Helping your kids become safe, confident cyclists is one of the best things that a parent can do for their active children.  Kids love bike riding and the feeling of independence that comes from the ability to get to school or a friend’s house under their own power. It can be a life-long source of fun and fitness.

Safety – Proper Cycling Apparel

Safety is most important. Make it mandatory to buckle on a helmet before riding a bike even for the shortest rides. (Parents, be sure that you model this by wearing your helmets too.) Young riders can get badly injured if they wear flip flops or sandals while biking. Help your young rider choose the right shorts or pants for riding safely. Baggy shorts/pants can get caught on the seat and chain and cause crashes. Consider getting your kids junior cycling gloves to help protect their hands from abrasions when they fall.

Bikes – Maintenance and Fit

Ensure that your children are riding well-maintained bicycles. Check the tires, wheels, skewers and brakes before every ride and get bikes tuned up annually at your local bike shop. Teach your child how to properly inflate the tires and do a short safety check of their bike before they ride it. Have experts at your bike shop fit the size of the bike to the child. Bikes that are too big can be hard to brake, mount and dismount safely.

Rules of the Road and Trail

Teach your children how to be safe and law-abiding bike riders. Stop at all stop signs and follow the rules of the road. Stay on the right side of the road and do not ride more than two riders abreast. Wear visible clothing and choose routes that are safe for cyclists. Watch out for vehicles backing out of driveways. Demonstrate proper trail etiquette by riding in the correct lane, slowing down to a safe speed while passing other trail users and calling out a friendly warning before passing other riders or pedestrians.

Skills

Young cyclists who can confidently mount, dismount, brake, shift and turn their bikes will be safer and happier riders. My youth team frequently practices skills on a field with firm ground and short grass (we avoid official athletic fields). We set up cones and practice riding one-handed, drinking from bike water bottles, turning around cones, cornering, shifting, mounting and dismounting. We play follow-the-leader where the lead biker can change speed and direction to challenge the riders who follow.  We race criterium style race courses done entirely on the grass and compete in bike skills relays. It is all a fun way to get kids to develop confidence and skills in a safe way.

Cycling is an incredible way to be active, see your neighborhood, bond with friends and have memorable family adventures.  Help it to be a safe hobby by giving your kids the skills to ride safely.

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Chris Palmquist is an USA Triathlon Elite Coach, USA Cycling Elite Coach and Youth/Junior Coach with 19 years of coaching experience. She has written for Chicago Athlete Magazine for more than 20 years. As a Team MPI Head Coach, she has coached athletes to regional, national and world class success. She is a USA Paratriathlon National Team Coach and Team USA Coach at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, ITU World Paratriathlon Series and High Performance Camps at the Olympic Training Centers. Chris coaches youth and junior triathletes as Head Coach for the MMTT Youth Triathlon Team and for USAT at national Junior Skills Camps. In 33 years as an athlete, she has raced several sports including triathlon (13 Ironman), collegiate rowing (Cornell 83-87), canoe/kayak, cross country skiing (20 Birkebeiner) and road bike racing. Chris is married with two kids. Favorite Quote: “Do Simple Better” ~Joe Maddon

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