Family Biking Benefits and How to Stay Safe

By Larraine Roulston:


The adventures of family cycling are fun, invigorating and inexpensive. What’s more, you can travel a fair distance and feel good about not adding to greenhouse gas emissions.

For parents with youngsters who ride bicycles in their neighborhoods and beyond, there are a variety of options to make the outings both comfortable and convenient. Investigate cargo bikes designed to carry heavy items. They are built with stronger frames and spokes, and each is equipped with a double kickstand that is ideal when loading small children. Long-tail bicycles have an extending back section that can be set up to hold two bike seats, one in front of the other.

Retrofitting your bike by adding baby seats or a trailer is another option. The front-mounted child seat is situated over the center of the bike and is suitable for children nine months to three years of age. The back-mounted seat will hold a child comfortably until age five.

Once each bicycle has had the saddle adjusted for individual comfort and the brakes tested, keeping them properly tuned is essential for good performance and safety. Daimeon Shanks, author of Essential Bicycle Maintenance & Repair details all bicycle parts in his 207-page book. He emphasizes that you can maintain and repair your bike so it’s ready to go when you are. He also notes that dealing with a good bike shop is key, and states, “Building a relationship with your preferred shop can be mutually beneficial. They’ll learn your riding preferences and your bike’s quirks and peculiarities and will make each visit more enjoyable. They’ll gain a valuable, loyal customer, and you’ll both make new and lasting friendships.”

In order to prevent head injuries, a helmet is an important part of your biking equipment. The journal Injury Prevention in 2007 drew the conclusion from a review of studies that helmets provide a 63 to 88 percent reduction in the risk of head and brain injuries. Parents also need to set a good example by wearing their helmets. To avoid injury to the chest or abdomen from straight handlebars, be sure to have a thick rubber covering over each ends. A hard fall with uncovered metal hitting your stomach may result in damage to internal organs.

Visibility is important for cyclists. Be equipped with a rearview mirror and lights; and use reflective armband strips during pre-dawn or night cycling. A brightly colored helmet will help drivers spot you more easily during the daytime.

Gearing up for weather is another factor in helping you feel safe —especially if you are riding a great distance. The helmet will protect your head from sun, rain and hail. If you ride during the winter, investigate helmets that will keep your head warm. Check out bright reflective jackets and waterproof pants. There are also fun essentials to select that include a bell, lock, water bottle cage and bike bag.

Families who are accustomed to biking around their own communities will be at ease renting bikes and checkingout the trail maps when on vacation. A most memorable moment for me was cycling Vancouver’s breathtaking seawall trail with my daughter. While exploring either city streets or viewing the countryside, parents can plan and choose the most comfortable routes to take. It’s a chance to feel the breeze in your face and experience the freedom of cycling.


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Larraine writes children’s illustrated books on composting and pollinating. Visit, www.castlecompost.com

Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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