“It’s just like riding a bike” is a phrase that’s supposed to mean something is easy to get back into after a long time away. But, if you’re a new enough mom to remember the pain of a birth injury, or struggled to figure out how to install a car seat, hopping on a bike – now with kids in tow – might seem daunting.
Luckily, biking with kids might be simpler than it looks. It can also be a great way to stay active and experience Des Moines with your family.
I’m not a pro cyclist by any means, but I have an 18-month old and a 3.5-year-old and ride bikes with them. Take my advice as “if I can do it, you can probably do it, too.” I also don’t work at a bike shop, but I do know that the folks at any metro shop are super helpful and want to encourage families to bond through their sport.
Invest in helmets for yourself and for your kids, and lights/reflective gear. I’m loving my toddler’s new neon helmet to help him stand out as he zooms through the neighborhood on his Strider balance bike, or riding along with me and my husband.
We inherited an older Burley trailer from my sister-in-law’s family, and even put our Chicco travel system carseat in there when our kids were too small to sit by themselves. Pulling that thing on short trips around town got me in shape for a solo day of RAGBRAI in a jiffy!
Now that we have two kids, one of them rides in a seat mounted above my husband’s rear tire. (A kick-stand is a must if you go for that option!) Soon, we’ll graduate to something our son can pedal along with, like a tag-along model or Weehoo®.
Once you get bit by the family cycling bug, there are a bazillion options. I have my heart set on a Yuba Spicy Curry cargo e-bike for school drop off. #lifeafterdaycarepayments
Take a test ride
If you can, try the route out first before you take the whole family along. The Iowa by Trail app highlights great options if you want to stay off the street. Scope out stops that would be good for a break. (We love to wave to the horses you can see along the trail in Waterworks park, and you can’t beat the views on the High Trestle Trail!)
We also love riding to the farmer’s market and festivals with our kids, but even hitting a nearby park or ice cream shop is a fun little cycling destination.
You’re a mom, so you’re probably already a boss at packing. Stow some spare tubes and tools in with the snacks, sunscreen, and diapers. The Des Moines cycling community is super-friendly, so if you don’t know how to change a tire but have tools packed, you’re likely to come across a friendly soul willing to give you a hand.
Remember: This is an adventure
Adventures aren’t always perfect. The trail conditions might be muddy, a tire might pop, a hill might be steeper than it appeared. Power through. You’re teaching your kids resilience, creating memories, and setting an example!
Brianne Sanchez is a writer and community engagement professional who calls herself an “Iowan by Choice.” A transplant from Chicagoland, she moved to Des Moines in 2007 and acquired a house, husband, dog, son Emmett (June 2013) and Eileen (October 2015), which means she now has deep roots in this place. Brianne blogs at bsinthemidwest.com and is a frequent contributor at DSM Magazine. When she finds free time, she spends it crafting, reading, hiking, biking and volunteering, but never cleaning.