This carries on from Philippa's blog, Cycling with a child - part 1 (aged 0-3)
Getting around by bike was very easy with a bike seat on the back of the bikes.
We went on a few longer bike rides including Stirling to Kincardine Bridge and back to Stirling, Doune to Dunblane and back, and other longer routes. The main thing we had to keep an eye on was ensuring that Caitlin was warm enough and as she got older that she had breaks off the bike now and again.
2 months before her 4th birthday we realised that it was time for Caitlin to move on from being on the back of the bikes and we decided to invest in a Trail-a-bike.
I did a lot of research into which was the best type, and which one suited our needs the most. At the time Caitlin was still small and so we needed a model of bike which enabled her to reach the pedals. In the end we went for the John Adams Trail-a-bike. This had a shorter reach and cranks, smaller chain ring and narrow handlebar. Despite this we still had to build up her pedals so that her feet could rest on them – we used scouring pads for this…
Our maiden voyage with the Trail-a-bike was to cycle to the introductory session at her school nursery. It gave me a chance to try out the route to the nursery. I had a choice between a busy main road with a gentle gradient and a quieter, steeper road. I soon became very confident riding with the trailer bike, and we went everywhere on it. We even did some longer bike rides around Stirling, the Hillfoots and Callendar.
This was an excellent way to cycle with Caitlin once she had outgrown her bike seat.
This bike was used for commuting to work by bike and I was able to drop Caitlin off at school/nursery on the way to work. I would either leave the trail-a-bike at the nursery (where they had a dry storage unit) or would just cycle to work with the empty trail-a-bike attached.
Caitlin loved the trail-a-bike. She would wave at people as she went past. I’m not sure how much pedalling she did in the early days, but we live at the top of a small hill, so I’d always shout ‘pedal now’ to remind her. I’m convinced that she progressed well from her balance bike to her pedal bike, partly because she was already used to 'having' to pedal on this bike.
We fitted spare hitches so that it could be easily fitted to two different bikes. This made it easy for one of us to take Caitlin to nursery in the morning, leave the trail-a-bike there, and for the other one of us to attach it to a different bike to ride home.
As Caitlin was quite small when she started using the trail-a-bike we used a fitted ‘seat back’ with straps and this gave us confidence that she wouldn't fall off.
At the same time Caitlin became more and more confident on her balance bike. We had to get her to agree that on the way home from nursery she’d slow down at the bottom of the hill before turning the corner at top speed. We would take the balance bike out wherever we went, and she loved being on it.
Once she became too big for her small balance bike we moved her on to a small child’s bike (Islabike) but we took the pedals off so that she could keep riding it as a balance bike. She rode it like this for 6 months over the winter and was so fast and confident on it.
Then I started to notice that when she was on it, she started to put her feet where the pedals would be, but I waited until she told me she was ready to try the bike with pedals. Not long after she was 4 ½ she started riding her bike with pedals. She continued to love cycling and we cycled around Stirling and took her bike with us when we went somewhere for the day. She would set up bike slalom courses outside our house. I was amazed how quickly she made the transition to using pedals – within 10 minutes of us putting them on her bike.
I was over the moon when she cycled to school on her own bike on her first day of P1. I’d spent 10 years working on school travel plans so this was a moment I was particularly proud of.
We alternated between her bike and the trail-a-bike. When we needed to go further afield, on busier roads or when we were restricted by time, we would use the trailer-bike as it meant we could go faster and further. If I needed to get to work after taking Caitlin to school I would usually cycle with her on the trail-a-bike.
When Caitlin was about 5 1/2 we realised it was time to move on from the trail-a-bike. She could cycle on any local rides independently on her own bike. We bought a follow-me tandem from a friend which we could take with us on longer rides so that she had the option of hitching a ride if she tired. We went on a longish bike ride where she fell off (outside a pig farm). It was difficult to get her to jump back on her bike so I’m glad she had the choice being hitched up to my partner’s bike. In June 2018, just before her sixth birthday she moved up to the next size children’s bike with 20 inch wheels. The follow-me tandem was a good purchase. I think it gave us all the confidence to go out on a ride, knowing that if Caitlin tired, we could just hook her up and she’d be ok.
A few months before Caitlin’s 6th birthday we knew that she was getting a bit too big for her small bike with 16” wheels and that it was time to move her up to a larger bike. At the same time that we bought the Followme Tandem, we bought an Islabike Beinn20 from friends. The model we bought was an older one and it just felt a bit too big. Then other friends told us that they were selling a pink Beinn20 small. Caitlin jumped at the idea of this. I think the most important thing for her was that it was pink.
When Caitlin was 7, we did our longest bike ride with us all on our own bikes – 10 miles. Caitlin took 5 books with her and we stopped regularly for reading breaks. We also did Cycling Scotland’s Wee Jaunt and Caitlin cycled really well despite having so many other bikes around her and us having to do a bit extra because we’d missed one of the marshalling points… We also continued to cycle to school on a regular basis too. Cycling to school together made it very easy for me to then cycle on to work after the school run.
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