Yesterday morning I was walking home when I met a mom and a daughter and a tricycle. They reminded me of just how much patience and practice can be involved in raising biking kids.
The mom was telling her daughter (who looked about two) to put her feet on the pedals so that the bike would move. The daughter was happily sitting on her trike with her feet on the ground, not moving. Trying to be encouraging/understanding I said to the mom, "She's getting there." And the mom held up a package of crackers and said, "It's taken an hour and cracker bribery to get her this far down the street." (They had travelled maybe 100 feet).
Of course it would have been easier and faster if they were travelling with a stroller, but they were learning to travel by trike. Although the mom was getting frustrated, she had decided that arriving at her eventual destination quickly was less important than giving her daughter an opportunity to bike there.
Biking with kids can be tricky and tiring for everyone. I think that's one of the reasons I've always loved carrying my kids on my bike in front seats, back seats, the long-tail and the tandem. It might take more Mama-muscles to get where you have to go, but it uses up a lot less patience.
Having said that, I'm now at the point where my big kids (6 and 9) are a delight to ride with, either on my bike or on their own bikes. And that's from giving the kids lots of opportunities to ride wherever we had to go on their own bikes. It wasn't always convenient. It wasn't always fast. Sometimes it involved carrying the bike home. Once in a while it involved carrying the bike and the kid home. But it was definitely worth it. Now the kids are safe city riders, adventurous trail riders and cheerful companions who prefer pedal-powered transportation to just about everything else.
October 6 is Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day. This year is the 8th annual celebration of an event that's put 43,000 kids and adults on bikes world wide. I love celebrations like this because they give us something to look forward to, they encourage avid cyclists to invite their bike-curious friends out for a ride and they offer parents of young (and sometimes whiny) kids a glimpse into the glorious future of family biking.
Last year we joined one of Ottawa's most enthusiastic mountain bikers, Cat Weaver, who runs the local chapter of Trips for Kids for her celebration of Take a Kid Mountain Biking. Cat and her crew set up jumps, tune-ups and guided group trail rides for kids aged 3-18 of all abilities. It was a fun, free morning and she's having another on September 29.
We all had a blast. The kids and I got hooked on trail riding. Derek (my husband) who was already a trail riding fan became so intrigued by Cat's jumps that this summer, with some help from YouTube, he made a bunch of super fun portable jumps for the kids to use on the sidewalk in front of our house. (That's another post!)
So if you or your kids are curious about trail riding, I wholeheartedly encourage you to see what's cooking in your region for Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day. I'd also suggest bringing along crackers for the kids and chocolate or a thermos of coffee for the parents in case the day ends up requiring extra stores of patience.
I'd also like to suggest that we tap into some of that Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day celebration spirit in our day to day riding with the kids. Because the glorious family rides are on their way, they just take practice and patience, courage and encouragement.