by Billy Denter
With the wind blowing in your face and the smooth sensation of feeling as if you are floating on air, cycling is a fantastic way for you and your family to spend some time together while exercising and enjoying the outdoors.
Organizing the bikes and other equipment can be the most daunting aspect of getting a family bike ride under way. Here are some helpful hints to make the process go a bit smoother.
One of the most important pieces of equipment every bike rider will need is a proper helmet. Helmet fit is crucial. When I say proper helmet, I am referring to a helmet that is designed as bicycle specific, (not for in-line skates or skateboards). The helmet should fit snug around the head, resting just above the brow so it properly protects the temple and cranial part of the head. The chinstrap should be fitted so the helmet lacks the ability to slide back away from the forehead, but does not choke under the chin.
Cycling can be enjoyed year round with the proper apparel. Cycling shorts and gloves are other typical equipment options, but certainly are not necessary. Dress properly for the season at hand. Light breathable garments are best for hot weather, while layering is best on colder days. It is very important to stay hydrated and always carry plenty of water, regardless of the weather. Some form of food is nice for longer rides as well.
Having your bikes in good working condition will certainly add to the overall enjoyment of the biking trip. A trip to your local bike shop in the spring for a seasonal tune-up will avoid any unwanted headaches! It is advisable to be prepared for mechanical problems that may arise during your ride. The most typical problem is a flat tire, and a frame fit pump, tire levers, and a spare tube are some basic tools you might want to have with you to ensure you dont get stranded. A multi-tool with different screwdrivers and allen-keys can be helpful for road/trail side adjustments of the seat, handle bars and stem bolts. These items can be stored in a small pouch under your seat so as not to burden your ride.
There are two major types of cycling that can be fun: on-road cycling and off-road cycling. For people with young children, road riding will most likely be the easiest to manage. Because of developments in cycling technology, younger children can now be involved in the sport of cycling. For example, behind-the-bike-child trailers have become a safe and reliable means for younger people to join in on longer rides. If you have a child who is too old for a trailer (which usually holds about 90-100 lbs.), there are “tag-a-long” bikes. These bikes allow a child to have the experience of riding a two-wheeled bike, while being attached to their parents bike, by means of an extending arm and clamp device that attaches to the seat post. This also allows younger children to be a part of longer, more involved, rides.
Safety is also critical when considering a bike trip. When riding on or near the road one should always use extreme caution and ride with the flow of traffic. A bicycle is expected to follow the same rules of the road as an automobile: stopping at all crosswalks, intersections, and stop signs. Hand signals should also be used to indicate directional changes. It is also wise to use the farthest right one-third section of your lane to ride.
Off-road riding is another fun form of cycling. It allows for a slightly more adventurous way to explore your local wooded areas. This type of cycling is more commonly referred to as mountain biking. Mountain biking is typically more difficult than road riding due to the varied terrain. This may make riding more strenuous on younger and less experienced cyclists. Rail trails and carriage roads are best suited for the beginners, while “single track,”(trails that are wide enough for just one bike and tend to wind and twist their way around) are recommended for the more advanced riders. With a little patience and proper assessment of trails and skill level, mountain biking can turn into a real adventure for the whole family.
Few sports have the potential to combine so many wonderful aspects of travel. The thrill of being on two wheels, coupled with the ability to travel great distances with ease, makes cycling a wonderful choice for family adventure. Cycling can give you a great work out that is low impact and good for the heart and lungs, too! So, what are you waiting for? Gather up the family and set out on your own biking adventure.
Billy Denter owns his own bike shop and is an avid cyclist.