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5 Tips for Riding with Your Kids in Low Light

Biking Off Road

Fall is here and the days are getting shorter. Gone are the long, sun-filled evenings of summer. At the same time our kids are back in school, and it’s harder to find time to ride.

If you’re like our family, you’re still trying to squeeze in some after-school, after-work evening rides. We did one of these rides this week, an evening pedal home from one of our favorite restaurants, and I was caught off guard by the setting sun. Looks like it’s time to mount our lights!

Rather than giving up biking for the fall and winter, we’ll be doing our best to make sure that our family is visible during the twilight hours. Here are some tips so that you can do the same with your kids.

1 – Mount up Lights

Rather than adding a light to your bikes each time you ride, add some fixed lights that you can leave on for those just in case moments where you find yourself racing the sun. You’ll want both a front headlight, and a nice bright, flashy red light for the rear. For kids, we really like the lightweight Knog Frog lights. They weigh nothing and the battery lasts a long time. They are also easy to add to the rear of a bike seat, bike trailer or trailer-cycle. Adults should choose something a bit brighter to help keep the whole family illuminated.

Biking at Night

2 – Add Reflective Tape

Reflective tape can do a lot to make kids more visible. We like putting it on kids helmets, wheels, bike frames, and backpacks. If you ride with your child in a bike trailer, add the tape on the exterior of the trailer as well.

3 – Have Your Kids Wear Ankle and Knee Reflectors

A lot of parents I know invest in reflective vests for their kids (which is great), but did you know that knee and ankle reflectors are actually more effective? A 2012 study found that drivers saw cyclists with a reflective vest 67 percent of the time, and saw cyclists with ankle and knee reflectors 94 percent of the time. These are cheap and your child won’t outgrow them before the next season.

4 – Go Off Road

This might not work for bike commuting, but if you are biking with your kids for recreation, try riding off-road in the evening hours. Riding trails and canal paths in the dark can be a great adventure, and you don’t have to worry about car traffic. Since there is likely to be less ambient light, make sure you use a high-powered headlight to help navigate.

Biking Off Road

5 – Haul Your Kids

While your kids might do a great job of riding their own bikes during the day, as soon as it starts getting dark, it’s better to have them close by, particularly if you are riding on the road. If you have a cargo bike, this is as easy as throwing them and their bike on board. Otherwise, an attachment like the Follow-Me-Tandem can be a good way to make sure your child is tucked in close behind you.  If your kids are littler, a bike seat is a great way to keep them close.

night ride

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A tale of N. America’s 3 hi-end trailer brands & Why we’re closing out Croozer at 40% off

Croozer Trailers – 40% Off!!!

I know it sounds to good to be true.  Let me explain…

This is not an ordinary sale.  We’re offering this amazing line of German designed trailers at what is effectively our wholesale/dealer pricing while supplies last.

I should explain how things evolved as I know the price probably sounds to good to be true.


But first the TLDR version

We’ve been selling high-end bike child trailers for over 10 years now, Thule Chariot, Burley and Croozer.  The market in the US slowed down in recent years.  Related to these shifts we became the US Distributor of Croozer last year.  It hasn’t gone well and we’re closing out Croozer at 40% off.

Croozer continues to thrive and compete with Burley and Thule Chariot in Europe.  Theses are high-quality trailers that I highly recommend. This is a unique opportunity to get a great value on a great product while supplies last. Read on for the full story…

3 N. American brands of high-end child trailers

To begin at the beginning here is a brief history of our experiance selling high-end bike child trailers.  For over 10 years now, we’ve been selling Burley, Thule Chariot and Croozer.  Early on, Burley was the best known brand.  But Chariot, based in Canada, was coming on strong gaining market share of the high-end bike trailer market.  They were also the importer of Croozer Trailers of Germany.

About 6 years ago, Thule purchased Chariot.  When this happened, Croozer no longer had a distributor in North America.  After about a year they decided to setup their own distribution office.

With Chariot more widely distributed by Thule, their market share appeared to continue to grow in the Thule dealer network.  However, the spirit of Chariot as an independent, cutting edge company faded within the larger presence of Thule.  Meanwhile Croozer, who had seen success  selling into Chariot’s dealer network, did not do as well on their own.

Overall market factors were impacting things as the high-end bike child trailer market began declining around 2013.  Contributing factors included the overall decline of bicycle sales, the decline following the peak of the urban cycling movement and the transition of some cycling parents away from bike trailers towards cargo bikes.

While Thule Chariot and Burley seem to have survived these hiccups, Croozer lost almost all of their ground in the North American market.  Meanwhile Croozer has continued to thrive in the German and European market.  Croozer’s marketing has a very Euro feel and its clear that is where the focus is.

