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Riding with Kids: Keeping It Fun, Not an Obligation

With closing time near, a coworker and I cracked open winter-chilled wobbly pops that a satisfied customer gifted us earlier in the day. His toddler often joined us post-daycare, as was this evening’s case, and he occupied himself with a favorite pastime—chasing a long-legged poodle around the small, bike-filled sales floor pushing a rolling stool, intended to assist sales staff with fitting ski boots, for balance.

The four-leg’er, despite being much taller than the mini-human, was scared to death of the little tyrant and rickety caster wheels. But, nonetheless, it was plenty agile to stay one step ahead of the determined booger bear. Around and around they’d go, like a miniature velodrome, providing an excellent source of entertainment during the lull.

Watching this go down, leaned against the time-worn display counter that’s housed everything from purple-anodized Chill Pills to electronic derailleurs, I mentioned something along the lines of, “Given your son’s energy, he’s going to be a strong rider, won’t he?” To which the one-time Utah state mountain bike champion smirked and nonchalantly replied, “He won’t be into cycling. He’ll end up being into ball sports or a musician.”

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Almost eight years later, that statement has stuck with me. My father wasn’t a cyclist, aside from unknowingly contributing to the rarity of vintage Schwinns by riding one into the ground while delivering newspapers. Instead, his interests involved sports with some sort of ball. Assumingly, the same goes with my coworker’s father—they did, however, teach us to ride sans-training wheels, and from there it was laissez-faire (notwithstanding trips to the bike shop before I could find my own way. Thanks, Dad!).

We acted on our own values and desires, not those of others, to become cyclists. Controlling parents unknowingly chip away at a child’s independence by forcing hobbies and interests on them, and in turn push them away from their passions. When cycling with your child becomes an obligation, they’re not going to enjoy it—cycling is tough enough to begin with.

What’s the takeaway from this? For one, provide your child with the lightest gear possible. It’s no secret that kid’s bikes are often thought of as toys and are disproportionately heavy. Finding a quality bike is top priority. Check out SE BicyclesBronco, Ripper Jr, and Ripper Mini. It might be hard to justify spending that much money on a kid’s bike, but keep in mind that they hold value. Also, if the recent wave of balance bikes, like Strider, seen all over the neighborhood isn’t indication enough, they’re incredibly simple and a great way for Junior to master steering before pedaling.

Secondly, and most importantly, do not force your child to ride. Be encouraging and supportive, but allow them to discover the joy, naturally.

Have any tips or stories from riding with children? Share them in the Comments section below.

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Photo Credit: Re Wikstrom