This is our fourth post in our summer transitions series, How to transition kids from being cargo to riding their own bikes.
Sometimes parents use their kids as excuses when they (the parents) don’t want to do something. Come on, admit it, you do it too.
“We can’t make it to (insert destination or event) because Johnny is real real tired and cranky”.
Biking with kids is no different.
Parents use their kids as excuses all the time.
- Billy can’t make it up all those hills so we can’t bike to school (translation: there is no way in hell I’m getting my a** on a bike and riding up all those hills with Billy)
- Billy is scared to ride a bike (translation: I’m scared to let Billy ride a bike)
- Billy is too out of shape to ride (translation: I’m too out of shape) this one is stretching it a bit…who says their kid is out of shape? ; -)
For us cargo hauling parents (or parents who want to be cargo haulers but haven’t made the leap yet) kids are a great excuse to continue hauling (or driving) them around.
Sometimes we haul the kids instead of let them ride because it’s easier for us.
How do we make the leap and let the wee ones ride their own bikes?
Parents: It’s all about letting go.
This is hard for me as I like to be in control. And when my kids are on their own bikes, I’m definitely not in control. Sometimes kids swerve, sometimes they space out, most of the time they pedal real real slow. They may even hit a parked car (yes, indeed). We just have to remain calm because there is nothing we can do to prevent this from happening: kids are in charge of their bikes, we are not.
When my kids were younger (like last year ), I found it much easier and faster to schlep them on the Xtracycle rather than experience the unnerving, out-of-control feeling of letting them ride their own bikes. When they were in that transition period and weren’t 100% kid powered, I’d often hope they would choose the Xtracycle over their own bike. Sometimes I even bribed them to ride on the back of the Xtracycle. It was just easier for me to haul them around.
Now, the nine-year-old is 99% kid powered. She amazes us every day with her composure and bad assery on the bike. Last weekend she rode from our house in Ravenna to Vashon Island (through downtown Seattle no less) for a wedding. She totally rocks. The seven-year-old is @ 50% kid powered. He still gets tired and he still spaces out. I haul him when we’re going longer distances or when we’re doing a lot of riding in traffic. He’s the main reason we bought the tandem (more on transition bikes in a later post). He’s still pretty good for a seven-year-old.
But like all tough parenting phases, we persevere. We know that our kids will learn to do things on their own (when we let them) and it’s better in the long run to help them learn to do it right.
So how do we do that?
Be a good coach.
- Ride behind your kids and give them gentle reminders. When you ride behind your kid, you can watch what they are doing and coach them about where they should be riding (out of the door zone), telling them there is a car back or a car up etc. Even better if you can make a kid sandwich with two parents and the kids in between
- Patience (yes, easier said than done at times, but key)
- Lots of encouragement, less criticism (this is a no brainer and definitely applies to riding bikes with kids)
- Make it fun (who wants to ride with a cranky pants who does nothing but fret and bark orders? I sure don’t)
Nothing but time
Parents of bike riding kids have to accept that they will ride a lot slower and pedal shorter distances. This is hard for me. I like to crank up hills and fly down them on my bike. Even when the kids were on the back of the Xtracycle, I could keep a pretty good pace most of the time. Not anymore. The pace is slow and we stop often: to adjust itchy helmets, to take drinks of water, to rest, to pick up junk in the road, you name it, we stop for it. It’s not a big deal, it just takes some time to adjust to a slower pace. OK, I admit, I still get impatient sometimes.
Timing is Everything
Summer is a great time to practice: the weather is warm, the days are long and you can practice road riding skills in the evening when it’s cooler, the streets have less traffic and you don’t have anywhere to be. There is nothing worse than being in a hurry with a kid who doesn’t want to be rushed bike or no bike. How about a trip to the store to get ice cream after dinner?
If you don’t think your child is quite ready, let them be cargo a little longer and try again at a later time.
Take the opportunity to do some coaching while they are still cargo:
- Have them make decisions about when it’s safe for you to cross a busy road
- Ask them questions while you ride: Is it safe for me to go? What do you see? Are there any cars coming?
- Teach them hand signals and let them signal for you. Kids love being responsible and in charge of something.
And if you don’t know the rules of the road, by all means learn them and set a good example for your kids. If you don’t want your kids to weave in and out of cars and run red lights and flip off drivers, don’t do it yourself. Little people are sponges and watch and mimic everything we do! (I wonder how my one-year-old niece just learned how to say sh**?)
Do you have any other tips for parents who are ready to give it a try?