Back to how we fit into this picture

To deal with the declines, last year Croozer decided to shut down their North American office.  They offered us the opportunity to become their US distributor.  Not recognizing how much name Croozer’s brand had faded in North America, we thought it was a decent opportunity to give a try.

We brought in a large order of inventory and over the last 10 months, we’ve attempted to sell Croozer through all of our normal channels as well as to other bike shops.  After this trial period, we could no longer deny the fact that there was very little appreciation for Croozer Trailers in the US market.  We would either have to rebrand Croozer in North America or move on.  And with some other major changes afoot here at BikeShopHub.com, we couldn’t afford to invest in rebuilding the Croozer brand.

Therefore we’re clearing out Croozer.  The good news is that as the US Distributor of Croozer, we have extra margin to work with.  We’re able to offer them at the phenomenally low price of 40% off.

Why buy a Croozer when all your friends are buying Burley or Thule Chariot?

I can’t tell you that buying a Croozer Trailer will necessarily impress your friends, they may have never heard of the brand.  What I can tell you is that the Croozer lineup competes against Burley and Thule Chariot high-end offerings in the European market.  And I do think they know a thing or two about bicycles on the other side of the pond.

Because of the brand perception gap in the US, we need to close our remaining inventory of Croozer Trailers out at 40% off.  What this means for you is you can purchase an amazing quality trailer at a remarkably low price.  There is the one downside that you don’t get to impress your friends with a well-known name brand.  But when you show them all of the features built into your trailer and tell them how little you paid, that might even impress them more.  And don’t forget to tell them that Croozer is a stylish brand in Europe.  Perhaps they’ll be impressed by Euro-cool.

So what is so great about Croozer Trailers?

My favorite feature of Croozer Trailers is a small one that demonstrates their attention to detail.  Their hitch arm lock offers an easy way to lock your trailer to your bike.

An aspect of Croozer trailers that my kids really appreciated is the added width in the shoulder area.  My 6 year old and 3 year old were able to fit comfortably inside.

Croozer Trailers stack up feature for feature with Burley and Thule Chariot’s high end offerings.  The Plus level trailers offer suspension.  One of the strong value points of all of the Croozer lineup is that the trailer, stroller and jogger kits are all included in the package.  The only kit that is sold separately is the skiing/hiking kit.

And don’t forget the Pet and Cargo Trailers

Croozer has some great option for cargo and pets as well.  And we’re closing these trailers out as well.

Enjoy!

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What We Learned From a Year of Traveling and Biking as a Family

biking as a family

biking as a family

Yesterday we pulled into our driveway after a year on the road. Over twelve months, we visited more than 50 biking destinations around North America. Our route took us to the flowy trails of Copper Harbor, MI, the jungles of Ocala, FL, the paved paths of Bend, OR, and the bike park in Whistler, BC. Through it all, our son made the transition from a hesitant four-year-old to a confident, capable five-year-old. He pedaled more miles during our trip than most people bike all year.

The trip wasn’t just transformative for him, it was life changing for all three of us. For people who love bicycles, what could be better than riding one every single day? We went from stressed-out, city dwellers to fit, tan, and laid back voyagers. We also learned a lot about ourselves and the world we live in–far too much to ever fit into 1,000 words–but here are a few of our key takeaways from a year of riding.

North America is Full of Cool Places

Every time I open a bike magazine, I’m immediately drawn to stories of exotic adventure: road biking from Alaska to Argentina, mountain biking in New Zealand. The truth though is that you don’t have to go very far to experience amazing places. There are more miles of trails and mountain ranges and twisting country roads in North America than you could ever touch in this lifetime. Little towns you’ve never heard of have great trails hidden in their backyard. We spent a week in Lajitas, TX, nestled between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend State Park, and it felt like we were on another planet. If you want a great adventure, go find it. They are all around.

Kingdom Trails

Biking Brings Us Closer Together

Riding our bikes together nearly every day for a year, brought us closer together than I ever could have imagined. I thought we were a close-knit family before, but now we are inseparable. A good bike ride forces you to spend an hour or two or four with your riding partners. When we are at home, it is easy for me to retreat to the kitchen and my husband to his man cave, and my son to the backyard with the neighbor kids. On the trail, we talk about our hopes and dreams and fears and we laugh until it hurts. Biking has always been a central part of my relationship with my husband, but we lost that a bit during the baby and toddler years. On our trip, we not only rebuilt our marriage through biking, we also built an unbreakable bond with our son.

golden gate bridge

Conflict is Okay

Before we left, everybody warned us that we would hate each other after a few weeks of hanging out 24/7 and living in a tiny trailer. They were right–and wrong. There were certainly moments where we wanted more space, where our truck broke down, and things didn’t go as planned. But that’s life. If you have a kid, you know: adventuring with children isn’t easy. There were moments where our son gave up on the side of the trail, and ones where my husband and I both blamed each other for picking the wrong route. We’d yell and cry and pretty much all hate each other. But then we’d keep on going and come to the top of a hill and watch the sunset together and we knew that those were the moments that counted. Conflict is okay as long as that it brings you closer together in the end.

