Being a parent who loves to bike can be difficult, especially if your kids are grade-school age or younger. There is such a difference in strength and stamina that it can be very difficult to ride for any length or distance together. While a mile ride on the bike is just a warm-up for you -- for a seven-year-old, that's an epic ride. So you gotta be smart about it.
The secret is to figure out what they love to do on a bike and then go do it with them with enthusiasm. It'll mean pushing your own fun off for another day (and really, that's pretty much all of parenting isn't it?!) but it'll be worth it in the long run, I promise.
1. Take Advantage of the Baby and Toddler Days
You can start your kids out early, and what's funny is the golden days for bike riding with your kids are actually often found when they're real little tots. You might not realize it at first, but you time your bike rides for the right time of day and you're jamming. Plan it right for mid-morning or afternoon when kids often nap, stick them in a bike trailer around that time and presto, they fall asleep and you can pedal your way blissfully through a two or three-hour ride.
Even when they're not sleeping, many kids enjoy riding in a bike trailer. The motion and changing scenery often keeps them entertained, depending on the kid. If not, sometimes it's a favorite book or container of Cheerios that does the trick.
2. Short is Often Plenty
Once kids get out on their own and start riding, it can be a bit more difficult since they want to propel themselves under their own power, but simply aren't strong enough to do it for very long. That means if your child wants to take just a five minute ride up and down the street and then they're spent - awesome. Many times that's all they can handle and nothing takes the fun out of it like pushing them to the point that all happiness is gone.
So regardless of how long they actually ride, make a big deal of it and be sure to have every ride end with some kind of fun treat, ice cream or whatever. It may sound like bribery and oh yeah, it is. The goal is for bike riding to be something that just stands out in your kid's mind as an awesome time with you and something that is always fun, not tiring or frustrating (for either of you).
3. Involve Their Friends
You know how everything is more fun when you've got a friend along? A trick that is sure to double (at least) the chances for a fun outing on a bike is to involve a friend or two of your child's in the bike outing. Not only will there be a bit of fun and positive competition -- kids having fun riding and racing each other -- but the energy that the kids focus on each other is happy and spirited, not directed toward you, which can soon tend toward the whining that comes so easily at that age.
With a friend along, you won't hear nearly the complaints, and in fact your child will likely ride much farther and faster with friend(s) that s/he ever would if it were just them and you. And oh yeah, you still should remember to pay off with a post-ride treat!
4. Don't Be Afraid to Let Them Take Risks
5. Make Sure They Have a Decent Bike
To make the experience good, it's important that your kids have a decent bike that fits right. (Related article: Guide to Kid's Bike Sizes) It's tough though to think about buying a quality bike knowing that they'll outgrow it within 12-18 months, and I agree 100% that this hesitation is understandable because kids grow fast and bikes are expensive.
The good news is that it can be relatively easy to get a good deal on a kid's bike if you just know where to look. Plus you can also be relatively assured of being able to sell your kid's bike yourself (and get most, if not all of your money back in the process) when they've outgrown it.