No matter the age of the child you are riding with, or whether they are riding their own bike or riding as a passenger on yours, these important tips will always apply and will help make riding more enjoyable.
The importance of helmets, for persons of any age, can not be overstated. Your brain is "you" and a helmet protects your head if "you" suffer a crash. Children are more prone to falling when riding their own bikes and are less likely to have built up the reactions to protect themselves shoudl they fall off their own bike, therefore children must wear helmet every time they get on a bike. Many parents and adults use the rule "no helmet, no bike" and set the example by always wearing one themselves.
A helmet should fit snugly so it properly protects the head and it should also fit comfortably. A helmet must be comfortable because a child will not want to wear an uncomfortable helmet and no matter how hard you try they're not going to enjoy the riding experience wearing an uncomfortable helmet. Some states have laws regarding helmets for children, both passengers and cyclists themselves.
As always, perform pre-ride checks on your bike. Check your ABCs:
Ensure that your chain is running smoothly, that both your brakes work, and that your tires are sufficiently pumped. Do the same for your children's bikes if they're riding with you and get them involved in the process of pre-ride checks. Like helmets, make it an integral part of cycling so performing these checks is instilled in them for the future. Get creative and inject some fun into these checks by counting the PSI with them or letting them help you test other elements of your ebike.
Have a Destination
As children get older, they're more likely to want to go out for a cycle to just cycle, but in the early stages, children will need a goal or a destination to help them maintain their focus. If a child doesn't have a known end-point when they set out, they can quickly become disinterested and not want to do it anymore. Your destination can be one of many places.
- A family member's house
- A family friend's house
- One of the child's friend's houses
- A river, lake, or stream
- The local park
- The petting zoo
- The store
- The ice cream van
The chosen destination should be familiar to the child so when they're told it they can conjure up an image of their destination in their head that will keep them focused. As previously mentioned, as children get older they will lose the need for a destination and will want to, or be happy to go out for a ride for the pure pleasure of riding. That's when you know you've turned them onto the path of being a lifelong cycling lover!
It always pay to be extra cautious when riding with a child and planning the route to avoid busy roads and trails. Not only does this makes cycling safer, but more enjoyable for all parties involved.
Take the Essentials
In a previous piece, Must-Have Ebike Tools: For the Road and the Garage, we covered what you need to take out with you to cover yourself in pretty much every eventuality. The "extended ebike repair kit" we talked about in the above article should be carried when you're riding with a child but, as everyone who has traveled (or seen parents traveling with) a child knows, there are a few extras you'll need to take with you:
- Water, in excess as you, can never have too much
- Snacks, again in excess is a good idea
- Sunscreen and hats
- Extra layers (especially raincoats should there be rain in the forecast)
Before taking off, check that all loose clothing items, from shoelaces to pant legs to mittens, are tucked in and cannot be caught in the moving parts of a bike. Dress for the weather that has been forecasted and remember that the extra layers mentioned above will help you stop cycling and begin to cool off.
Talk and Ride Smart
Start with shorter rides and build up to longer ones once children have become accustomed to the experience of riding a bike. Allow the slowest rider to set the pace for the whole group, as this means that everyone feels included, that it's easy to keep track of everyone, and that everyone arrives safely at the same time.
Be sure to intermittently ask a child about their comfort, how theyr'e feeling, and how they're doing. If they're beginning to complain or become emotional it might be time to consider heading home. Also, be sure to ask them about any discomfort; because it is one of the things they may know how to articulate the least, but it is often one of the easiest things to fix.
Finally, remember that their smaller bikes and personas mean they have to exert more effort to travel the same distance as you - especially if you're riding an electric bike ! It's helpful if you pedal as much as you can when riding an ebike with children so they don't feel like they're working hard while watching you not so much.