Biking is More Fun When There Are Other Activities Mixed In

Biking just to bike is great when you’re 40, not so much when you’re 4. We learned early on that biking as a family is more fun when it’s used as a way to explore the world. You learn a lot about a new city when you create a tour of playgrounds. A mountain bike ride is more than just a mountain bike ride when there is a lake to swim in mid-way, and you can collect a lot of seashells when you’re cruising the beach on a bike. As adults, we can learn so much from kids. One of those lessons is this: turn off Strava and pay attention to what’s around you.

san antonio biking

Weather Isn’t (That) Important

I’ve always kind of rolled my eyes at people who say, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.” As an outdoorsy kind of gal, I’ve spent my fair share of time huddled in a tent during a blizzard and let me tell you, 65 degrees and sunshine is a lot more enjoyable. Nonetheless, I discovered that the more time that we spent outside, the less the weather really mattered. We spent one chilly 34-degree day bundled up in coats and biking from mission to mission through San Antonio. The rest of Texas was hiding inside and we had the bike paths all to ourselves. It turns out that the real bummer is when you spend most of your week indoors only to escape on the weekend and encounter crummy weather. If you spend time outside each day, it’s all temporary and fluid and pretty darn bearable.

biking in brevard

Nature is Everything

For me, the biggest takeaway from our year was just how important being in nature is. Because we had three people living in a 20-foot trailer, we spent most of our time outside. I drank my coffee outside in the morning, we biked during the day, and we cooked and ate our dinner out of doors in the evening. For the first time in my life, I always knew what phase of the moon we were under. That might sound trifle, but it was amazingly life-affirming. We are so connected to the earth around us, and yet, in our modern lives, we are so detached. There are many ways to reconnect, but for me, a bicycle ride is an awfully good way of doing it.

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5 Tips for Biking with Kids in Traffic

biking with kids in traffic

biking with kids in traffic

In an ideal world, every school commute could be done on a bike path and every grocery store would be on a road with a protected bike lane. In reality, most of us who bike with our children have to share roads with cars. Despite our best efforts to choose the safest routes, eventually, we end up on a street that is less than ideal. Fortunately, there are steps that we can (and should) take to keep our children as safe as possible. There is no such thing as no-risk cycling (just as there’s no such thing as no-risk driving), but it is possible to keep the risk at an acceptable level. Here are our top tips for biking with kids in traffic.

#1 Take control

Predictability is key for biking in traffic, but unfortunately, children are unpredictable. They swerve without warning. They stop suddenly. For this reason, we suggest taking over control when biking with younger children in higher-traffic areas. This means using a tow-bar like the Follow-Me-Tandem to keep them tucked safely behind you, or a trailer or cargo bike to haul them and their bike until getting to a safer stretch of road.

riding bicycles with kids

#2 Position yourself

Where you ride in relation to your child can go a long way toward protecting them. Ideally, you are riding with two adults who can ride both in front and behind the child (or children). If you are riding solo with your child, things are a little trickier. Generally, I recommend riding slightly behind and to the left of your child to help protect them from traffic coming from behind. This also ensures you don’t accidentally get too far ahead of them. Don’t be afraid to take the lane or ride further to the left than you normally would; do whatever it takes to physically block your child from traffic.

Although I usually prefer riding behind or to the side, there are times you may want to ride in front and have your child follow from behind. If you are riding in an area with lots of side roads, intersections, or driveways, you may want to position yourself first to control speed and look out for merging traffic. Many children also do better when following/copying mom and dad than taking verbal directions from behind.

#3 Practice, practice, practice

Don’t take your child on a busier road until they’ve mastered riding in a straight line, staying close to the curb, and are good about following your instructions. If your child isn’t good about differentiating between right and left yet, draw R and L on their bike gloves or put a bell on their right handlebar. Practice verbal commands (“wait, slow, turn right, turn left”) and riding safely thru intersections. Stick to riding exclusively on low traffic roads and bike paths until they’ve shown they can be trusted to ride predictably and follow your directions.

practicing urban riding

#4 Make yourself visible

The more visible you can make yourself and your child, the better. Make a sign for the back of your bike (“Kids on Board”, “3 feet is the law”, etc), add flashing lights to your wheels, put reflective tape on your child’s helmet — whatever it takes to make yourself visible.

#5 Plan ahead

One of the best ways to avoid getting into a dangerous situation is planning your route ahead of time.  Use a city bike map to pick the safest route.  Practice riding it ahead of time by yourself and look for dangerous or tricky spots.

