Running out of ideas for summertime activities with the kids? Plan a bike ride!
A family bike ride not only provides an opportunity for spending quality time together, it helps to build confidence, fosters a love for riding, and can educate kids in the areas of nature and conservation.
In an article written for Rails to Trails Conservancy, Mark Stosberg of Bikes as Transportation explains how riding the trails have impacted his children: “Trails have been a great place for my kids to learn how to ride, learn skills [and] learn how to ride with others, where the stakes are much lower,” he says. “It was the first place that we went to practice…[trails] provided a safe environment for them, where they could be comfortable, and where I knew they were safe.”
The first step in having a fun family bike ride is choosing a kid-friendly trail. One with flat terrain conducive for strider bikes or training wheels and limited interaction with cars or fast paced cyclists is ideal. Also important are trailside amenities such as restrooms, parks, playgrounds, libraries or restaurants.
Kid Friendly Trails in Central Iowa
- Gay Lea Wilson Trail (Copper Creek Loop) - Pleasant Hill
- Raccoon River Park - West Des Moines
- Ada Hayden Heritage Park - Ames
- Mark Ackelson Trail - Des Moines
- Bob Layton Trail - Urbandale
- Prairie Heritage Trail - Altoona
To help ensure a successful and enjoyable ride with the kiddos, follow these helpful tips from REI:
Before the Ride
Do your homework: Make certain you are familiar with the bike route. If you get lost or the route is longer than expected, your child may suffer not only from a diminished experience, but potentially in more serious ways such as dehydration or exposure.
Start early: Children tend to tire quickly in the afternoon. Take advantage of their energy in the morning and start your ride early.
Invite playmates: Cycling is more fun when shared. If your child has a friend who is at the same level of competency on a bike, bring him or her along.
Slow down: Realize that a 4-mile ride may take 2 hours. Don't expect to ride as fast as you would on your own.
Be aware of traffic: What might seem like light traffic to you could be a more dangerous situation for your child, whether biking separately or in a trailer.
Be prepared: Carry a tool kit and know how to use it. Also, carry a first-aid kit that includes a few bandages and antibiotic cream to handle minor cases of road rash.
Dress right: Bring a daypack to hold extra jackets in case the weather changes.
On the Ride
Take breaks: Plan on taking a lot of short breaks. Allow time to stop, get off the bike and explore.
Drink water: Always have water readily available. Try to drink before feeling thirsty to stay hydrated.
Eat snacks: A well-timed snack can defuse a squabble or bad mood and keep energy going. Kids tend to misbehave more when they're tired, hungry or thirsty.
Make it fun: Choose an interesting route that goes by gardens, streams, views, farms or a favorite shop. Most children are interested in what they can see along the route rather than what's at the end of the road or trail.
Express enthusiasm: If you convey a genuinely upbeat attitude, children most often will be inclined to mimic it.
Take the kids out to the trails for a family bike ride this summer and you'll be sure to return with some special memories.