Riding with Kids

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Jennifer riding with her two amazing kids! She must have legs of steel. 

We’ve asked the wonderful and hugely inspirations Jennifer Purcell to give us her top tips on riding with children. Jen has two children and if  follow her on twitter or Instagram (@Pinkmtbr) you will see her amazing posts encouraging her kids to ride as well as transporting them all over the place by bike and racing her mtb. Over to Jen.

I’ve been riding for about 15 years now… mountain bike, road, track, commuting, bmx. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s on two wheels. When I became pregnant for the first time 5 years ago, it seemed completely natural to carry on riding. I just had to make small adjustments, adapt routes, reduce ride time, raise the stem and wear XXL cycling shorts. Then the baby came and we needed to make a whole bunch of other adjustments. Two years later and we thought, hey this is fun, let’s have another… we now have a 2 year old daughter and 4 year old son and I LOVE riding with them. I’m proud to represent Flare Clothing and started to race mountain bikes again after number 2 and not just as a way of guaranteeing riding time by myself but because racing at any level is awesome. 

This is my top six tips for riding with kids. It is by no means extensive and changes all the time, as the kids get older and we learn from our many mistake

  • Stalk other family cyclists on social media.

This is definitely the easiest tip to follow. It’s the cheapest too, and you can do it from the comfort of your couch. There are some seriously super cool biking Mums out there that will inspire you, make you laugh and be honest about the highs and lows of riding with kids. Definitely add @familyride (my personal hero), @pedaladventures, @thebikedads, @middleadedmuminlycra, @bikesandbabies (who rode to the hospital to have all 3 children) and @rascal_rides to your follow list.

  • Be prepared to always be late, take 3 times as long as you expect and never leave the house on time.

This is a big one so seriously, don’t sweat it. The main accomplishment here will be the fact that you are out of the house, riding, in fresh air (by the way, this stands if you’re riding with a newborn or a teenager). By all means, prepare everything the night before. Pack the nappies, the snacks, the puncture repair kit. Layout your kit and helmet and shoes. Dig out the children’s clothes, shoes, waterproof’s, hats, buffs, gloves, spare gloves and snacks and start to get ready 2 hours before you’re due to leave. BUT in all likely hood, one of them will have a poo-splosion just as you’ve done the 100th button on their snow suit. Another will have a full blown tantrum about wearing clothes, any clothes. For some strange reason your toothbrush will not be where you left it and the postie will want to stop for a 10 minute chat as the bike is finally loaded. Don’t fret. Remember, it won’t be long before you’re peddling off down the road.

  • You can never pack too many snacks.

Whether you wear a backpack, have panniers or a handlebar bag, take as many snacks as you can fit. You can never have too many. And try not to head off just before lunch when your proposed lunch stop is an hour’s ride away. (We still make this mistake, usually because of #2 – see above!)

  • You can never have too many layers.

Your children will get hot when it’s cold and cold when it’s hot. Your 2 year old will refuse to wear any gloves or hat and will kick off the blanket in the trailer when it’s 2 degrees outside and then scream from the cold. Make sure you have the means to accommodate extra gloves, socks, jumpers, waterproofs, sunglasses, suntan lotion, buffs, hats, spare pants and clothes. Vacuum pack if you need to 😉 The best purchase I found (only recently) was the Huby Muffle. A wonderful invention that is a fleece lined, waterproof cover/snug/blanket for a rear seat. I only bought it in February this year and we’ve already used it on every ride, even on the first lovely day of Spring when it was 16 degrees! If the kids are happy, you’re happy.

  • Do your research.

Unsure as to whether a trailer is right for you? Think that a front seat may be better than a rear? Would your knees hit a front mounted seat? Which is better for my type of bike? How old is the child/children you want to ride with? Will you be riding every day, in all weather, or do you just want to get a few miles in every now and again? Would you prefer to stay off the main roads? If so, where are your cycle routes? Fancy a cargo bike? These are important questions to try and answer before you just go out and buy the first child seat you see. A great resource is cyclesprog.com where a wide range of kit and equipment has already been tested and reviewed. You can also join the Family Cycling UK page on Facebook and ask away. It’s a great community and there’s always someone to answer your questions, or even offer test rides! I’ve also found that variety is the spice of life. Admittedly, I only have two outfit choices for a night out with the girls, but can set up a family bike ride from at least seven bike/trailer/seat/follow me configurations. 

  • Be prepared to compromise.

Riding with your kids will require compromise to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone. Your main objective here (I assume) is to share your love of cycling with your children, to bring them up in a world where fitness, adventure and travel by bike is completely normal. What you don’t want (again, I assume) is that when they get to their teenage years the mere sight of a bicycle makes them retreat to a dark corner shaking repeating, “not again, never again” over and over. So, my last piece of advice to you is ‘do it for the kids’. Ride the long way round to the park. Stop for ice cream. Feed the ducks. Take them round the local pump track or mountain bike trail. Go for a picnic. Ride to the zoo. Visit the grandparent’s. Point out local wildlife or urban features. Sing songs. Share your Cliff Bars. Find secret singletrack. And remember #2… you’ll always be late, so you’ll always have an opportunity to fit some sprint efforts in and maximise that training ride for you 😉

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