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13 Things to Do This Summer with your Kids (On Bikes)

biking with kids this summer

biking with kids this summer

School is out, the weather is warming up, and it is time to start racking up some miles. While you might be training for your next century ride or singletrack epic, make sure you’re including the kids on some of your rides too. Unlike adults, most kids aren’t interested in racking up the miles for the sake of it, so come up with some fun ways to motivate your kids to get outside on bikes. Here are a dozen (plus!) of our favorite summer outings that incorporate bicycles. They are sure to provide quality family time, plenty of exercise, and connection with your local community.

13. Visit a bike park or pump track.

Kids LOVE pump tracks and skills parks. They are a great way to burn some energy, meet other biking families, and develop bike-handling skills. Use google to find a bike park near you, or an app like Trailforks. We’ve spent a year traveling North America and have found that most towns and cities have at least a pump track somewhere nearby.

cuyuna lakes pump track

12. Go bike camping.

For many families, summertime means biking. But have you considered bike camping? Biking with your kids to a campground adds a whole other level of adventure and excitement to the experience. You can make it as simple or as adventurous as you would like by riding a few miles to camp in grandma and grandpa’s backyard or “bikepacking” to a remote wilderness location.

Bike camping

11. Join a kiddical mass ride.

Find a Kiddical Mass ride, or other local family group ride, in your area. If one doesn’t exist, find a few other families to join you for a ride. Kids love riding with other kids and this is a great way to meet other like-minded families. It’s also an effective way to gain awareness for family cycling and motivate others to get out on bikes.

10. Bike to the pool or beach.

On hot days, load up some beach towels and head to the pool or the beach to swim. By biking, you don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot, and the kids are guaranteed to sleep well after a long day of bike and water play. There’s also nothing better than jumping into a cool body of water after getting hot and sweaty on a good bike ride.

Weehoo trailer

9. Take a cycling vacation.

Does your whole family love riding bikes? Consider a bike-centric vacation this summer. This might be a week-long bike tour or simply a resort town with plenty of bike paths. For ideas on where to go, check out this list of family-friendly bike vacations.

8. Try racing.

If your kids are the competitive sort, try signing up for a race. Many organizations will put on kid-races in conjunction with grown-up races, so the whole family can get into the action. Even toddlers can try racing in the Strider World Cup races (and similar local events). If your family isn’t ready to try racing, it can also be fun to bike to a race and spectate. In our experience, watching racers is hugely motivating to kids.

Kids Bike Racing

7. Host a bike parade.

With 4th of July coming up, consider hosting a bike parade either on the big day or the week prior. Have kids decorate their bikes–streamers, paper plates, and pipe cleaners all work well–and then parade through the neighborhood to show off their handiwork.   Littler kids can even decorate their bike trailer.  If you don’t live in a neighborhood with really light traffic, make sure you have several adults willing to manage traffic control.

6. Set-up an obstacle course.

Invite the neighborhood kids over and set up a bicycle obstacle course. Set out some cones (or plastic cups) to create a course for kids to practice cornering and steering. Add a sprinkler to the mix to cool things off. Bigger kids might also have fun with a few jumps thrown in.

bike obstacle course

5. Track your miles and create rewards.

Add a bike computer to your bicycle or use an app like Strava to track the miles your ride this summer. Set up goals with your kids and create rewards when you reach them. 50 miles might earn an afternoon movie, for example. 100 miles earns a new book. The goals and the rewards can be as big or as small as you want to make them.

4. Give up your car for a week.

Summer usually means fewer commitments–no school, fewer lessons, more time off of work. This lazy time also lends itself well to a break from the car. Challenge your family to give up the car for a whole week and bike everywhere you need to go. Get creative with how you haul groceries, bring home library books, and run your errands.

biking with kids

3. Map out a Tour de Playgrounds.

Pull out your city’s bike map and configure a loop that will take you past as many playgrounds as possible. The good news is that most paved bike paths already run thru or near nice parks. You might be surprised by how far your children can ride if the route is punctuated by nice play breaks on some slides and swings. Take along a picnic lunch as well and make a whole day out of it.

2. Ride to the local farmer’s market.

Most towns have awesome local farmer’s markets during the summer. Take along a basket or backpack, and have your kids shop for a special meal you can make as a family. This is a great lesson on healthy living–both physical activity and good food.

1. Bike to ice cream!!!

We have an ice cream shop about a mile from our house and it provides a great excuse to get in a quick bike ride a few evenings a week. Very few kids will turn down a bike ride if there is a tasty treat involved. Invite a neighborhood family to join you and help spread the bike love.

