Of all the great ways for families to enjoy exercising together, bicycle riding is among the most convenient and fun. While you may think of biking as primarily for weekend outings, you can also use bikes for efficient transportation, either to school or to run family errands. By combining riding with commuting, you can:
- Help keep your family fit
- Enjoy time together
- Get where you need to go
- Save on gas and car maintenance costs
- Teach your kids that exercise can be practical, not just recreational
With a few tips in mind, you'll be ready to roll down the driveway toward your destination.
The first step in getting your family cycling together is to choose where you want to go. Begin by checking your family calendar: are there regular events that family members attend? Some ideas might include:
- Afterschool sports or activities practice
- Friends' houses
- Simple errands
- Shopping mall
Get creative and think beyond the obvious; you may find several opportunities each week for family members to cycle together. Once you know where you want to get to, you can contact your city's Chamber of Commerce about biking routes and commuter paths in your area. You might also be able to learn about local busses and other forms of public transportation that will allow you to bring bikes on board if you need to cut your ride short.
Certain times of the day and year may be better for your group rides than others. If you live in an area that has a rainy season, biking may be impractical for several months at a time. In this case, plan to use car transportation until weather permits.
Although you may choose rides that begin as the sun comes up and perhaps at dusk, you'll generally want to avoid riding in the dark for any length of time. Choose commutes that take advantage of the best daylight hours.
Be sure to leave enough time to get to your destination. The first time you ride to a new destination, you won't know exactly how long the trip will take. To avoid arriving late, do a practice ride beforehand and time how long it takes you to get from point A to point B. Once you know your travel time, add a 10-minute cushion to account for possible delays.
The key to making family cycling work for everyone is to be sure that all family members have the gear and preparation that they need. For safe, practical cycling, be sure everyone in your family has their own:
- Tuned-up bicycle
- Bike helmet
- Water bottle
- Water cage installed on the bike to carry a water bottle
- Bike light in case of early morning or early evening commuting
- Rack on the back of the bike to transport small items
- Backpack to transport school books, athletic equipment, or items purchased during errands
In addition to these items, it's important that each family member has a basic level of fitness to be able to handle the rides with relative ease. Before starting to ride together, your family can build up fitness by practicing 30 minute cardio workouts two to three times per week at the gym, at home, or outdoors. You can build up to 30 minutes by starting with 10 or 15 minute intervals then adding five minutes each week until you reach 30 minutes.
Once you're equipped and fit, you're ready to ride. Remember the rules of the road, ride single file, and enjoy your commute!