Childhood is perhaps the easiest age to pick up new skills. The child’s brain is malleable, experience absorbed like a sponge (pardon the cliche). It is no wonder some mothers throw their children in the water at age of 1 (favorite grandmother’s tale). Or how less mollycoddling mothers let their child be lost and immersed in an issue, and leave them to it rather than come to immediate rescue.
Say getting lost in a mall. The child is frightened, of course. To them they might have lost the only sun they knew (mother’s face). Finding mama again is like getting their favorite drink or food after a week of not having it.
On a similar scale, riding a bike is like – though not as frightening as – learning swimming the first time. The child starts out by riding a tricycle – a three-wheel bike; or having two wheelies attached to their baby-sized bikes and riding 4-wheeled. After they’re comfortable, say at the ages of five to seven, the wheelies are taken off and the father teaches his charge how to balance (steady there son) while holding on to the handlebars. And thereafter, he lets go….
Cycling is a great family bonding activity. Children simply love to feel the pedals, pump of wheels as they surge through the living room. It is also a great time to bond with your other half and teach them how to ride, or practice some rusting biking skills.
Once I started out riding a tricycle at age of 3, and loved to circle around my rather large living room giggling at the adults. Then an aunt bought me a small four-wheeler… and I learnt the lesson of “picking oneself up after a fall”. ‘Nuff said.
Generally, there are two ways of ferrying your child around: letting him learn to ride a bicycle, or taking him on your bike on a child-trailer or child’s seat until he’s old and ready enough to attempt riding.
1. Choices of Ride – the Tricycle
Tricycles are good for beginning children learning to pedal. The benefits are many: he gets the basic feel of pedaling, does it on a solid three-wheeled platform that is single-geared for constancy of speed (hence safety), and has fun riding around. Which child doesn’t love the feel of movement while riding a tricycle? The only small catch is: there are no brakes on a tricycle.
2. Child-size bike with 2 wheelies
In case you want your kids to “face reality”, it’s good for them to start with four wheelers. Or two wheelies on a regular child’s bike. The advantage is of course a more real feel and the benefit of brakes. The only test comes when it’s time to take off those helping wheelies and go…. freewheel!
Child Seats and Child Trailers
Toddlers are vulnerable beings until ages four or five. They scream at new things, have just grasped their skills of walking and coordination, and generally yearn the safe haven of their mothers’ presence. Of course, I stereotype – there’re also independent, steadfast children – much relief to the observing parent of another’s mall-screamer.
Prior to learning how to ride, parents concerned with their children’s safety may opt for the clipped protection of child seats or the added sanctuary of a child’s trailer attached to their bicycles. There are however a few pointers that need to be addressed:
Helmet: make sure the helmet fits, sits snugly on your child’s head. It should be EN 1078 European Standard approved. Make sure also that you don’t clip it too tightly to the head by slipping a finger behind the chin-strap when you’re fastening it. That way, your kid’s head gets “breathing room”.
Rear Child’s Seat: rear frame-mounted or rear rack-mounted seats are your choices. These cost less than trailers and are less strenuous on the pedaling parent. They’re great for taking your child outdoors in good weather. To be sure, most child seats are made for toddlers from 9 months to 3 years. Your baby shouldn’t exceed 18-20kg.
Front Child’s Seat: Front seats are probably better for your ride maneuvering than rear seats – the toddler’s weight is factored in with your forward push and you have less weight to contend with on the rear (okay, I’m not a physicist). You also keep your child in sight, unlike rear seating where he is practically out of your vision (unless your companion/spouse can cycle behind and keep him in sight). The only downside of front seats is you get to ride bow-legged.
Click here for a complete guide on choosing the right child-seats.
Of course, your bikes would also have to be assessed for what kind of seats are best/able to be attached on.
Get one if you can spare the expense. After all, children love piggy-backs, horse-styled riding and being towed on the back of a bike would not faze them at all. The advantages of a trailer are many: wider space, room for diapers, toys, shopping bags; plus an added protection from the sun and rain. And mozzies.
The recommended age range is eight weeks to six years old for trailer-riding. Moreover, the safety aspect of trailer-riding cannot be understated: they’re more well-balanced than child-seats, they’re more conspicuous and wider, ensuring other riders make way for you or take the swipe at great risk to their own bikes and being scolded by your angry spouse.
While flat paths are best for trailers, surmounting a low hill can be a challenge. Make sure your bike has a low bottom gear for that inevitable climb. Also, equip your bike with good brakes. Rim brakes are preferred as they stop the bike a little slower than hydraulic discs, which ensures your trailer will not shunt to one side as you brake. Your child is also protected by the trailer’s cage-roll, so you have the peace of mind while towing him around.
Family-Friendly Cycling Spots
Parks, recreation spaces and places with wide lanes are the best options. East Coast Park comes to mind, of course. However, if you are looking for more challenge with your kids, you can consider five scenic cycling spots, such as Tanah Merah Coast Road where a dedicated cycling lane has been marked out for cyclists; and Pulau Ubin, where you can enrich your feel on rural times, and reminisce with your kids about the foregone era of kampongs and roosters. Click here for the full 5 locations.
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