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Biking the Golden Gate Bridge with Kids

golden gate bridge

biking the golden gate bridge

The first time I biked across the Golden Gate Bridge, I was still in my mom’s belly. Six months pregnant, my mom made the trek from San Francisco to Tiburon by way of that iconic orange spanway. At least that’s what she told me when I balked at biking the 22-mile route with my son along. The message was clear: if she could do the bike ride pregnant, we could certainly manage it with 4 able-bodied adults and an energetic 5-year-old.

Still, I knew he couldn’t bike the whole thing solo, so I made the decision to tote him on our Mac Ride seat for the trip. The obvious choice for a 22-mile paved ride would be a road bike, but all we had on the trip with us were mountain bikes, so that’s what we used.

On a sunny spring Sunday, we left Pier 41 for our bike outing–three generations of bike-lovers. Our first stop, The Buena Vista, was only a mile or so into the trip. At the iconic breakfast spot, we fueled up for the day and drank Ramos Fizzes (grown-ups) and fresh squeezed orange juice (kid).

Bellies full, we continued on toward the Presidio. The bike path thru the old fort was full of joggers, walkers, and bikers. The ride has become increasingly popular with tourists in recent years, and we had to navigate our way around rented bikes, but the wide path made it easy to do. Fortunately, we weren’t in a hurry. There was plenty to see: sailboats jockeying for a position at the start line of a race, swimmers taking laps in the ice cold bay, cross-fitters swinging kettlebells on the beach.

As we merged our way onto the bridge, the wind picked up and the bike traffic intensified. I held my line as riders zipped past in both directions. At a small pull-out, we stopped to take in the view. Below us, the water swirled menacingly. My son started howling like a wolf and I joined; the experience of the water raging below and the wind raging above was surprisingly primal.

golden gate bridge

We regrouped on the far side of the bridge, as did several other families. We were joined by a dad pulling two kids in a trailer, and a mom pulling one on a trailer-cycle. It was awesome to see other families making the journey as well.

Consumed by this train of bicycle traffic, we descended down to Fort Point and then onto the city streets of downtown Sausalito. This is where most bike tourists end their day, taking the ferry back to the city. We chose to continue on toward Mill Valley and Tiburon.

The bike traffic dwindling, a sense of peace took over. We took our time –stopping to look at houseboats, choosing a book from a little library, and burning energy at a playground. A myriad of bike paths and routes made us feel as if we’ve left the U.S. and landed somewhere in Europe.

Several hours after we began, we ended up at the ferry dock in Tiburon. With time to spare, we bought ice cream cones and lounged on the grass beside the bay.

ferry ride

When the ferry pulled up to take us back to Pier 41, I thanked my mom for encouraging us to do the whole 22 miles. Indeed, thanks to an abundance of bike infrastructure, anybody with a modicum of fitness–pregnant women, kids, grandparents, cubicle-dwellers–should consider doing this ride on their next trip to San Francisco.

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Options for Off-Road Biking with Young Kids

thule chariot

weehoo

Figuring out how to bike with young kids off-road is tricky.  Even if they are old enough to ride their own bike, it takes a long time before they have the endurance or skill to ride long distances or up larger hills.  Most trailers and bike seats are designed for riding on paved bike paths and don’t perform well once they hit gravel or narrow trails.

Despite the added challenge of taking little ones off the beaten path, the rewards are so worthwhile.  Kids are drawn to nature, and one of the best ways to get there is on two wheels.  My favorite moments as a family have been stopping for a snack at the top of a mountain lookout or setting up our tent after a long day of biking to a campsite.

So how do you do it?  There are several options for biking with kids off-road: a trailer, trailer-cycle, front-mounted bike seat, tandem, cargo bike, or a bike towing system.  In each of these categories, there are products that are better suited for off-road riding than others.

Bike Trailers

Bike trailers are the most popular way of hauling kids by bike, and they are a good option for off-road riding as well.  That said, dirt roads and trails are far bumpier than pavement and require a more durable trailer.  The best trailers for riding off-road include suspension to help dampen the effects of rocks and ruts.  When our son was a toddler, we used our Thule Chariot on many miles of dirt rail trails.  The Burley Cub and the Croozer Kid Plus trailers are also good options for off-road riding.

thule chariot

If you plan on riding narrower trails, a traditional bike trailer won’t work.  There is, however, one option for singletrack-loving parents.   The Tout Terrain Singletrailer is a single-wheel trailer, popular in Europe, that is narrow enough (and plush enough) to slay trail with a child in tow.  Unfortunately, it is also REALLY expensive so you had better be prepared to put in a lot of hours in the saddle to make it worthwhile.

Bike Seats

Traditional rear-mounted bike seats don’t work particularly well for off-road riding.  There are some front-mounted seats, however, that have been designed for use even on singletrack.  In North America, the most popular seat in the mountain bike community is the Mac Ride.  We have one and use it with our 5-year-old on mellow trails.

