Special Note: I am just getting started with this page, but look for it to be a great central resource page with links out to any other information you’ll need to help you enjoy some great hiking experiences with your family.
Kids love to ride bikes and there are a lot of great places to take your kids bike riding outside of your driveway. Rail trails are becoming quite popular across the country and offroad single track trails are becoming more accessible every day. General biking and mountain biking is becoming more and more popular as a family activity.
Here is a list of bike manufactures by bike sizes: Kid Bikes
Our kids did not use a strider, because striders were fairly new when my kids started riding. That being said, I think they are a great idea. The biggest issue kids have when they go from training wheels to no training wheels is the balance thing. They might ride a bike with training wheels for a year or 2, but they never have to think about the balance part. From my experience, they tend to let the bike ride on one of the training wheels and never actually learn to keep the bike upright until the training wheels are gone anyways.
12″ to 16″ Bikes
Start off cheap. My kids’ first bikes were $30 to $50 bikes from Toys R Us. I am a big proponent of buying from your local bike shop and you will get a much nicer bike at your local shop. If you have the money to do so, then go to your local shop. If not, the 12″ and 16″ bike sizes from the big box store will be just fine to get them started. Both my kids rode single track mountain bike trails on their cheap 16″ box store box style bikes.
20″ and Up bikes
This is the transition point when I decided to go to the local bike shop. There are still affordable options from your local bike shop, especially if you are not worried about gears. You will get a much lighter bike that has brakes that actually work. You can still find options at the box stores that will be just fine for the driveway and short bike path rides. It all depends on what your goals are. The 20″ and up is where I started to notice a big difference in the box store vs bike shop bikes. I did not go with the cheapest option from the bike shop, but like I said there are reasonable options from your shop and the brakes will actually work.
These are the 20″ bikes that my kids currently ride:
The Trek is the nicer bike of the 2, but was also $60 more expensive than the Specialized. The Trek also does not have a suspension fork, and is probably why it is a nicer bike. Trek was able to put the money into a lighter frame and slightly nicer components in my opinion.
If you do not ride trails, then do not buy a bike with suspension. You are just adding weight and cost to your bike for no reason what so ever. Not to mention, the cheapest of decent suspension forks for a bike cost a few hundred dollars on their own.
Get your kids a helmet and teach them to use it. You have to set the example though. I know, I know; we didn’t wear helmets when we were kids and we turned out just fine… The thing is, it worked out for us, but it didn’t work out for everybody. Not wearing a hemet does not make you tough. It just shows that your inexperienced in biking and far from tough, as you obviously have not ridden a bike hard enough to know why you need a helmet. Our kids did start with the cheap kid helmets, but then we moved them into an regular adult (S) helmet as soon as they could fit into one. I struggled to find good kid helmets.
My kids are currently using the Giro Phase Helmet. I have a Giro Hex that I’ll use on some more technical trails and I use a Rudy Project Windmax Helmet for all racing and road riding.
Car and Truck Racks
This one can cause some confusion and there is a ton of solutions out there. That being said, I haven’t found the greatest of solutions yet for truck beds without having an entirely different set of racks. Hitch racks don’t work for us, because we travel with a travel trailer. I could mount them on the hitch of the travel trailer, but you’ll find warnings from the rack manufactures that they are not approved for the back of trailers. There is actually good reason for this.
They don’t test them to that type of bounce frequency. Most travel trailers do not have any suspension damping. They are just mounted on leaf springs over axles and the rear bumper of a travel trailer will see a lot more bouncing up and down than the hitch point of a vehicle. Your hitch rack will see much more fatigue and peak stress while mounted on the bumper of your travel trailer than it would on the back of a car or truck.
I have a roof mounting system set up on my Ford Focus, that I can fit 4 bikes on. This works great for a family of 4, but any more bikes would be a struggle. I actually have an extra set of cross bars that I just lay in the bed of my Chevy Silverado and mount the same rook racks form the Focus roof to the cross bars laying in the bed of my truck and it works great.
These are the racks that I own:
Yakima Frontloader – This one is my favorite out of all of them. I actually like it better than the more expensive Highroller, but you’ll never get a Fat Bike in the Frontloader where you could fit a 4″ tire Fat Bike in the Highroller. Other than that, hands down my favorite and it is a full upright mount.
Yakima Highroller – It’s a nice rack and slightly more stable than the Frontloader, but I just find the Fronloader to be a lot easier to use and move around on racks. Plus, the Frontloader locks directly to the cross bars. The Highroller does not.
Yakima Sprocketrocket – This is a really nice fork mount rack. Very stable and secure. The only downside is that it only mounts on round bars. I’ve had mine for 10 years now and they still function like new.
I’ve never used 1 Up USA racks, but I have checked them out on other people vehicles in parking lots and I like what I see. The seem to be pretty versatile and simple. You might want to check them out as well. Here is a link to their website – www.1upusa.com
I found these little pulley hangers that work decent. I had to ben the hooks up on them a little to get better engagement under the seat, but they are a good solution for the money to get bikes off the floor and out of the way. My garage ceiling is not very high, but they still get the bikes off the floor enough to clear the hood of vehicle for parking.
Biking With Kids
Make it fun for them. I noticed that my kids would like to know how far we road, so I would tell them how many miles. As they were learning it was a big deal for them to ride a little further each time and before I knew it, we were up to 8 to 12 miles on the bike path. This is great, because a short family 8 mile ride is no big deal now and they are still only 6 and 8 years old.
Make it a little extra fun for them by finding a little trail for them to ride down. Many mountain bike trail systems now have little kids loops or marked beginner loops and this makes for a fun challenge with kids. Plus, bike paths can get a little boring for them and the trail mixes up the adventure. Not to mention, kids love to get a little dirty. Trails also make them feel like a big kid and all kids like to think they are bigger than they actually are.
Like anything else; don’t over do it and wear them out. I’ve learned to stop them before they ask to stop. Leave them wanting for more so you can continue to enjoy it as a family.
Our Top 5 Family Friendly Bike Rides
This will obviously change over time as we cover more trails and maybe in the near future as I work to put together my own trail reviews and jog my memory of other good trails we have ridden.
Moab Brand Trails – Utah
- Rusty Spur Loop
Woolly Bike Club Trails – Wisconsin
- Big Oak
Slaughter Pen Trails – Arkansas
- Paved path to Seed Tick Shuffle and Rocking Horse
Elm Creek – Minnesota
- Beginner Loop
- Little Sidewinder
MTB Project – Good resource for finding mountain bike specific trails. It includes trail reviews, pictures and videos and is being populated very quickly since partnering with IMBA. I like the map search feature to find clusters of trails and once zoomed in far enough, you can actually see the route or path of the trails in the zoomed in area.
Singletracks – This is another nice resource for finding mountain bike specific trails that also has reviews and trail rankings.
Online Bicycle and Bicycle Part Merchants