Summertime is the perfect time to “saddle up” and go for a family bike ride. We are known for our great trails here in Central Iowa, so get out and take advantage of them. If your kids aren’t old enough to peddle a two-wheeler yet, that shouldn’t curb your fun. Pop them into a trailer, strap them into a bike seat or attach a tag-a-long to your bike. Not only are family bike rides a great way to keep fit; it’s great family bonding time and you get to take in some great Iowa scenery. However, when you go biking with kids there are a few things to keep in mind to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.
Make sure everyone has a bike helmet that fits and EVERYONE (I’m talking to you Mom and Dad) needs to wear one. It’s also a good idea to give all of the bikes a “once over”. Check the tires, chain, gears and make sure everything is in good working order. You’ll also want to wear clothing appropriate for the conditions, sunscreen and proper foot wear, no flip-flops!
Discuss the Rules of the Road
Before heading out on your bike ride lay out some ground rules. Remind your kids that they need to stay to the right, especially on busy trails. No sudden stopping and they need to let people know when they’re passing. Say something like, “on your left”. Hands and feet should stay on the bike at all times and they need to wait for an adult to cross major intersections….etc.
You may also want to discuss the order you will ride in. We have our son ride in front (he likes to go fast:), then my husband, next is my six year old daughter and then Mom brings up the rear. This way each parent has eyes on a child and we’re not constantly looking behind us. Just having a brief discussion before you go will help to eliminate some stress, arguments and annoyance on the ride.
Research Your Route
We typically ride five to ten miles on most of our rides. Our nine year old can go further and our six year old actually could too, except that she’s on a one speed bike. As long as there aren’t a lot of hills, she does great. Which brings me to the next tip, if you do have a kiddo on a one speed bike you’ll want to find fairly flat routes to ride. Hills are a lot of work and will tire kids out fast on those kinds of bikes.
When researching your route, it’s really important to keep in mind the ages of your children and to assess how much biking they can handle. While most bike trails are family friendly some are really meant for more experienced riders and not only will the slow pace of small children annoy more experienced cyclists it could also endanger the kids and they definitely won’t have a good time.
Pick a Fun Destination
We generally pick somewhere fun to stop at along the way, like a park. We also do a lot of bike rides to breakfast or to get ice cream. It gives the kids something to look forward to, is a good place to go potty and breaks up the ride. We usually discuss the route we’ll be taking to get there and to get back. Nothing puts a damper on a fun family ride faster than getting lost!
What to Pack
For a short trip, you generally don’t need much, water bottles and a good attitude. If you’re going further you may want to take along a few snacks, wet wipes, first aid kit, trail map or GPS device, cell phone and small bicycle repair kit. It might seem like a lot of stuff to carry with you on a leisurely family ride, however if you end up needing it, you’ll definitely be glad that you packed it.
Resources 4 a Fun Family Bike Ride
Bike Iowa – Lists news and events pertaining to the biking community in Iowa. They also post trail conditions on their site.
Cycle Central Iowa – You will find over 1,200 miles of multi-use trails in all corners of the state, and over 670 miles just in Central Iowa. You can choose your route by surface, nearby towns, attractions and length of ride.
Des Moines Bike Collective – promotes bicycling as a means of active transportation, wellness, and recreation in Central Iowa. They provide bike repair workshops, sell and loan good used bikes and produce regional trails maps and guides, which are made available at most locally owned bike shops, many UnityPoint Health clinics, and city and county offices.
Iowa Bikeways – Provides information on places to ride your bike in Iowa including; road bikeways, trails, singletrack, and gravel bicycling. On this website, you will find 1,600+ miles of trails, 1167 miles of road bikeways, and 17 singletrack areas.
What are your tips for a fun family bike ride in Des Moines?