Mac Ride Bike Seat

The benefit of a bike seat is that they are lightweight and offer kids an interactive, up-front view of the action.  The downside is that they are outgrown quickly, and if you aren’t a confident, capable rider, you risk your child crashing if you go down.

Trailer-Cycles

Trailers and bike seats are good options for toddlers and pre-schoolers, but what slightly older kids?  For the grade-school crew, trailer-cycles are probably the best option.  That said, not all trailer-cycles are created equally for off-road riding.  (Our family has learned this the hard way).

As I already mentioned, dirt, rocks, and ruts are tough on equipment and you’ll want to make sure you are buying a trailer-cycle that is intended for off-road riding.  The Burley Piccolo is a popular pick amongst families that like to adventure, as is the Weehoo.  The Weehoo works for both little and big kids, though we’ve found it most enjoyable for younger riders.

Trailer-cycle

For rougher riding, and for those with a fat wallet, Tout Terrain once again offers an impressive offering with the Streamliner.  This trailer-cycle offers an air sprung shock with 160mm of travel.  If your family plans on doing lots of singletrack riding, this might be a worthwhile investment.

Even with suspension, however, the Streamliner can’t escape some of the drawbacks that all trailer-cycles have for off-road riding.  The first is that they are heavy.  Try hauling a kiddo on one up a steep, loose climb and you’ll see what I mean.  Secondly, they can be difficult to maneuver on tight trails (or any tight spaces for that matter).  Nonetheless, trailer-cycles remain one of the most affordable viable methods for biking with kids.

Tandem

If you are committed to doing lots of off-road riding or family bikepacking, a tandem may be the way to go.  Of course, you have to justify the cost of another new bike, but you can’t put a price on quality family time, right? Ventana makes an awesome full-suspension tandem, and you can fit a smaller rider on the back with a child stoker kit.  Tandems aren’t as clunky or awkward as a trailer-cycle, though you still have extra weight to haul if your child isn’t pulling (pedaling) their own weight.

Cargo Bike

Most people think of cargo bikes being exclusively for urban riding, but they can work well for off-road riding as well–even with kids along.  Cargo bikes such as the Xtracycle Edgrunner or the Salsa Big Fat Dummy can be outfitted with off-road tires and a rear deck to haul kids.  These bikes don’t work quite so well for singletrack, but on long dirt roads or rail trails, a durable cargo bike is hard to beat.  Add some panniers and you can carry gear for bike camping as well.

Bike Towing System

For kids that are already strong riders but need some help to go the extra distance, consider using a bike towing system such as the BicycleBungee or TowWhee.  Our family has used both and recommends either.  For singletrack riding, a tow system works much better for making tight switchbacks when compared to a trailer-cycle and gives kids the opportunity to practice their bike handling skills.  The only bummer is if your child has a meltdown and gives up riding completely, you don’t have a  way to haul them out like you do with a trailer-cycle.

bicyclebungee

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Bike Camping with Kids

Bike camping

Bike camping

For many of us, childhood camping trips are some of our fondest memories. Remember the s’mores and campfires, the old tent that leaked, and lazy afternoons reading in a hammock? Kids tend to gravitate toward camping in a way that adults can’t recreate. They understand the power of dirt, and rocks, and sticks–things that can entertain for hours.

If camping is memorable for children, bike camping takes the memory-making to a whole new level. Rather than zoning out in the backseat of a mini-van, kids get to experience the world as it passes by. The journey to the campground is as much fun as the campground itself.  A boring country road becomes anything but when you stop for ice cream at a dilapidated old general store or search for treasures in a roadside ditch.

There are lots of ways to bike camp with kids and none of it requires special gear. In fact, you can employ whatever setup you currently use to bike around town with the kids. On our first outing, my husband pulled a kids bike trailer with a tent and sleeping bags and I hauled our 3-year-old in a Weehoo. Other families use cargo bikes to haul both the kids and their gear. If your kids are older and can ride their own bikes, you could even use racks and panniers on their bikes (and yours).

Bike Camping with Kids

Similarly, your route and destination can be as adventurous or as simple as you would like. Ride your bikes across town and pitch a tent in grandma and grandpa’s backyard. Choose a dirt road that ends at a lake. Use some vacation time and bike the White Rim Trail in Utah or the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota.

If you’re a social type, it’s even possible to find other families to bike camp with. In Chicago, Out Our Front Door, offers guided family bike camping outings to places like the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. In Madison, WI, the Cargo Bike Shop, hosts a family bike overnighter to Lake Farm County Park. You can also try joining a local cycling Facebook group in your area, or ask local shops, to find out what other low-key family bike trips might be available.

