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)

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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?

 

 

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.

 

Sneak Peak Napiers newest I-way

It doesn’t officially open until Sunday but we couldn’t wait that long to try out Napier’s newest cycle way. A flat 7 km loop close to Marine Pde and the city centre. 


We started from Marine parade and joined the iway opposite Napier boys high school. Cycling along the waterfront is always a joy and we promised the kids we would stop at the junior bike park on our way back.   The iWay meanders its way through reserve land. Often we were alongside the stream and criss-crossed it a number of time on bridges. The catch-cry of “ducks!” was well used, and we enjoyed glimpsing ducklings too. 


It was also tour de tyre swing. With three different tyre swings to try out along the way. The trees were also offering up some interesting seed pods to examine and collect. 


Along the way the nice smooth wide path was often complemented by an alternative off road route. An opportunity to exercise route preference and see who can get to the joining point faster. 

“I came to a fork in the cycle path and I rode both routes and that has made all the difference”

Naturally all this exploring made our outing a celebration of slow cycling (you can have slow food, so why not slow cycling) and it really was about the journey. Although for Miss7, ice cream was definitely a destination she had in mind.  We saved our discovery of a dairy until near the end…. A strategic choice. Somehow ice cream consumed after a sunny slow explorative wee cycle adventure tastes all the sweeter!

And on the home straight we checked out the junior bike track. It makes humorous and sometimes alarming viewing to see kids interpretation of the road rules. A clear indication they are not ready for the road. 

Napier and Hastings are home to an awesome network of cycle ways. You can travel near and far on safe, sealed and mostly separate shared paths. It is a great spot for a family cycling holiday as there is so much to see and do. Thumbs up Napier!

Further info also available on the. NZ cycle trail website

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!

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?

Three reasons to cycle with kids

Okay, so who needs a reason beyond that it is fun?  In case you do, here are some thoughts on a couple of the other benefits of cycling and a reminder that, most of all, it is fun!

Health

We want our kids to be healthy and active. We want less congestion and pollution. Cycling is a great way to introduce your kids to healthy activity and healthy options for getting around. Habits established when we are children last a lifetime.

The stats about kids health and activity levels make sobering reading. In NZ, kids are only cycling an average 6-9 minutes a week. Let’s find ways to change that: Let’s get out there riding with our kids!

Family Time

Sometimes my husband and I wonder if we are dragging our kids into our interests. But if you judge your time spent with your kids by the memories you are making, then our cycling trips come out tops. Our last cycling holiday was at our kids request, as will be our next one

“let’s have a family cycling adventure like this every year”.

They love the time together without the distractions of daily life, obligations and devices. They love the sense of adventure. They enjoy the shared challenges and experiences. We are making great memories.

Fun

What is it about riding a bike that puts a smile on your face?

I saved the best for last, because cycling is FUN.  There is something about the breeze in your face, the power in your legs, the sense of freedom. Everyone can remember their first bike and the thrill and accomplishment of learning to ride it. Bikes are fun, simple as that.

Why do you cycle with your kids?

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”

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?