Duncan Wilcock


e-Bikes: No Traffic.
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Monday, November 13, 2023

Biking with Kids - 0 to 5+ and Beyond

Getting around town with your kid on a bike is so magical.  

I believe my son knows his neighbourhood, all the many interconnections in our city - North Vancouver- much better for having gotten around on the back of my eBike for the past 5 years.   I love that we can stop in an instant to take a closer look at something if he asks about it - pulling the bike up on the sidewalk to look & talk.   And there is no better way to see construction sites with a little boy, than to walk or position the bike in the perfect position right up against a construction fence. 

 eBikes: No traffic.  Easy Parking.  Join the fun!

I wrote this up for a friend, and thought it was of enough general interest to publish a public version here.  Ride with your kids - it's so joyful. I wish you as much joy as we've had on the back of my bike - and him on his own bike.  Sun, Rain, and everything in between.

My goal of writing this is to share a  a lot of my learning and experimenting over the past 5 years to:

  • a) get around North Vancouver with my now nearly 6 year old by bike as much as possible.
  • b) helping him to learn to ride & to love biking around town, and beyond.

Here we go:

1.   I mostly accepted not biking with my kid until 1 year old.  
Their neck muscles are not strong enough younger than this age.   I did not try a "sling" or hammock type thing that can go in a bike trailer.   I have no experience or opinion of if they work well less than 1 year old.

2.  A seat on your bike is way more fun & feels safer than a chariot.
I found the trailer behind my bike felt less agile & I didn't feel as in control.  It would be fine for biking on trails with a kiddo, but for biking around town - having him on the bike feels way more solid to me.  A box-bike cargo bike could be ideal, but I also like the agility of a standard size bike & ebike.    I found a rear "Thule Yepp Maxi" worked well from age 1 to 5.75.  (40lbs).     

3. Details on the Thule Yepp Maxi Kids Bike Seat
There is a rack mount version of this seat - which I used and linked to above -  and I found it to be great.  Another choice is a  a "frame mount" that could also work well, and doesn't require as a strong a rear rack. My ebike had a built in rack that was part of the frame and could take 100+lbs of weight, so the rack mount was a good choice, and I see rack-mount seats on most of the long-tail cargo bikes I see around. 

Also: I only just found a month or so ago that there is a "Thule store" at Park Royal (West Vancouver, BC) that could be a great place to visit and see their many options in person, rather than only online.

4. Run Bikes:  
For learning to ride - run bikes are amazing.  Consider a Strider with the pedals that can be added later.     This reduces the transition to a different bike when it comes time to have pedals.  The transition & change was a barrier for us.   

There was a young girl in our alley who learned to pedal before she was three on a Strider made with the added pedals.  An alternative is to get the new bike and remove the pedals.   Let them use it as a run bike for a few weeks before adding on the pedals.  

5. Learning to ride expectations.
I've seen kids doing amazing things on run bikes at 18 months.  Run-bikes are definitely something many kids can learn by/at age 2.  
For pedalling - as I mentioned in point 4, I've seen happen at or even a bit before age 3.  My kid was riding several kilometers on his own at age 3 three. ( I was/am very proud 🙃).  When I was a kid -  I didn't learn to ride until I was 5 or so.  Not doing training wheels moves things way forward.

Also:  In 2022 or 2023 I've started to see  mini-electric bikes for 18 month-olds that might be a terrible idea.  They might also be amazing!  We missed that boat and we didn't try them. I have an open mind to the idea.

6. Bike-Trailers:
I have had good luck with the Thule trailer. We rarely used it for biking, although he loved the idea of it. It was more fun for us doing XC skiing.   We went with the 1-kid size, which was nicer to have a lighter load to tow for XC.   

We have had more use out of the trailer by using it as a cargo bike to haul stuff.  For that I would have liked the 2-kid size.  Now it's become useful as a "cargo bike" when I combine my ebike and the trailer, and I find I can't fit a garbage can of compost in my trailer - it's a bit too narrow - so in some ways I'd like a wider one.

7. Cargo bikes
Box bikes are the best - to my mind at least.   Seeing your kind in front of you, and you can loading up a lot of stuff!  But on the down-side, they do feel like driving a pick-up truck on the bike path.  You have to ride slower and defer more than on other bikes, because you are so big. They are also very pricey, and you might need a garage to store it in.   I don't have a garage, unfortunately.
Long tail cargo bikes are very popular, less expensive, and I think also very useful.  I haven't ridden many, but I think they are a great option right now.
A bike/electric bike + a trailer IS a cargo bike - so consider that.   We hauled our paddle board to Deep Cove in our bike trailer & back.  It was a bit of a trek from Lynn Valley - but when you make the journey there & back part of the outing - it's all part of the fun.  

8. Mac-Ride for Mountain Bikes
If you mountain bike - get a Mac-ride (or shotgun seat) and enjoy. It's SO MUCH FUN!.  We could have started a little earlier with ours - at age 2.  He used it through age 5.5

9. Towing at age 4-5 with a "Tow-Whee"
 A "tow-whee" is a great tool for mountain biking, and for when your kid rides on their own around town.  I tow my kid on his 20" bike up steep north van hills using my ebike.  It's worth having.

10. Getting Helmet fit Right
Helmets may be worth getting fitted at the store with your child. I've bought at least 2 helmets the wrong size & wrong fit.   100% worth buying at a shop with him/her with you to ensure a good fit.  Obsession bikes in North Van was particularly good at helping us.

11. Bike Seats for Bigger Kids:  Quibbel
 Beyond age 5, I want my kid to be able to ride on the back of my bike - I  have friends where kids rode back there to age 8 or even 10.   The RadRunner by Radpower has a nice setup for it,  but for me -  I have a standard length ebike with a solid, but standard rear-rack.  (My ebike, FWIW).   I've found and have a kid bike seat by Quibbel:  I think it's amazing and from the Netherlands.   Thule/Yepp makes a similar one, but it is not offered for sale in Canada at the time of this writing.  I've seen them in person in NorthVan when someone picked on up in Europe.

The only place in Canada I could find the Quibbel for sale was in Victoria, BC at Bishops Family cycles  It seems like a great store, and I have not yet checked the store out in person.  
They won't ship this seat to you, but will do online purchase and you can arrange your own shipping. I found I was able to do so for $70 with UPS - not cheap, but less than a special trip.  I was able to have family on the island pick it up, and my kindergarten kid is loving it so far. 

Not so nice parts

From #2 above about the bike seat - I have in fact dropped the bike with him in it a handful of times. I know - awful - but I think the truth is important to out, to both reduce fear and guilt - we parents have plenty of both.    I've been lucky - he didn't have an arm out in a way that he got very hurt.  I think part of that is good seat design, but a lot of it is good luck.

More than once there were no tears at all. I can think of 2 times where there were some tears, but I felt much worse than he actually wound up feeling.    If my bike had better, more stable kick-stands - like a long tail or box-bike cargo bikes - I don't think it would have happened. My bike has a side-kick-stand, which is  not ideal for kids in a bike seat.  For the most part I always had a hand on the bike when he was in the seat, and this is an advisable rule.

In Summary:

Wow - long post.  It's been a journey, and continues to be a fun one!
Happy Riding!  🙃⚡️🚲💪