Cycling with your kids can be both an exhilarating and daunting prospect. The idea of bundling everything and everyone into the car and motoring from A to B is far more attractive and much less hassle then cycling. But before you revert back to that way of thinking, I want to share my own experience of cycling with my kids almost everywhere, within reason… i.e. not the North Pole.
About two years ago I was watching TV and saw a bike with a built-in side platform attached, called ‘The Sidehack’. I immediately thought of my son, who was four years old at the time, and tried to get in touch with the company who manufactured them. They point blank refused to distribute the bike outside of Australia, even under a pseudonym, which was a little frustrating to say the least. After much research (and time and effort on my part) I tried to become an importer but had no experience, so found two guys that did. We negotiated sales rights for the globe excluding North America and Canada and I finally got my bike!
This was a pivotal moment in both my childrens’ lives and mine! I started taking them all over the place - the park, the shops, school and anywhere we could think of, really. Collecting my, now six-year-old son and three-year-old daughter from school, was particularly exciting. All the children in the playground wanted a go (still do), to the point that they would chase us down the road. My children now complain if we have to travel anywhere by car and beg me to take the bike out in the fresh air at every possible opportunity.
Beats playing video games all weekend.
Besides this, there are also a whole host of very beneficial aspects that come from cycling your kids around the place.
Perhaps the most important of these being the quality time that you get to spend with your kids that you wouldn’t normally get during your usual car journey. You might argue that the same experience can in fact be had in the car, but from my experience, the close proximity and constant observation of everything going on around us means we are always discussing and analysing and sharing our ideas. It’s much easier to observe and learn about your environment (which by the way, you’re also preserving by cycling) when on a bike. You can stop to smell the flowers during the summer months or get a mind-blowing shock of cold air to the face during the winter - either way it’s not only educational for the kids, it’s hugely liberating for all involved!
My children are getting to know our area well and are learning about the different buildings and their history. We sometimes have fun pop quizzes on the things they’ve learnt, when they’re not too busy absorbing everything they see. Aside from the cultural aspect, cycling the kids everywhere teaches them healthy living habits. It shows that bike riding isn’t just something we do occasionally to burn off a heavy lunch it’s part of our everyday lifestyle! And in a society where childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic, I can’t see how encouraging ‘bike culture’, is a bad thing.
If you’re thinking about becoming a cycling convert, you do still need to consider safety. My Sidehack is fairly large and very clear to traffic, however, if you’re on a regular bike there are a few things you should be aware of and pre-plan for.
• Although you’re reflexes are still the same as if you were on a bike alone, you’re agility and balance are somewhat compromised with a child on board. Give yourself time to adjust.
• Wherever possible, take a route with bike lanes.
• Avoid rush hour if you can.
• At least to begin with, try to take as quiet a route as possible - this allows for both you and your children to adjust (you don’t want to terrify your child or yourself, on the first trip).
• If you are on the on the road with children, take up a position behind them. If there are two or more adults then it is a good idea to have one at the front and one behind the group.
• Make sure you have properly fitted helmets.
• Make sure your child’s bike fits and that all bikes are roadworthy (check tyres, breaks etc.)
• Wear bright colours, reflectors, lights, flags and whatever else you can think of that will make you stand out to motorists.
• Signal clearly at all times.
• If possible, make eye contact with other road users, especially at junctions, then you know that they have seen you.
• Obey traffic light signals and road signs.
You will save so much money from getting into the cycling commute and school run. It’s a fun, healthy, enjoyable, convenient and environmentally friendly way of getting around. The kids also pick up on certain transferrable skills, which help them to learn how to ride their own bikes, simply from sitting on or next to your bike.
Our ride to school each morning, is the highlight of my kids' day and mine! So why not put down the car keys and give it a try… even if it’s just a short distance? You might open the door to something amazing!
About the Author
Worldwide Distributor of ImPakt Sidehack
Tim Valdar, father of two, first spotted the Sidehack on TV, two years ago. He and his two partners are now the global distributor for the company, excluding North America and Canada. The Sidehack can be designed to order, in any colour under the sun. You can even add sequins, ribbons, tassels or whatever you like!
Tim loves all kinds of sports from cycling and surfing to skate boarding and running. When he’s not in the office, he’s out on his sidehack with his kids, exploring the countryside.