With 10 kids under the age of 11 and several years of biking experience between them, Stephanie Goeckner and Sherri Rothfusz are unofficial experts on the topic. They rattle off favorite gear (a Burley bike trailer), kid-friendly routes (along the Lewiston-Clarkston levee) and riding safety tips (establish a riding order).
“It’s a fun multi-age family activity,” said Goeckner, who lives in Waha with her husband, Neil, and five kids. “With cycling, you’re doing something that everyone can enjoy together.”
Rothfusz and her husband, Brian, and their five kids live on Normal Hill in Lewiston where, most mornings, she loads the kids up and heads to school … on bikes.
“Why get in a car when you can ride your bike?” asked Rothfusz. She confesses to being a bit of a
“Bike Nazi” when it comes to safety, but stresses the value of modeling how to ride in traffic.
“We’re teaching them a lifelong sport,” said Rothfusz. “It’s something you can do forever and ever. People can maintain a high level of fitness in cycling.”
Riding with the kids
Before riding with kids, you have to get all the bikes and all the kids in the same place. That’s one thing if your home has easy access to a good bike trail. It’s another if a drive is required.
“Transporting bikes can be a nightmare,” said Goeckner.
Bike racks can only hold so many and most aren’t fitted for kids bikes. For Goeckner’s family, getting five bikes and a bike trailer to a bike path meant using a rack and every available inch of the car. It’s no wonder she smiles every time she mentions their recently purchased utility trailer.
Once the kids and bikes are in place, it’s time to ride. Incentives can motivate kids to ride longer. Even so, leaving plenty of time for everyone to go at a comfortable pace means more fun — and a better chance of a future ride.
“We figured out that food halfway or at the end is a major incentive,” said Goeckner.
A frequent family ride follows the Greenbelt trail in Clarkston past Costco and up to Baskin Robbins for ice cream.
“Our destination is usually a park,” said Rothfusz. “If it’s good weather, we’ll pack a picnic.”
Several parks are situated on the Lewiston-Clarkston levee trail system, including Hells Gate State Park, Kiwanis Park and Beachview Park.
Other riding tips with kids include:
(1)Use a bike trailer for kids who are too young to ride well or on longer rides. It doubles as a great workout for mom or dad, who are pulling the extra weight behind them.
(2) To make for easier — and perhaps longer — rides, graduate kids from a one-speed to multiple-speed bikes as soon as possible.
(3) An ill-fitted bike is no fun. Get your kids fitted to their bike so that their ride is comfortable.
(4) Establish riding habits that integrate into everyday life, like riding to school or activities.
(5) Model safe riding on streets. Teach kids to use hand signals, to keep back from intersections until everyone is ready to cross and to make eye contact with drivers while crossing.
(6) Use a tag-along bike that has one tire and attaches to the seat of an adult bike. It helps older kids keep up and teaches balance and pedaling.
On riding without kids:
Even with ice cream at the end of the ride, kids will only ride so far. Finding time to ride without kids can be its own challenge — and reward.
“After having kids, I really wanted to get outside and stay active,” said Goeckner.
And cycling fit that goal, though not without effort.
“It’s a matter of being creative and cramming it in,” she said.
Goeckner’s creative success is evidenced by the 100 miles she rides each week amidst having a job and raising a family.
Tips on riding without kids include:
(1) For family outings and activities, leave early by bike and have the other parent take the kids by car later. The family can meet you at the location or pick you up along the way.
(2) Get in a workout and “grown-up time” by riding with a friend. Conversation is known to shorten miles and steep hills. If both have kids, have a babysitter watch the kids at the same location.
(3) Make it a date. A favorite date for Rothfusz and her husband involved driving to Roosters, riding the Peola Road on the west side of Clarkston and back down for dinner.
Schmidt can be conatcted at email@example.com or at (208) 305-4578.