While I don’t have a lot of experience in the topic, I think regular exposure is one of the keys to bringing up a child to like being outdoors and to like cycling. I am attempting to test this on my own child, who is really the child of two cyclists – so perhaps there’s pre-bias in our favor, I don’t know.
Right now, the littlest cyclist rides in a trailer. He gets a bit bigger, we may use a child seat for a while before graduating to tag-a-longs and eventually a tandem. With any of these options, I think routing is a key to making the experience good for parent and child. here are key elements I’d want in any route used for family cycling:
- Reasonable distance: Distance is both a factor of parental fitness (especially with a trailer!) and child willingness. Know your kid, and plan accordingly. Toddlers require input and diversion. This can either be built in as stops to allow for longer mileage, or shorter mileage can be planned to accommodate the kiddo.
- Destination/Rest stop: As above, where will you be stopping? With a toddler, a chance to play and run about a little is nearly essential. Ice cream or a tasty snack – either carried along or purchased on route – is also a big plus. My kid loves the ice cream stops – a genetic predisposition, to be sure.
- Terrain: With any sort of extended trailer, trail-a-bike, etc., be sure to avoid anything especially technical. The idea of taking the downhill next to Fort Snelling, which is steep and has a sharp left turn at the bottom? Just say no. If the kid is an active participant, ease into hills.
- Timing: We like to time rides such that they coincide with Natty’s nap. The gentle rhythm of the trailer puts him straight into zonk-zone.
This last weekend we rode 18 miles, mostly via trail or trail-option routing. We stopped at DQ. It was flat and shady, and Natty got Blizzard and hot fudge. Happiness.