On Mother’s Day, there are countless reasons our moms deserve handwritten cards and brunch. For some of us, those reasons include our fond memories of learning to ride a bike. Our mothers patiently guided us as we graduated from child bike seat to balance bike to kid bike with pedals. Just by watching Mom pedal around town herself, some of us learned to value biking for its exercise, convenience and fun factor.
For all those new mothers hoping to shape their children into cyclists, we salute you. Our figurative flowers for you include tips for teaching your kids the rituals of biking. Aside from the obvious habits that apply to all ages—wear a helmet, use hand signals, bike on the right side of the road—these pointers are kid specific.
With this advice, you’ll help your child safely grow from a bike-seat sidekick to a velodrome champion—well, if that’s what they want to be when they grow up. You can also read riding tips we collected from some of our favorite bike-riding Moms.
The bike seat years: One-year-old to toddler
- Before you start adventuring around town with your baby in a bike seat, your child should be one year old. They should be able to hold up their own head with a helmet on and not slump over in the bike seat, according to bikeportland.org.
Choose a comfortable child seat with a sturdy harness. Once the child is old enough to unbuckle things, make sure they know not to escape from their harness mid-ride!
- Start small and bike on quiet streets for short rides so that both you and your baby get comfortable.
- In addition to putting a helmet on your baby, always wear your own helmet to role model safe biking behavior!
- This tip comes from the blog of PUBLIC C7 rider Joanna Goddard (past interview here): “If you have one young child, I would definitely recommend a front seat. You feel close and connected, since you can easily chat and point at things and see what they’re looking at. Plus, I find that having that extra weight in the front versus the back of the bike is easier for balancing.”
The balance bike to training wheels years: Three- to seven-years-old or older
- Consider a balance bike or push bike. A balance bike has no pedals and helps children focus on first learning to balance on two wheels. Once they have mastered the art of balancing they might be able to skip a pedal kids bike with training wheels all together.
- After a balance bike, if possible, try to encourage your child to try a pedal kids bike without training wheels. By learning to ride without training wheels, your child will learn balance speed. Keep the seat low so your child can put both feet on the ground. Sometimes it’s easier to start on a gentle slope to get the pedal kids bike moving for balancing and then your child can start pedaling.
- If your child does not have a lot of riding confidence, a pedal kids bike with training wheels is an option. Training wheels don’t help a child learn the importance of balance speed but they can help a less confident rider get going. All of PUBLIC’s smaller 16″ wheel size pedal kids bikes come with optional training wheels. It might sound contrary, but positioning the training wheels a little higher off the ground than you think will actually create more stability for the child when rolling, says PUBLIC product manager, Aaron Glick.
- Even though your child is low to the ground, buy your little biker a normal bicycle helmet, labeled with a certification by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- Only let your child explore quiet, safe places—away from dangers such as cars and swimming pools.
The bicycle years: Seven-years-old and beyond
- Allow your children to graduate from a training wheels only once they’ve gained the necessary sense of balance, usually around five to seven years old.
- Kids at 10-years-old and younger are safer riding on the sidewalk than on the street, according to Safe Kids.
- Teach your young cyclist to make eye contact with drivers before crossing an intersection. They should make sure that the driver sees them and is going to stop.
- Try a bike-to-school route! One adult could potentially lead the way, picking up children along the path to school to join the caravan.
- Ditch the tandem bike. Children should be able to match your pedalling power before they tandem bike, which might take until they reach age 12, according to Outside Online.
- For long journeys, consider a trailercycle, advises cyclist Charles Scott. You can store your supplies as well as resting children in your trailer. Once they’re ready, kids can get back on the bike and feel like part of the team.
Once your kids start pedaling, they might know their way around their neighborhood better than those kids who are only driven around in cars, at least one study has shown. The study also indicated that cycling kids have a richer connection with their community; they remember more spaces where they like to play than exclusively car-driven kids.
In that case, what better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than pedaling around your neighborhood together? You’ll give yourself the gift of fun and exercise—and your children the gift of a more memorable childhood.