Weehoo trailer

Knowing what to pack for your first trip can be a little bit trickier, and is largely dependent on what time of year it is and how many nights you’re camping. On your first outing, try doing a single overnighter and take only what you think you’ll NEED. You can always adjust the next time. At a minimum we’d recommend packing:

  • A tent. Bivouacs are okay when you’re 25 and single; they’re not so great when you have kids and its raining outside.
  • Sleeping bags
  • Meals that don’t require much prep or cooking. Bring something pre-prepared like fried chicken and fruit salad. If you’re headed somewhere with places to eat, you could also just plan on buying meals.
  • Plenty of water, or a plan on where to refill water.
  • Entertainment items that are small and lightweight. A deck of cards and a collapsible frisbee work great.
  •  Basic bike repair items–a multi-tool, spare tubes, etc.
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9 Family-Friendly Cycling Vacation Destinations

Biking Vacations

Biking VacationsIf your idea of a good family vacation includes more mountaintops than Disney rides, you might want to consider a cycling vacation. Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you have to plan vacations around playgrounds (although those are nice to have also).  In fact, picking a great place to bike can make for a memorable weekend getaway or week-long summer vacation for the whole family.

As part of our year-long mountain bike road-trip, our family has been to some great bike destinations and we’re sharing several of our favorites. Whether you prefer dirt trails or paved paths, you’ll find a great place to visit on this list as well as some tips on how to make it a successful vacation.

Sunriver, OR

Imagine a place where you can park your car at the beginning of your week-long vacation and never drive again. Just outside of Bend, OR, Sunriver Resort is nirvana for cycling families. I’ve been going to Sunriver for 30+ years, starting as a toddler on a seat on the back of my mom’s bike to an adult mountain biking on the connecting Deschutes river trail.  Forty miles of bike paths connect a myriad of family-friendly activities. Bike to the swimming pool, ice cream shop, nature center, horse stables, and more.

Cuyuna Lakes, MN

If you’re a mountain biking family, Cuyuna Lakes is the ultimate destination. This IMBA ride center has the stated goal of being “a year-round, international, family cycling destination.” The trails are easy enough for beginners and young children but exciting enough for experienced adults. With 75 miles of trails, there’s plenty here to keep your family entertained for a week. In between rides, you can take a dip in any of the many lakes of Minnesota.

cuyuna lakes

San Antonio, TX

On our family’s recent stop in San Antonio, TX we were shocked to discover how amazing the family biking is there. The paved San Antonio River path follows the water for 30 winding miles and connects the Missions National Park with the Alamo.  Along the way are some fantastic playgrounds, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and a couple of family-friendly breweries.

san antonio biking

Curt Gowdy State Park, WY

Nestled half-way between Cheyenne, WY, and Laramie, WY, Curt Gowdy State Park is a gem for outdoorsy families. The park has several campgrounds and endless miles of mountain bike trails. The Shoreline trail along the reservoir is relatively flat and perfect for kids. When you’re not busy biking, the park offers plenty of other things for kids to do including fishing, boating, and several very nice playgrounds.

Biking at Curt Gowdy State Park

Ocala, FL

While Florida isn’t known for amazing mountain biking, there is one hidden gem: the Santos trail system in Ocala, FL. The park offers miles of trails with virtually no climbing (great for kids) and plenty of skills areas that are appropriate for riders of any ability. When the kids have had their fill of riding, take a day trip to nearby Silver Springs where you can kayak with the alligators.

santos florida

Zion National Park, UT

Between April and October, Zion National Park closes its roads to cars. You can take a bus thru the park — or you can ride your bikes. Without any vehicle traffic, the roads are ideal for biking with kids. Ride your bike to the lodge for an ice cream or to one of many trailheads to go for a hike. In hot months, kids love swimming in the Virgin River near the Watchman campground.

San Francisco, CA

Golden Gate Park is an ideal spot for a family bike ride. Cruise the paved path through the park and hit up playgrounds and gardens along the way. For a longer ride, ride thru the park and over the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito, and then take the ferry back.

Park City, UT

We may be a little biased since Park City is our home turf, but it’s also a great place for a summer biking vacation. Whether you prefer mountain bike trails or paved paths, Park City has you covered. Cruise to the local swimming pool on the bike path, or head to Trailside Bike Park for some laps on the pump track and kid-friendly skills area. The town has some of the best playgrounds you’ve ever seen, and in the evenings you can head to Old Town for world-class dining or listen to free music thanks to Mountain Town Music.

Trailer-cycle

Washington D.C.

The nation’s capital is surprisingly bike-friendly and there is plenty to see while you pedal. Visit the National Mall and the Smithsonian museums via bike, or cruise along the Potomac. You can even join in on a guided family bike ride.

Biking Washington DC

Tips for taking a Family Bike Vacation

There’s no right or wrong way to take a family bike vacation.  All you need are some bikes, a map, and a sense of adventure.  That said, we’ve learned a few things along the way that might make your trip a little bit more fun and a little less stressful.

