.  Using a bike instead of a car for some of your trips is a worthy goal to have.  The vast majority of our car trips are less than 3km.  With kids that might seem to far to walk, but definitely not to far to cycle.  When you start out cycling for fun on the weekend, it may give you the confidence you need to use your bike for other trips too, and then we all win: you, your health, and our planet.
  8. It is outside.  ‘Nature deficit disorder’ is a term coined to describe the challenge that we are not spending enough time outdoors.  Research is increasingly showing just how much we benefit from time outside.  Beyond the exercise benefits, it is a great stress-reducer.  In our busy lives that sounds just the ticket!
  9. It is a life skill.  The world is changing, our lives are busier, our cities are more populous and congested.  The worlds best thinkers are struggling with these challenges.  Many agree that riding a bike is a good way to address some of those problems: encouraging us to live closer to where we work and play, and reducing the amount of traffic pollution and congestion.  Riding safely and confidently is a key to independent mobility later in life.  And it might even mean you aren’t signing up to be your kids taxi driver well into their teen years.
  10. It is fun.  Is it cheating to mention fun twice?  No surely not! ( I have many more reasons I could put in instead).  Fun gets a second mention because it is the top reason to bike with your kids.  And who doesn’t want more fun in their life!

There you have it, motivation sorted.  Just remember the saying “the hardest part of going for a run is getting your shoes on”.  Sometimes getting started is tricky, but we get going when we focus on just how great it will be once we are on our way and doing what we enjoy.  Now you’ve got 10 things to focus on, so grab your bikes and get out there!

Bike to Soccer – Warm Up, Stress Down

Here’s a great idea done well in Auckland.  How about instead of driving to Saturday sport and fuming over the lack of parking, let’s ride there instead.  Cool idea huh?  Yep, they call it “Bike to Soccer – the warm-up that frees up the streets!”

In their blog post, Bike Auckland celebrate the success of this awesomely simple idea:

“When you stumble across an idea whose time has come, you don’t have to talk anybody into it, it just makes instant sense. That’s how Bike to Soccer came to be: a brilliant initiative by the North Shore United Football Club and Bike Devonport, with the help of Auckland Transport, Bike Barn Takapuna, and a bunch of lovely sponsors.

Bike Devonport member Chris Werry had the initial brainwave.

“I started biking to soccer a few years ago because I hated the car park chaos so much, and it’s a nice way to start the day and warm up a bit for the game. Once I started biking to soccer, I realised it just 5 minutes from my house by Cheltenham Beach. I drew some circles on a map and realised that it’s less than 10 minutes bike ride to the ground for almost everyone in the club. Plus the ground is right on the Devonport Green Route and there are lots of other shared paths and quiet streets nearby.”

Read the full article at: Bike to Soccer – the warm-up that frees up the streets! – Bike Auckland

What do you think?  Could you give it a go?  What else could you cycle to (hint, start by asking where is it hardest to find parking!).

Big Ups to all involved!

Everyday Cycling

Habits.  Some serve us well, like brushing our teeth.  Others are not so useful, like reaching for the car keys whenever we need to go somewhere.  And the thing with habits is that we just do them – without really thinking about it.  Sometimes when we step back and think about our options, we find new and better choices available to us.  For example, when your kids were babies the car was probably really useful, but perhaps now they are older their are some alternatives to car use?  Using bikes or walking is called ‘active transport’.  It is good for our bodies, our minds, our communities and our environment.

Making a short trip of 2km by bike with kids is quite realistic. Although, if you are just starting out, you might want to build up to that.  And research estimates that over half of urban trips are less than 2km* – giving you a fair few trips to pick from!  Often it is quicker to go by bike: congestion can be bypassed and parking is way easier!  It is definitely more fun.

Some everyday destinations you could consider cycling to include:

  • School
  • Shops
  • Cafes
  • Library
  • Pool
  • Soccer / swimming / rugby / music lessons, etc
  • Visiting friends and relatives
  • A trip to the playground or park

Google maps is a useful way of seeing just how far away your destination is, as well as your route options.  It even shows you estimated time it will take to bike vs drive vs walk.

Once you get out into your neighbourhood you’ll have lovely opportunities to meet your neighbours, smell the roses and discover new aspects of your part of the world.  And you may even find yourself with a whole new habit going on!

Biking is ordinary to me. So much so, I got caught off guard the other day. It didn’t really seem […]

via Habit Loop — Bikeyface

*The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) (2007) reported in their Sustainable transport plan 2006–16 that the car was used for 54% of morning peak trips less than 2km long and 76% of trips less than 5km. The data also showed that cycling and walking were significant modes of transport for trips up to 5km long, but negligible for trips longer than 5km.  Source: NZTA

 

 

 

Let it rain

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”

In New Zealand we are fortunate that we can cycle year round.  For most parts of the country, our winter temperatures are reasonable and our weather challenges consist of rain and wind.  Deeper south there are snow days to contend with, but they are the exception rather than the rule.  Elsewhere in the world winter means months of snow and ice, and not seeing grass until spring.

winter cycling in copenhagen by Mikael Colville-Andersen
Afternoon Traffic – Winter in Copenhagen by Mikael Coalville-Andersen

Continue reading “Let it rain”

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?