For woom Parents: How to Start Riding a Bike Again, A Choose Your Own Adventure Story
At first you could keep up with your woom-riding kid. Then walking behind them became running behind them, and running behind became sprinting behind…and now “behind” is just too far. Your kid loves to bike, and you’ve got to find a way to keep up.
So what do you do? It’s time to dust off your own set of wheels and set the course for your next family cycling adventure.
- A) You haven’t been on a bike since you were a kid.
Go to step 1.
- B) You’ve got a bike that you roll out of the garage every once in a while, but you want to do more, like commute to school by bike.
Skip ahead to step 2.
- C) Riding with your kids is a regular part of your routine, but you’re interested in really taking it to the next level—you want to get your kids involved in a cycling-related sport, or you’d like to make cycling part of your own fitness plan.
Skip ahead to step 3.
Don’t worry: lots of people are in your position and haven’t been in the saddle for many years. Even if it feels awkward at first, remember it’s as “easy as riding a bike”—it’s all in your basal ganglia, or in other words, once you’ve learned how to ride a bike, it’s nearly impossible to forget. The more you ride, the more comfortable you’ll feel.
What bike should I get?
You can’t resurrect your childhood bike with the tassels and banana seat, nor would you want to. But the options for adult bikes are endless: road bikes, mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, hybrid bikes, cruiser bikes, BMX bikes, electric-assist bikes… The first step is deciding where you’ll spend most of your time riding. Think about the surface (pavement, gravel, dirt), whether you want to be able to add accessories like a rack or a trailer for a younger child, what you’d feel most comfortable on, the ease and expense of maintaining the bike, and your overall budget. Remember that a quality bike will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Developing a relationship with a local bike shop can be very helpful (if there’s more than one shop in your area, walk in and get a feel for the staff and decide if it’s for you); you can test out demo bikes or ask questions (and you’ll be back later to have your bike serviced, too). If you’re looking for a deal from retailers, watch for year-end and special holiday sales. With some caution and research, you can also find good deals on quality used bikes from sites like Pinkbike, eBay, and craigslist, as well as local bike forums.
More detail on how to choose:
woom bikes are extremely versatile. They can take to the pavement, the trails, the grass… Adult bikes are often more specialized because they need to be, so you might have to put more thought into your choice and comfort. For example, with their small size, young kids often don’t need suspension or big knobby tires on trails where adults do. This is a very simple, very far from comprehensive list of choices:
Hybrid - These are an economical, all-purpose-for-light-things choice. Some people hate skinny road tires and want to still be faster on the pavement than a mountain bike would be. A hybrid might work for you if you’re mostly on roads with a little bit of trail (e.g., crushed granite or jeep roads), but if you’re looking at singletrack or mostly riding off-road, go ahead and get a mountain bike or you’ll probably be frustrated by this bike’s limitations.
Road bike - Almost strictly built for pavement, this bike is the best choice if you’re riding to work on the roads after dropping the kids off at school or to do a workout. You’ll be faster and more comfortable on longer rides. Maintenance tends to be easier than on mountain bikes.
Mountain bike - woom bikes are trail-ready, so if you want to tackle rock gardens with your little shredder, go this route. Hardtails (lack front suspension) are often cheaper than full-suspension options. The type of mountain bike that you’d want or need will depend on the terrain in your area.
What other equipment do I need?
Necessary items: bike, helmet, water bottle cage and water bottle, bike pump
Optional but recommended: front and rear lights, flat kit (with a frame pump or inflator, spare tube)
Useful accessories: racks, panniers, trailers and other kid-/stuff-carriers
What do I wear?
Anything that you feel comfortable in! Tight-fitting yoga pants, lycra bike shorts, baggy mountain bike shorts, jeans…depending on the distance you’re riding, you can wear almost anything. Copenhageners bike in high heels, for example, though we recommend sneakers. For long rides, avoid clothing that will catch on the bike or chafe. Pockets are always a plus for carrying snacks and other necessities; this makes a traditional cycling jersey a good choice (these usually have multiple, easily accessible pockets on the back), or you can also carry a backpack or drawstring bag.
