Tips for Riding Electric Bikes with Children

Tips for Riding Electric Bikes with Children

October 22, 2021

Most of us can't remember the first time we were on a bike, but what keeps us riding today and into the future is the unmistakable feeling of joy and freedom we get every time we saddle up. It is the joy and freedom that we experience when riding that makes us want to introduce children to cycling.

A child's first introduction to cycling is often as a passenger on their parent's bike, and child can accompany you on your ebike from ages as low as 12 months. Children can even get their own bike -be it a balance bike- from around 2 years of age. Do note that each child develops at a different pace so it is important to talk to your pediatrician about your child specifically before getting them out on two wheels; be that solo or riding with you.

Riding with a child, or children, is a much different experience to riding with adults and there are many more consideration to take into account; some of which you may already be familiar with if you spend a lot of time in the presence of children. Here we're going to present some tips for riding your ebike with children, whether they be riding on the road with you or as a passenger of your ebike of some form or another; and we're going to cover the positive and negatives of different methods of transporting your children on your ebike.

Throughout this piece, it should be remembered that riding together should be a FUN experience! And keeping it that way ensure that a child will want to hit the trail and go riding again and again and again and again!

 

Universal Tips for Riding with Children

No matter what age the child is that you're riding with, whether they be riding their own bike or a passenger on yours, these important tips will always apply and will help to make riding an enjoyable experience.

Wear Helmets

The importance of helmets, for persons of any age, can not be overstated. Your brain is "you" and a helmet protects your head if "you" suffer a crash. Children are more prone to falling when riding their own bikes and are less likely to have built up the reactions to protect themselves shoudl they fall off their own bike, therefore children must wear helmet every time they get on a bike. Many parents and adults use the rule "no helmet, no bike" and set the example by always wearing one themselves.

A helmet should fit snugly so it properly protects the head and it should also fit comfortably. A helmet must be comfortable because a child will not want to wear an uncomfortable helmet and no matter how hard you try they're not going to enjoy the riding experience wearing an uncomfortable helmet. Some states have laws regarding helmets for children, both passengers and cyclists themselves. Here’s a handy list of states and their bike laws.

Pre-Ride Checks

As always, perform pre-ride checks on your bike. Check your ABCs:

  • Air
  • Brakes
  • Chain

Ensure that your chain is running smoothly, that both your brakes work, and that your tires are sufficiently pumped. Do the same for your children's bikes if they're riding with you and get them involved in the process of pre-ride checks. Like helmets, make it an integral part of cycling so performing these checks is instilled in them for the future. Get creative and inject some fun into these checks by counting the PSI with them or letting them help you test other elements of your ebike.

Have a Destination

As children get older, they're more likely to want to go out for a cycle to just cycle, but in the early stages, children will need a goal or a destination to help them maintain their focus. If a child doesn't have a known end-point when they set out, they can quickly become disinterested and not want to do it anymore. Your destination can be one of many places.

  • A family member's house
  • A family friend's house
  • One of the child's friend's houses
  • A river, lake, or stream
  • The local park
  • The petting zoo
  • The store
  • The ice cream van

The chosen destination should be familiar to the child so when they're told it they can conjure up an image of their destination in their head that will keep them focused. As previously mentioned, as children get older they will lose the need for a destination and will want to, or be happy to go out for a ride for the pure pleasure of riding. That's when you know you've turned them onto the path of being a lifelong cycling lover!

Route Planning

It always pay to be extra cautious when riding with a child and planning the route to avoid busy roads and trails. Not only does this makes cycling safer, but more enjoyable for all parties involved.

Take the Essentials

In a previous piece, Must-Have Ebike Tools: For the Road and the Garage, we covered what you need to take out with you to cover yourself in pretty much every eventuality. The "extended ebike repair kit" we talked about in the above article should be carried when you're riding with a child but, as everyone who has traveled (or seen parents traveling with) a child knows, there are a few extras you'll need to take with you:

  • Water, in excess as you, can never have too much
  • Snacks, again in excess is a good idea
  • Sunscreen and hats
  • Extra layers (especially raincoats should there be rain in the forecast)

Dress Right

Before taking off, check that all loose clothing items, from shoelaces to pant legs to mittens, are tucked in and cannot be caught in the moving parts of a bike. Dress for the weather that has been forecasted and remember that the extra layers mentioned above will help you stop cycling and begin to cool off.

Talk and Ride Smart

Start with shorter rides and build up to longer ones once children have become accustomed to the experience of riding a bike. Allow the slowest rider to set the pace for the whole group, as this means that everyone feels included, that it's easy to keep track of everyone, and that everyone arrives safely at the same time.

Be sure to intermittently ask a child about their comfort, how theyr'e feeling, and how they're doing. If they're beginning to complain or become emotional it might be time to consider heading home. Also, be sure to ask them about any discomfort; because it is one of the things they may know how to articulate the least, but it is often one of the easiest things to fix.

Finally, remember that their smaller bikes and personage means they have to put in more effort to travel the same distance as you; especially if you're riding an ebike! If you're riding an ebike with children, it helps to pedal as much as possible so they don't feel like they're working hard while watching you not do so much.

Teach Trail Etiquette and Rules of The Road

How to conduct yourself on the trail as well as how to navigate traffic are both hugely important, not only for safety but also for building confidence in a young rider. If a child has a rules framework regarding how to act around others and traffic on the trail and the road then they can ride with greater confidence, more safely. This includes:

  • Saying hello and recognizing other trail users
  • How to move over on trails
  • Who has the right of way on a trail
  • Riding on the right-hand side of the road
  • Proper hand signals when riding on the road
  • Obeying traffic signs
  • When to walk instead of riding your bike

Many of these things are simple rules and facts that we as informed adults follow subconsciously, but for a child who has never been in these situations and does not know the rules of the trail and the road, these environments can be intimidating.

