Kids on Bikes

Liz Hale and son on a Backroads Family Biking Trip

I do know a thing or two about getting kids on bikes, and doing so at the earliest possible juncture. It started 19 years ago with my oldest child, now a college sophomore who has recently emerged from what I would call "my parents dragging me around the world" stage into a delightful appreciation for all things travel. What a wonderful metamorphosis. Have faith ye of teen children!

Before my kids were ready to learn how to bike, we went through the spousal negotiation phase of you stay home/I go bike. That didn't go so well.

The Bike-Geek Nitty Gritty

Our first breakthrough was realizing that the carseat fit perfectly in the Burley trailer, and could even be cinched safely down. And the motion put baby right to sleep. Not sure if the certifying body for child safety would condone this one, but I personally found it just as safe as a car seat in a car.

Backroads Founder Tom Hale family biking with a piccolo

Then came the "trail-a-bike" phase with the Piccolo trailercycle. I got my kid on the bike extra early by using a nifty pedal gizmo that attaches to the crank arm to reduce the distance a kid's leg takes to reach the pedal. Before I discovered this, I made all kinds of Rube Goldberg wooden block attempts that were not, shall we say, successful. The simple device is called a "crank shortener" and Tandems East sells the original. It's easy to install, and I've brought it along on many Backroads trips.

All was fine and dandy until kids two and three came along. Then it was all about how many kids I could safely tote on one bike. While three was possible, I'm not big on the whole three-seat tandem bike with a Piccolo attached, so I landed on a two-seater tandem bike with a Piccolo. I was able to drop the two younger kids off at school and then get a workout riding home. I did try a few rounds of attaching both the Piccolo and Burley trailer to the tandem bike so I could take all three kids, but I wouldn't call that a recipe for high safety standards. Plus it was a bit of a freak show!

Backroad's Tom Hale Tandem Family biking

Then along came the nifty new telescoping seat post on a tandem bike, like the Co-Motion Periscope Torpedo tandem, that can accommodate a huge range in height and leg length. This means that one day you can go on a ride with your kid and the next day with your spouse--all you need to do is raise or lower the telescoping seat. I love this bike.

Meaningful Time with the Kids

As soon as my kids were able to safely ride their own bikes, they couldn't wait for the freedom of doing so. Mind you, sometimes I had to bribe the kids with "how about we stop at the donut shop along the way?" to get them to ride en masse to school. I know, pitiful parent trick, but a dad's gotta do...

Backroads Tuscany Family Bike tour

This may be unique to our clan, but I'd say you can count on kids to embrace the whole bike thing up into and maybe through (if you're lucky) middle school. Then it gets a little more interesting. My teenage son is all about mountain biking now, so I've joined his school club rides. I've also taken him out on the Alpine Dam loop, a difficult 32-mile route that's one of my favorites, where he rode one of our eBikes and I pedaled like crazy to keep up. He got a great workout while I just about redlined it, so we were both happy as can be--plus what a great father-son bonding experience.

Keeping the Family Together through Activity

Backroads Founder Tom Hale biking on the Netherlands Family Biking trip

One of the reasons I love biking so much is that it's a sport you can enjoy throughout your life--once you learn to ride the skill is with you forever. Plus it enables our family to spend time together and there are so many amazing places we can explore on bikes. A surefire way of keeping kids excited about hopping in the saddle is biking in cool places and doing it with like-aged kids. Like I said, if you encounter the dark ages of teendom, have faith--your teen may not want to bike to school, but cycling through Italy, Hawaii or Thailand with other kids is a whole different story.

7 Responses

  1. Sue Conway

    What is the age range for family bike trips, i.e., how young?

    • Hi Sue–we have a minimum age requirement of 1 year for all Inn trips and 2 years for all Camping trips. Other than that, we don’t restrict trips to a minimum age except in the rare case of a hotel age restriction.

      We do, however, recommend minimum ages for specific trips based on the following criteria: 12+ (amount of cultural appreciation, difficulty of activities, routes); 9+ (difficulty of activities/activity age restrictions, routes); and 6+ (several longer dinners; routes are difficult for pulling a Burley and therefore not appropriate for younger children; difficulty of activities/activity age restrictions).

      For more information visit our Recommended Ages page.

  2. Michele Fagan

    Hello there,
    Is there a way to filter only on family trips that *do* allow a Burley? We have a 4-year-old and I’m having a “milestone” birthday, this year. 🙂 I’d love for the three of us to be able to do a bicycle trip somewhere. It’s my favorite way to experience a new place.
    Thanks for your help,

  3. Kristin

    Your post about riding with kids made me smile today. I made the same car seat in a trailer discovery with my second child and love the Bike Friday Family Tandem Triple for the adjustable seat post feature. My eldest just hit his teens and it is nice to hear cycling enthusiast parents aren’t alone. Thanks!

    • Tom Hale

      Creating the next generation of bikers… nice job, Kristin!

  4. Tom Becker

    Hi Tom
    My family and I meet you several yrs ago on the Canadian Rockies Trip. You were there with Will. Since that 1st trip we have each year gone on one of your fabulous trips including, France, Czech Rep / Austria, Iceland and Germany. This summer we are off to Spain. I just wanted to tell you how much Ava, Jennifer and I enjoy your trips and look forward to many more! Hope we see you again sometime. We are contemplating the camping trip in California sometime soon
    Thanks again, Tom Becker

    • Hi Tom–Thanks so much for reaching out and for continuing to travel with Backroads. We’ve passed your comment on to Tom and certainly hope you cross paths again. Have a wonderful time in Spain and hope to see you here in California soon!

  5. […] family trips I’ve blogged about biking with kids and traveling with extended family, so this is obviously a hot topic for me. Kids on Backroads […]

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