Finding Rentals

If you are going to be renting bikes at your destination, make sure to scope out the situation ahead of time and make reservations. It is harder to find places that rent kids bikes than it is ones that rent adult bikes. Similarly, its challenging (but not impossible) to find rental trailers and bike seats. If you are traveling with a young child, it might make sense to check a bike seat (or even a Strider balance bike) in a duffel bag. We’ve done it and it works well!

Alternate Biking with other Activities

In our pre-child life, we often took vacations where we biked every. single. day. Well, come to think of it, we still do that, but we certainly don’t make our child bike every day. Mix up bike ride days with other activities–museums, playgrounds, tubing a river, etc. Kids are more likely to enjoy cycling if it’s not something that you shove down their throat constantly.

Plan Destination Rides

Don’t just plan a 15-mile bike ride. Plan a 15-mile bike ride that passes a playground, an ice cream shop, and a beach. Yes, it may take ALL day, but it’s far more likely to keep your kids happy and entertained and you’ll still get in plenty of miles.

Bike During Nap Time

If you have a toddler or young child that still takes naps, don’t retreat to the hotel room at nap time. This is the perfect opportunity to get in some quick miles. Put your little one in a trailer (or bike seat with head support), and take off for a bike ride during nap time. Chances are they will sleep for a couple hours and you will get in a real ride.

Join a Local Group Ride

Do a little research before you leave home and see if there is a local group ride you can join while you are at your destination. One of our favorite family vacations ever was a quick weekend trip to Seattle where we managed to meet up with some local families for the Seattle Kiddical Mass ride.

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The Importance of Family Cycling

Family Cycling

Family Cycling

The most striking difference between any U.S. city and those in nations with a thriving bike culture are the number of families on bikes.  Visit Seattle or Salt Lake or St. Louis and you’re likely to see a bike share program, a dude track-standing in the intersection, a rack full of fixies.  What you’re less likely to see are entire families on bikes, and this is unfortunate–not just families but for the health of cycling as a whole.

A recent opinion piece on Outside Online proclaimed, “Until the bike truly becomes part of the family, it will always remain on the fringes.”  The article was shared over and over in all my favorite cycling groups on Facebook.  We all agreed with it; of course it made sense, but why exactly?  

I’d argue that there are two reasons that family cycling is so important to the growth and acceptance of a healthy bicycle culture in North America.  First, is the fact that kids don’t come to us with any preconceived ideas on how we should get around.  Most adults grew up being shuttled everywhere in a car; therefore, it is our default mode of transportation.  Switching to bike commuting requires a determined choice to do so and a concerted effort to follow through on dark mornings and rainy days.

There are times when I’m mentally debating whether to bike or drive somewhere, perhaps leaning toward the perceived convenience of just heading there in the car.  Suddenly, my son will appear, helmet on, ready to go.  He’s grown up biking wherever we need to go–dinner, the library, the grocery store.  Biking is his default mode.  For this reason, it’s easier to convert young people into cycling disciples than a person that has spent five decades doing very well, thank you, in their Ford pickup.

bicycling with kids

The second reason that family cycling is so important is that it encourages, perhaps forces, improved bicycling infrastructure.  In my pre-child years, I rode my bike to work daily, battling less than ideal traffic conditions without much complaint.  Once I threw a child into the mix, however, my risk tolerance went way down.  I suddenly became a vocal proponent of protected bike lanes and off-road paths.  

Indeed, you can put any mother on a bicycle with her child and she’ll become an instant, and powerful proponent of improved infrastructure.   Of course, the better the cycling infrastructure, the more families will believe bicycle commuting is a viable option.  It is a self-reinforcing cycle.  

Even if parents aren’t the ones introducing our next generation to cycling, others can.  Take the phenomenal success of the North American Interscholastic Cycling Association (N.I.C.A).  Over the last eight years, the high school mountain bike program has grown to 21 leagues and 14,000 participants.  The biggest shocker of the program, however, isn’t that it has attracted kids into cycling, but that it has attracted the larger community to cycling.  According to an article in Pinkbike, N.I.C.A has introduced entire families to the sport: “Many of these parents hadn’t been on a bike for years, and yet by virtue of their own children’s ambitions and growing love for this sport and community, a bit of an awakening took place, and continues to take place across the country as more of these events unfold.” Introduce kids to cycling, and society will follow.

Biking with a Child

Family cycling shouldn’t be delegated to a niche corner within the cycling industry.  Getting kids on bikes isn’t the responsibility of parents alone.  Anybody who loves cycling, anybody who cares about growing bicycling into a viable mode of transportation, anybody who wants to advocate for increased trail access for bikes needs to pay attention to our youth.  More kids on bikes lead to more people on bikes; they are the key to a two-wheeled revolution.