Cycling Blog Series – Two: Cycling With Kids Cures TMST! (That’s “Too Much Screen Time”)
The simple act of getting a kid on a bike can have an enormous, positive impact on your child’s life. Years into adulthood, it’s easy to forget about the surge in personal growth, as well as the sense of freedom & adventure that came when you reached that happy milestone. As a lifelong cyclist, it still permeates my own life, providing a source of renewable energy, physical fitness, camaraderie, and connections to the wanderlust dreams of my youth. This is the invaluable gift you can give your own children (and in the process, maybe their friends too).
So, once you’ve purchased that beautiful new bike and brought it home, where do you go from there?
One great place to start is the Breathe Bike Rodeo, to be held in West Sacramento’s Bridge District this April 23rd , from 10 am-noon. This family-friendly event will feature bike safety demonstrations, helmet giveaways, bike check-ups by skilled mechanics, a bike skills course your kids can ride, and more. You can put all this into action – right there – with a family-friendly bike ride along West Sacramento’s scenic River Walk Trail. For more details, go to Breathe California’s website at: https://sacbreathe.org/events/breathe-bike-rodeo/.
Until then, here are some pointers to get you started.
MAKE A START:
- Bike selection can be simplified with the assistance and expertise of your local bike shop’s staff. With a young child, your first decision will be whether to start them on a bike with regular pedals and training wheels, or a balance bike with no pedals at all. Balance bikes have become popular in recent years since the act of balancing on a bike is often the most difficult skill to learn. They’re also extremely light, something you’ll appreciated (as I did) when your child wears themselves out at the local playground and you have to carry the bike home under one arm.
- If your child already owns a bike but you’re unsure of its current condition or fit, bring it to the Bike Rodeo where one of our skilled mechanics will give it a quick checkout.
MAKE IT SAFE:
- Helmets for children under 18 are required by law. Proper helmet fit and adjustment are very important (We can check that out, too). Helmets for adults are not required, but it’s always a good idea to wear one. Not only will it help protect your own life, but your kids – and this is really important – will follow your example.
- And, while hitting your head on the asphalt is one of the most serious things that can happen to a rider, hitting their hands on the pavement will likely be the most common occurrence for young kids learning to ride. It may sound extravagant, but starting your kid out with bike gloves is also a great idea. I started my grandson out with bike gloves – bright orange ones with cartoon dinosaurs on them, that he always wanted to wear. They protected his hands from impacts with the pavement many more times than I’d ever expected. Speaking of which…
- Anticipating the inevitable nicks and scrapes of childhood, it won’t hurt to bring a small first aid kit along. Even if you don’t use it, it will bring you peace of mind.
- Young children need adult supervision riding anywhere beyond a safe zone that you designate. Beyond teaching them to look both ways before crossing a street, it’s very important to select routes carefully for your rides together in order to minimize the dangers from traffic. Quiet bike trails and pathways can be a great adventure and local municipalities usually post trails maps online.
- If you decide to head for the American River Bike Trail, avoid the weekend crowds. I’ve witnessed a couple of accidents there, caused by speeding cyclists anxious to get around younger riders who weren’t moving as fast. With young kids, it’s also a good idea to avoid the sections of trail above Folsom’s Rainbow Bridge with their steeper climbs, as well as sections downstream from Sacramento State University.
MAKE IT FUN:
- When riding with young children, my personal highlights have included: 1) climbing unabashedly all over the playground equipment, 2) throwing rocks into the American River, 3) water bottle fights in hot weather, 4) impromptu contests to see who can coast the furthest at the bottom of a hill (I WIN!), 5) snacks (because you have to keep it fun), and 6) an unplanned (and totally cool) visit to Sierra College’s Natural History Museum and it’s dinosaur exhibits. Did I mention snacks?
- As children grow older, what makes it “fun” changes dramatically. My experience leading mountain bike trips for groups of teenagers (Boy Scouts) was entirely different. It required: 1) solo trail rides in the Sierras to research routes, 2) logistics support, 3) technical riding skills (that includes physical fitness), 4) energy snacks (because they often didn’t think to come properly fueled), 5) the ability to dream big and capture their imagination, and 6) frequent first aid. Did I mention snacks?
MAKE IT A REPEAT:
- For younger riders it’s really important that your cycling adventures are both fun and manageable. It’s best to have a ride end before they start to feel tired, so that they’re craving to come back for more. You’re not out to test their endurance! Because children are so much better at having fun than adults, connecting with them on their level will become some of the sweetest rides and most memorable moments you’ll ever share with them.
- If you’re going to lead mountain biking trips with testosterone-crazed teenagers like I did, you’ll need to craft epic rides that capture their longing for adventure and challenge them physically. (They raved about it afterwards and begged for more!) Not only will you have a huge incentive to stay in shape, but you’ll be able to explore and satisfy some of your own dreams in the process. It’s a “repeat” and a win for all.
Perhaps best of all, getting a kid out on a bike is a near-perfect antidote for today’s childhood epidemic of TMST. (That’s “Too Much Screen Time”.)
Be a kid again; join their world on a bike and you will never have a better time. See you April 23rd at the Breathe Bike Rodeo!