Spring is here, which means it’s time to get the bikes out of the garage. We chatted with Billy Sanborn, Service Manager at Mike’s Bikes (the San Francisco Bay Area biking staple) and Rob Sadowsky, Executive Director at Portland’sBicycle Safety Alliance, to get their tips on road safety with kids, bike tune-ups and more.
What’s the best way to transition kids out of training wheels?
Sanborn: Modifying an existing bike into a kick bike – a bike that has no pedals or chain, but allows the kid’s feet to touch the ground, like a Skuut – is a great way to do this. A bike shop can take the cranks and chain off a bike to modify it and put them back on later, once kids are more comfortable.
Sadowsky: Kick bikes that are made especially for this purpose tend to be a little better than a modified bike, as they are designed with a different center of gravity, making the ride easier and more comfortable.
Do you advise bringing bikes in for a tune up or is that something parents can tackle themselves?
Sanborn: Kids’ bikes are pretty simple but it’s not uncommon to see bikes that are unsafe that well-meaning dads have tinkered with. If you are familiar with bike repair and maintenance, have at it–otherwise, bring it to a bike shop for a check up.
Is it okay to hand down helmets to younger siblings or should helmets be replaced periodically? What should I look for when purchasing a helmet for my kids?
Sanborn: Always get rid of a helmet after any kind of impact. Kids are notoriously rough on helmets and they get tossed around. Even if a helmet looks okay, it may not be. It’s a good idea to replace a helmet after two years. UV rays will degrade the foam inside and lessen the cushioning, so watch for that.
Sadowsky: Remember to start helmets early, when they are just in bike trailers, both for safety reasons and to develop the habit.
In terms of road safety, what are the most important things to teach my children?
Sanborn: Pay attention to cars, listen for noise, look both ways and don’t wear headphones. Reflectors, lights and ringing a bell when coming up to a blind intersection will alert cars.
Which are safer, trailers or seats?
Sadowsky: This is more of a personal preference and it’s hard to say really which is safer. The disadvantage to a seat, either attached to the front or back of the bike, is that if the bike goes down the child goes with it. Trailers are less likely to tip when a bike goes down. On the other hand, bikes with trailers are less maneuverable. It comes down to what parents are comfortable with. If you are buying used or someone has handed a bike or trailer down to you, remember to look up recall information and keep in mind that used bikes and trailers don’t always have the latest safety features.
What should parents look for when shopping for a trailer or seat attachments?
Sadowsky: Bring the bike with you to the bike shop when you look at trailers. Some bikes are not made to hitch a trailer to and a bike shop will be able to tell you what type you need. If you are buying from a place like Costco or Target, do your homework to be sure the bike and trailer are compatible. Also, think carefully about how you will use the trailer. Where will you store it? Will it need to fold for a trip in the car? Pay attention to weight limits as well, especially if carrying more than one child. Finally, be sure to register these products with the manufacturer should there be a recall.
How can I encourage a reluctant learner/rider, or help kids build their confidence?
Sanborn: Again, modifying a bike so their feet can touch the ground and removing crank and chain will give them confidence. Biking at parks, and in quiet areas will also help.
What should parents look for in a bike route for their children?
Sanborn: Quieter neighborhoods with less traffic obviously, are best. Look for posted bike routes and parks that allow bikes.