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Photo by Derek Heffernan
Winter FamilyKathleen Wilker waits for the roads to clear before heading out with Jasper Heffernan-Wilker and Anna Sierra Heffernan-Wilker on the family longtail.
Stay warm, be safe and have fun
When the streets are clear, the kids and I love to ride in the winter. We dress up warmly, we ride slowly and we always have a backup plan or two in case the weather changes.
Winter riding with kids is fine when the roads are cleared enough that balance is certain and your bike won’t get overly damaged by salt and slush.
If we wake up to piles of snow, we leave our bike in the garage and strap on our skis. We love getting around in the winter and biking is one of the ways that takes us wherever we need to go.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re riding in the winter with kids:
Trade out your cages and your clipless pedals for wide and grippy mountain bike pedals that are big enough for boots. This winter I’ll be riding in waterproof Bogs boots to keep me warm.
If you’re planning on riding in icy conditions, you should invest in studded tires. I rode all winter when I was pregnant with my now eight-year-old daughter and felt safe and confident with studded tires. Some people practice riding on ice in empty parking lots. As with sand or mud puddles, as long as you keep pedaling, you can usually stay upright.
Helmets with adjustable fittings and straps are useful because they will accommodate winter hats (certain companies also offer winter liners for their helmets). Some people prefer downhill ski helmets. These are great for kids because they often come with visors that offer extra wind protection.
Make sure your lights are fully charged. Drivers are less accustomed to seeing cyclists on winter roads, snow banks
make the roads narrower and the ride home from daycare will often be in the dark when the days are shorter. I like to put safety vests and flashing back lights on the kids in the winter to make sure we’re extra visible.
Dressing for winter riding -warm kids are happy kids
You’re moving. The kids probably aren’t. And their little bodies can get cold quickly.
- If you’re wearing gloves, give them mitts.
- If you’re wearing splash pants, give them snow pants.
- Wool sweaters, long johns, wool socks and warm boots are all part of our winter ride.
The kids wear balaclavas under their helmets and Vaseline on their cheeks to keep them warm and protect against frostbite.
On longer rides, or when the North wind is blowing fiercely, I stop to check the kids’ fingers and make sure they’re warm enough. A few times my daughter hasn’t been warm enough, so I invited her to hop off the bike and we walked together for a few minutes until she heated up.
Kathleen Wilker loves riding with her family and sharing their adventures on Families on Bikes, Momentum's most kid-friendly blog. She'd love to hear your stories too: familiesonbikes (at) momentumplanet.com.