How do I maintain my bike?
Again, this is less daunting than it seems at first! Check out woom’s mechanic blogs from partner relations lead Jeff Henry, like How to Clean Your Bike and A Kids Bike Safety Checklist. You’ll need to do the same things you do for your kid’s woom bike: regularly clean the bike, inflate the tires to the correct pressure, and lubricate the chain. With wear and tear, you’ll periodically need to replace tires and make adjustments and repairs. You can take your bike to a bike shop for these regular maintenance needs or tackle some of them yourself. It’s a good idea to carry a flat kit and learn how to change a flat tire, as punctures are the most common mechanical issue and are easy to fix with a little practice.
All set? Skip ahead to Step 4. If you’d like to learn more about good places to ride or how to commute by bike, continue on to Step 2.
You’ve got a bike [if you’re looking for a new one, review Step 1 above], and you’re used to riding with your kids, but you want to make riding more a part of your life as a family, or you’re wondering what other opportunities are out there…
How do I find good places to ride?
Look for family-friendly trail systems, wide sidewalks, well-designed bike lanes, bike tracks, streets in low-traffic areas, and other spots that look like good settings to ride. Ask people in your community—cycling groups will often have recommendations. Also check out apps like Strava—its Heatmap feature will show you the most popular cycling routes in your area, though also keep in mind that users are mostly adult riders with a spectrum of different bike types and skill levels.
If you have a pumptrack, BMX park, or skate park in your area, research these and see if there are kid-friendly features: these can be great locations to take kids riding, especially since there are often other kids to ride with. Also look for kids rides and meetups. Local cycling organizations often put on “intro to mountain biking” events, kids competitions, and other fun stuff.
How do I learn more about the rules of the road?
This is important, especially if you’ll be sharing the road with cars. Brush up on traffic rules like how to signal on a bike and riding etiquette. Check out state-specific bike laws at https://bikeleague.org/StateBikeLaws In most places, bikes are allowed on sidewalks unless they’re specifically prohibited on a particular pathway or street (e.g., some high-traffic pedestrian areas may prohibit bike riding).
Should I take my kids riding off-road?
YES. Kids love riding on different surfaces. Try these Tips to Take Your woom bike Off-Road. On rockier trails, you may need a mountain bike yourself (with their small size, younger kids usually have no need for suspension or mtb tires), but on crushed-granite trails and other more urban settings, a cruiser bike or hybrid may still do the trick. (woom just introduced its first, highly anticipated kids mountain bike, the woom OFF!)
How do I get started with bike commuting to school?
We love the topic of bike commuting so much that we wrote three articles about it: Commuting by Bike With Kids 101, Back to School Tips from woom bikes, and Tips and Insights from woom team Commuters. This is one of the best ways to make riding a part of your everyday life. Not every family can manage it twice a day, so start small if you need to: drop off by bike, for example, and take the car for pickup.
All set? Roll on to step 4. If you’d like to learn more about cycling competition or training ideas, continue to step 3.
Maybe your child is showing real interest and promise as a cyclist (chip off the old block, right?), or maybe through riding with your kids, you’re starting to think you’d like to train more on your own.
Can my child compete on a bike? How do we both get involved?
The best part of cycling as a sport is that often adults of all ages and experience levels can compete as well. Options abound, but research BMX tracks in your area, mountain bike series, criterium series or road races, and cycling clubs. Kids races are often low-cost or free. For example, woom sponsors a free kids race at the Driveway Criterium Series in Austin.
What’s the best way for me to get in good shape myself on the bike?
That’s an easy one—ride more! Every mile counts...especially when you throw in a hill or two. Cycling is often the most fun when you can ride with others, so join a group ride (most bike shops will have good suggestions) or find a friend to ride with. Go big and register yourself for a gran fondo or even a race. As another option, commuting by bike is a great way to get the miles in even when you’re busy—after all, you’re getting where you need to go anyway. Many woom employees are commuters. Check out these Tips and Insights from woom team Commuters.
STEP 4 (THE END):
Have a great ride!