Remember what it was like before kids came along? You had lots of time to ride...pretty much the entire weekend, and could do pretty much what you pleased. But now it's possible you don't even remember what life was like before kids...this tends to happen maybe five or so years into the process (probably a good thing, too...I have vague memories of going to movies, out to dinner, sometimes driving up to Lake Tahoe, lots of century rides...).
But having kids doesn't have to end your cycling. Change, yes, but you can still get out there!
But first, a word of caution. Don't expect that, weeks after the first kid comes along, you're going to be out there doing the "family" thing with the infant. Pediatricians advice to wait at least until they're six months old, and preferably even a bit longer than that, before subjecting them to any kind of conveyance on a bicycle. They're just not strong enough to hold their head up or maintain their position for long periods of time until then. That's just the way it is.
Also, don't forget helmets...not just for the kids, but for yourself as well. Doesn't say much about setting an example if you make your kid wear one and not yourself! And please note that an astute reader of our website noticed that the young guy in these photos isn't wearing his helmet quite right...it shouldn't be pushed back on the head like it appears. A properly-fit helmet should be roughly level on the head and not slide around too much.
OK, what are the options?
IF THEY'RE OLD ENOUGH, TRY AN EASY ORGANIZED RIDE LIKE THE ONE BELOW!
May 1, 2005- The Delta Century (er, 50k)
I've ridden the 100k Delta Century previously with my daughter (on a tandem), but this was going to be both a less and more-adventurous outing- my son's first ride over 10 miles, on his own bike.
At the youngest end of the scale, say, nine months (ok, maybe six) to three years, there are bicycle seats that fit behind the rider, over the rear wheel. The better ones include the ability to recline to seat, a recessed area for the helmet (so that it doesn't push his/her head forward) and are easily removed from a rack that's attached to the bicycle. Our favorite remains the Rhode Gear Limo...it's extremely well-built, fits almost anything, and runs $134.99. These are extremely sturdy, and have no horror stories associated with them that we know of (which is a good thing!).
Next come trailers...two-wheeled (side-by-side) carts that carry either one or two kids, depending upon the model. These attach to the rear of the bike, typically in the area the rear wheel bolts on (on the side opposite of the derailleur) and probably represent the very safest way to bring along kids in the 6-month to 5-year-old bracket. Safety is probably the very best with trailers, since the kid(s) are protected by virtual roll-bar construction of the trailer itself, plus the method of attachment for most is such that, even if you crash the bike, the trailer generally stays upright! The downside is that trailers are a somewhat "passive" type of transport system compared to child seats (where the kid is right behind you) or the alleycat/insta-tandem. Cost of trailers run from about $250-$400.
If your child is from 4-6 years old, probably the very best way to get around is with one of the alleycats or insta-tandems. These devices are like a half-bike that travels behind your bike and allows the kid to sit on a normal bike seat and pedal along...sometimes, even with gears that can be shifted! Now, it's not like you're going to get any horsepower out of your new rear engine, but they're a BIG hit with the kids...my 4 1/2 (now 12, and outgrew it quite some time ago) year old thinks it's the coolest thing in the world!
If you're dealing with, say, a 7-to-10 year old, you might consider a tandem (bicycle built for two) with the addition of a child stoker attachment for the rear. This is a secondary rear crankset that installs above the normal one, so your child can easily reach the pedals. If you've already got a tandem and don't use it much, this might be a great way to go!
Here you see our then-9-year-old on the back of the tandem, and the alleycat with our-then-4 year-old behind us. It's quite a sight, but both kids have a great time, and Dad gets pretty strong taking it over hills. We rode the Sequoia 50k "family" ride in this fashion and the kids loved it, even though the total time out on the bike was upwards of three hours!
You're looking at two of the necessities when you have your kid on the back of a tandem. The scary-looking thing is a horn, whose role is self-explanatory...to entertain the kid and terrorize you! Less obvious is the need for a second computer...but trust me, it's worth the hassle of figuring out how to do it. It really helps make the miles go by faster when your kid can see the speed you're going and the distance you've traveled. --Mike--
Are you familiar with Bicycle Sundays? A great time to ride with young children, as they close down Canada Road (on the San Francisco peninsula) to all car traffic. Read all about it!