Kids love bikes! Whether they are in tow in a trailer, gliding on a balance bike or pushing their own pedals bikes are a childhood favorite that can be enjoyed on vacation. Follow this helpful guide to biking with your child to find the perfect bike and have a fun, safe ride together as a family.
Helmets are a Must
This rule goes for kids and parents. Not only will both your noggins be covered, wearing your helmet teaches your child to do the same by example.
Cars Come First
It can save their life for a child to understand that moving vehicles are a danger when walking and biking. Little rhymes like this one can help children remember to be aware if they are near a road:
“Stop, look and listen before you cross the street.
Use your eyes, use your ears and then use your feet.”
Repeating this rhyme and demonstrating the actions of “stopping,” “looking,” and “listening” when you and your child are together at crosswalks will help them learn to be safe.
Choose a Bike that Fits Your Child Now
Select a frame and components that match your child’s current size and level of coordination and strength.
Opt for a Lighter Weight Bike
The heavier the bike the more difficult it is for a child to move it. Most children’s bikes are made with heavier materials than adult bikes, so try and find the lightest option you can.
Bikes and Bike Seats for Kids
A child seat is a great option for children as young as 12 months up to age 5. It is recommended to go with a back-mounted child seat for optimum safety. Child seats are similar to car seats in that they have secure straps, a back rest and often foot rests as well. Be sure that the seat you choose gives enough support for your child’s stage of physical development, with younger children needing more support. This is a good choice for very young children, and for long or commute rides that are too fast or far for kids.
Bike trailers are carts or bike seats that attach to an adult’s bike to tow children along for the ride. Most trailers accommodate one or two children. Cart-style trailers allow a child to sit and typically have a screen and/or weather shield that creates an enclosed space. Bike seat trailers have an extra wheel and seat that give the feel of being on a bike and are good for slightly older children.
A balance bike, sometimes called a run bike, is a bicycle for young children that helps them learn how to balance and maneuver. Balance bikes have no pedals or training wheels. Instead they are low enough that a child can sit on the seat with their feet touching the ground. They build up speed and momentum by doing a running motion with their legs (hence the nickname “run bike”) while steering with the traditional handlebars. Adult supervision required.
A tricycle is similar to a bicycle, but instead of 2 wheels it has 3, two in back and one in front. Tricycles are great for young children because the tripod construction is more stable than a traditional bicycle. Children learn to sit, pedal and steer on a tricycle, but they do not learn to balance as they would on a 2-wheeler or balance bike. Adult supervision required.
Children moving up to their first “big kid” bike will typically require training wheels to help prevent falls while they develop their balance and maneuvering skills. Training wheels attach at the rear of the bike with one small wheel on either side to give more stability for a child teetering on his or her 2-wheeler. Adult supervision required.
Most children by around age 6 have developed the strength and dexterity to ride a bicycle without training wheels. The removal of training wheels means that the child must balance on his or her own, and adult assistance is strongly recommended as this skill is developed. There are two types of brakes on a bike, hand brakes and coaster brakes. Coaster brakes work by pedaling backward to slow the bike and are the best option for younger riders. Hand brakes work by squeezing a lever attached to the handlebar. Children under 6 generally lack the strength and dexterity to use hand brakes. Adult supervision strongly recommended.