In 2015, my husband had back surgery after having thrown his back out at work for the final time. The recovery process involved him having to give up running temporarily, and in the meantime, it randomly led to a new family hobby: biking. We have never been avid bikers, we had no gear, and we didn’t even own working bikes. If you are thinking about starting up this hobby, know that it is an initial financial burden, so be sure you see yourself taking time for this in your life. It’s a commitment. In my opinion though, it’s so worth it.
Biking has its obvious benefits. It is exercise, and low impact, so it won’t hurt those knees or cause any of those other running injuries. Exercise is not just good for physical health but also your emotional health with all those endorphins. Further, biking puts you in the outdoors, so you are getting fresh air and sunshine (natural vitamin D). Often, you get to be in nature with trees and flowers and other beautiful scenery. And even if you stay in the city, bike trails often have unique things to see along the way. My emotional health improves on every bike ride with the family. My stresses melt away, and being present and in the moment comes naturally. Enjoying this as a family brings us together and creates everlasting memories. Every family bike ride we have taken has been a good time. Even if there are negative things which happen, we always remember it being a good time.
Now that I’m sure I have sold you on the idea of taking on this family hobby, I would love to say you are about to learn everything you need to know in order to get your family bike riding on, but I am far from an expert on bikes. I don’t even have a Pinterest Board for biking, which just shows how little I have ever researched anything having to do with bikes. Randomly, on Father’s Day in 2015, I was like, “I should get a bike”, and my husband was all like “yeah”. So we found a cute one on Craigslist. It was a cruiser, black and hot pink, and the bike was horrible for family bike rides. The only good advice I can give you is don’t get a cruiser unless your family bike rides are going to entail going for short rides on a flat trail over and over and over.
Although I can’t give you bike and gear advice, I can share how we do family bike riding. I can tell what you will need minimally and what kind of extras you might want. Obviously, the adults need their own bikes. My husband and I both have pretty nice bikes, and I think they are mountain bikes. He got his on Craigslist and mine at a specialty bike store. If you google “how to buy a bike” you will find much information out there on your options. Once, you decide what kind of bike you want, you can start looking at prices. If you are okay with buying used, head to bicycle blue book online to make sure you are not overpaying.
My kids are young, so currently, they cannot ride their bikes for long periods without getting tired. My oldest (5) just started riding without training wheels, but she’s not ready to be riding her bike on her own for miles at a time. We have both a bike trailer and a trailer bike. A bike trailer can be used to store things, like small children (no infants please). My husband pulls the bike trailer when we ride, and we store things like snacks, water, first aid kit, diapers, wipes, etc. Our bike trailer can hold both of the kids, but it’s a tight fit. However, if they are both tired and irritable, they don’t mind being smooshed together to nap, and my husband loves the challenge of pulling them both (at least he acts like he loves it). The trailer bike is hooked up to my bike. This is a mini-bike with one wheel and is similar to a tandem bike. Our bike trailer is from Costco and our trailer bike is from the same bike store from where my bike was purchased.
Having both a bike trailer and trailer bike works great for us. One of the kids rides on the trailer bike first, and when one gets tired, they switch. There is definitely sibling fighting about who gets to ride when, but there is always sibling fighting about everything and anything. We are lucky that our children are close enough in age that both of them can ride the trailer bike, although my son (3) can barely reach the pedals. He doesn’t do much peddling and instead just hangs on.
Bike helmets are another important part of family bike rides. I hate wearing helmets, but I like safety, not getting concussions, and being a good role model, so I accept that my hair will forever be a hot mess on biking days. In addition to helmets, having water bottles and water bottle holders on your bike is helpful but not necessary (you can always carry water in backpacks or in a trailer, but who doesn’t like easy access?). Another not necessary thing, but a good idea, is to have a small pouch on your bike to carry things like tools, car keys, etc. I don’t actually know what tools we have ready (my husband does all the bike maintenance and repair type stuff), but we have such things with us if needed. There are likely many more items and more gear that may be a good idea or helpful, but this is just what we do, and it works for us.
The other big price item that may need to be purchased is a bike rack for your vehicle. If you can already fit your whole family, all of the bikes, bike trailers, etc. into your vehicle than maybe you won’t need one. We have one that goes on the top of our vehicle and holds our two adult bikes. There are also ones that attach to the back of a vehicle, and these can hold more than two bikes. My husband purchased our bikes at some sort of local specialty store, but finding a store which sells bike racks is not difficulty.
There are many other types of accessories and things you can get for biking, but the above is what is most needed. We also purchased bike shorts with padding and biking gloves for comfort which are helpful but certainly not necessary. Over time, I’m sure we will accumulate more random items. Once you have all the things necessary to begin family biking, you will then be ready for planning your first family bike ride, which you can read in Part 2-Planning a Ride.