Which Order to Ride in?

If you’re riding on park paths, wide trails, or other places away from the traffic you can ride behind or beside a child; this allows them to set the pace, to pay full attention, and not just follow the leader. If you’re riding on pavements or near roads then you should take the lead and ride in front of them so you encounter traffic and intersections first. When doing this be sure to keep your speed relative to the speed of the child so that you’re close by and can communicate to them when you’re stopping so they don’t go into the back of you.

If two adults are riding with one or multiple children it is best to ride single file with one adult at the front and one bringing up the rear; this is often called duck formation. Place the slowest, often smallest, child behind the front adult so that they can set the pace for everyone else.

 

Transporting Non-Cycling Children

There are many ways to transport children with your ebike. Ebikes are great for this task because the extra weight and resistance provided by the child and the method of carrying are negated by the motor, making transporting children a breeze! Here we’re going to cover the three most popular methods for attaching children to your ebike.

Bike Seats

Bike seats are seats that can be attached to an ebike and allow children to ride on your ebike with you. The big bonus of them is that the child is within earshot and this allows you to converse and explore together on your ride. Bike seats are available for both the back and front of ebikes but not all ebikes accept both, or either, forms of the seat so always check your owner's manual to see what your ebike is capable of.

You should also make sure that the combined weight of you, the child, and anything else you may be carrying doesn’t exceed the weight limit of your ebike. Here’re some other good notes and tips regarding riding with a child in a bike seat.

  • Rear bike seats are generally suitable for a child weighing up to 50lbs and front bike seats are generally suitable for children weighing up to 35lbs. But this differs by seat and ebike so always check the manuals for both first.
  • Children in bike seats still need to wear helmets.
  • Harness children into the seat in case you need to brake suddenly. This is always the case but on an ebike, you’re likely to be traveling faster, and applying the brakes means that the braking effect is larger.
  • Having a child in a rear seat makes it much more difficult to mount and dismount an ebike. Unless you have a step-through!
  • Your range will be reduced because of the extra weight.
  • Adding a child to the ebike, especially to the back, changes the weight distribution on the ebike and will affect both your balance and your movement; specifically your turning.

Trailers

Trailers are growing in popularity and are a great alternative to ebike seats. They allow for the transportation of children up to around the age of six, they don’t affect your riding as much as ebike seats do, and they’re much lower to the ground should anything happen. There are multiple positives, and some negatives, involved when thinking about pulling a trailer to transport children.

  • Trailers are larger so it can accommodate multiple children, toys to keep them entertained, and they can help you to transport other items for your journey too.
  • They don’t add to your ebikes weight limit, so you can still load up your ebike.
  • The extra weight of the trailer and the drag and friction created by the trailer on the road all require extra motor -and muscle- power. Meaning that your range will be significantly reduced.
  • Some trailers convert into strollers once you reach your destination.
  • They’re more expensive but much larger and children will outgrow them slower.
  • Can be used for hauling pretty much anything you want.
  • Many have screens and rain covers so the child can ride in comfort should the weather change or there be bugs in the air.
  • The child is behind your back tire so it helps to purchase an extended mudguard to protect them or to only ride on pavements and dry trails.
  • Less of a riding experience for the child in the trailer, they’re more of a “passenger” and it can make it boring for them. They are also too far away to have conversations or an interactive experience with.

Tagalongs and Tows

Tagalongs are single wheels with handlebars that attach to your ebike and allows a child to pedal independently yet still rely on you for balance and control. Tows come in many forms, some lifting the child’s front wheel from the ground, acting like tagalongs, and allowing the child to pedal independently yet still rely on you for balance and control, while others, called tow ropes, are similar to vehicle tow ropes and leave the child in control of their direction but allowing them to piggyback off your power.

Tagalongs suit children from ages 4-9 and mean that they can join you on longer rides. Static forms of tow bars are often designed for certain bike sizes and weights and can be used for children up to around 8/9 years of age. Tow ropes are designed for short bursts, often for helping children to get up hills, and are good on rougher trails. Other good points to note about tagalongs and tows are:

  • The child is actively involved in the cycling meaning they’re engaged in what is going on.
  • They’re still quite far away but closer than being sat down in a trailer.
  • Different manufacturers have different ways of attaching these which may not suit everyone or every ebike.
  • Their contact with the road creates extra drag which can help drain your battery quicker, thus reducing your range. But the child can also contribute to the pedal power element of the ebike, potentially negating this effect a little.
  • The child is behind your back tire so it helps to purchase an extended mudguard to protect them or to only ride on pavements and dry trails.
  • They’re adjustable to fit children of different sizes or the same child as they grow.

 

A Final Word: FUN!

Ultimately if a child does not have fun cycling they won’t want to be out there. Getting all the factors right, the length of the trip, the destination, having enough snacks and water, taking enough breaks, and making the ride engaging enough are all crucial to ensuring that the child enjoys their cycling experience and is happy to go out again and again and again. However, if you choose to take children out cycling, the above tips will make sure that it is an enjoyable experience for everybody and an experience that everybody will want to repeat!

 

 

2 comments
David Bianchi October 25, 2021

GREAT article! Thank you Aventon for these wonderful risking tips articles.

Tracey Powers October 25, 2021

Good article! The only thing I would add is to teach our children to “hold their line” and not zigzag on roads or trails, to say “car back” to alert other riders if they hear a car behind them, and to say “on your left” when passing others.
Thanks!

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