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Bicycling with the whole family is a fun, healthy way to spend time together. To maximize enjoyment and safety, plan ahead. Keep these tips in mind for your best possible family outing, whether it's a ride to a nearby park or a more ambitious journey.

Safety First
To start you on the path to a great bike trip, here are some things to consider before heading out.

  • Bicycle Size. Make sure everyone has the right size bicycle. Your local bicycle shop can help you determine this. If your child's bicycle is too big, it can be difficult to control, with the potential to cause more accidents and instill fear in your child.
  • Helmets. Head protection is a must. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute reports that, annually, over a half million bicyclists wind up with injuries serious enough to send them to the emergency room. 67,000 of these are head injuries. A good helmet is inexpensive. Be sure it is adjusted properly.
  • Bicycle Safety Course. According to the International Bicycle Fund, "Studies suggest that cyclists, especially children, lack basic knowledge of traffic as well as bike handling skills to effectively prevent accident situations." Many schools and bike shops offer safety classes to teach how to ride safely. There are also numerous online resources for bicycle safety. The League of American Bicyclists is one of many online resources to learn more about safety programs.
  • First-Aid Kit. Plan on having to deal with anything from blisters and minor sunburn to scraped knees and more serious injuries.
  • Cell Phone. Be sure you have your cell phone and have already charged it, especially for longer trips. If you do run into trouble, you'll want to call for help fast.
  • Lights and Reflective Vests. Front and back lights are crucial and, often, are also required by law. Reflective vests help even in the middle of the day, as their bright color alerts drivers to your presence.
  • Repair Kit. Buy one at your local bike shop, or put one together yourself. A pump, patches, and a small tool kit are essential.

Plan
Short trips to familiar nearby destinations don't require much planning. Longer trips call for greater consideration. For those lengthy rides, the following are helpful to bring along or consider beforehand.

  • Map. Make sure the map is current and shows road closures and detours. Plan your route accordingly.
  • Guide Book. Best to bring a guidebook aimed at cycling tours. You want to be sure it lists not just sightseeing spots, but also hospitals, lodging, and bicycle shops along the way.
  • Realistic Mileage Goals. To prepare for a longer trip, take some test runs of shorter trips to figure out how far each family member can comfortably ride per day. Remember: it's the journey, not the destination, that will give you the most joy.

Pack Smart but Light
Your guidebook will offer packing suggestions. Online research can help. Many have gone before you and can share their tips. Keep in mind:

  • Changing Weather. Weather can change in an instant. Even summer trips can have cold moments.
  • Boredom. When it's time to stop for a break, the kids will want something to do. Bring along small, lightweight travel activities (cards, magnetic chess and checker set, journals, paperback books). Offer tasks (cooking, minor repairs) to keep them occupied.
  • Snacks. Even if you have a well-planned trip, with food stops along the way, be sure you have healthy, lightweight, energy-boosting snacks.
  • Water. For longer trips, consider backpack style water pouches that are easy to carry and can hold more water than a bike-mounted water bottle.


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