We've been doing a LOT of Bike-Hiking this spring and it's fast becoming a favourite family activity. There's less whining on the trail, less frustration, less boredom, and much less overall complaining.
|Bike-Hiking to Troll Falls, Kananaskis Village|
A typical hike will always have moments like this:
Mom, I'm tired...
I want to go back...
Mom, I'm...(insert any complaint here)...
My response - Here, get on your bike.
Most problems solved! And I don't mean to imply that if my son is hot, tired, thirsty, hungry or what have you, that I just give him his bike and tell him to suck it up. Definitely not! He's allowed to stop, rest, have snacks, take a breather, and grab some water. But, he's happier when he has his bike.
If we are doing a steep hill and he's whining that it's too steep, just pushing his bike makes him happier. Being able to touch his bike puts a smile on his face because he knows he'll be riding it soon.
|Classic Bike-Hiking Terrain|
The bike helps my son forget about the things I can't always control such as how hot it is, the fact that maybe we ran out of water a mile back, or the distance still remaining to get back to the car. As soon as he starts riding, he gets in a zone and he doesn't think about some of the things he'd think to complain about if he were just hiking.
|Not an exciting trail - unless you're on a bike! Then it's awesome!|
And I know I'm not alone!! I've been told by other parents that their children will also hike further, go faster, and remain happier - if they bring their child's bike along on their hike.
The challenge is that you can't really do bike-hiking with training wheels. You either need a balance bike (also known as a run bike) or else a pedal bike - and a child who can ride over roots, on dirt trails, down the occasional steep hill, and up a short steep hill on said pedal bike.
|It would be hard to do this trail with training wheels|
Bike-hiking is essentially the same thing as child friendly mountain biking. We choose easy hiking trails - and bring our son's bike. Some trails would permit us as adults to bring our bikes along as well, but other trails are definitely not suitable for us. We've taken the Strider balance bike on trails with very clear "no biking" signs and we've taken it on trails I would not dare attempt on my bike (after all, I'm not carrying my heavy steel framed bike with the going gets tough). We've also done trails that are just too busy for adults on bikes. My son doesn't ever get going too fast off pavement so it's never a big concern for him however.
In essence, bike-hiking is simply hiking. But your child brings his bike and has the option of riding or walking. When he isn't riding - yep, you guessed it - you have to be prepared to carry or push the bike.
|Cruising down a sweet hill on the Troll Falls Trail - awesome for the whole family on bikes|
The Practical Stuff:
One - The children should always get to choose when they want to ride - and when they want to hike
We choose easy hiking trails and allow our son to choose when he wants to hike or ride his bike. When he isn't riding his bike he will either push it or we'll carry it for him. I don't mind carrying a small balance bike if it means we are all outside together - and happy. There's no shame in my child choosing to hike a section of the trail if he finds it too steep or scary. And, if you choose a light-weight balance bike such as the Strider brand, they weigh next to nothing so it's not much of a burden to carry them.
|The advantage of hiking with a light-weight balance bike - even my child can carry it|
Two - Look for one-way hiking trails where you can bike back on paved paths or roads.
This allows for a nice blend of mountain biking and road biking. Hikes that start from closed campgrounds early season are awesome for this because you can bike the paved campground roads to your trailhead for the mountain biking - hiking portion. Closed highways early season are also great for accessing nearby hiking trails. We biked the closed roads through the Bow Valley Provincial Park campground this spring to access the Many Springs hiking trail and it was a great trip. Read the story here. We also biked the closed highway past Elbow Falls in the Elbow Valley this spring in conjunction with a hike on the Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail. This was another great early season classic that we will repeat next year.
For more trail suggestions in the Canadian Rockies, see my list at the end of this story.
|Biking the closed highway en route to the Beaver Flats Trail, Elbow Valley|
Three - Bring a Chariot with you for younger kids
When younger children get tired of riding their bike, they can easily take a rest for a while if you've brought a Chariot with you. Bonus, you can also use the Chariot to carry your child's bike when he or she isn't riding it.
|How many balance bikes can your Chariot carry? This one has 3.|
Last summer while camping we used our Chariot a lot on paved paths and we would bike as a family to a nearby trailhead. We'd leave the bikes at the trailhead and proceed on foot to enjoy a nice little hike. Then we'd get back on our bikes and return to our campground. It was a favourite camping activity and worked well with a younger child who wasn't riding his own bike yet.
|Biking in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to the Marl Lake Trailhead|
Four - Follow the tips already listed in my last story on making bike riding FUN
As I mentioned in my last story, choose a destination to ride to such as a pretty waterfall, river with a sandy beach, or interesting little hike. Stop often to play, explore nature, and to just allow the kids to be kids! And, as always, the more friends the better!
|Biking to a beach is every kid's dream - Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail|
Five - Start small and simple - and work your way up
You don't need to start off with a technical single track trail that will leave your child with a broken arm. Start small. Choose easy flat trails with few roots and rocks that you've already hiked before and know well. We chose the Fenland Trail in Banff this year as our first trail because we've hiked it a zillion times before and I knew it to be perfectly flat and well maintained. If you end up on a difficult trail don't be afraid to admit that you are in over your head and be prepared to carry your child's bike. (Here is when it's nice to have your child on a balance bike rather than a heavy steel framed pedal bike.)
|The Fenland Trail, Banff|
Special Safety Concerns
It is my honest opinion that all children on bikes should wear long pants. It may not be an issue for you - and that's ok, but it is my general rule for my son. I've seen him fall down way too many times and pants can go a long way in protecting the skin from bad gashes and scrapes. I also enforce that my son wear bike gloves when doing anything more complex than riding to the playground. Again, if he falls down, I want some protection between him and the ground. Knee pads would not be a bad idea as well but it's something I've never looked into. As far as shirts, I'd love it if my son could wear a long sleeved shirt when biking but I'm realistic in the fact that it does get tricky in summer when it's hot outside. Tank tops should be avoided however. In general - the more padding and protection, the better.
|Helmet, bike gloves and long pants|
Helmets of course should be mandatory any time your child gets on a bike - even if just going to the playground. If your child does not have a suitable bike helmet, see my last story on bike riding made fun for your chance to win a bike helmet.
If you are biking further than a few blocks from home, a first aid kit would not be a bad idea to carry with you as well. At the very least I always carry band-aids and wipes with me.
Good Starter Trails for Bike-Hiking in the Canadian Rockies
- Troll Falls and Hay Meadows Loop
- The Widow Maker Trail (forest trail and not river-side trail)
- Marl Lake Interpretive Trail (bike the paved trails in PLPP to the Elkwood Campground and then hike the lake loop)
- Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail (option to bike the closed highway early season)
- Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail (option to extend onto the Riverside Trail for a longer ride)
- Canmore riverside trails (ride from the bridge downtown along the river towards the Three Sisters Mountain Village or towards Larch Island, Trails are numbered One and Three on the town bike map)
|Wooden bridges on the Widow Maker Trail|
|Easy riding on the Beaver Flats Trail|
|Biking in Canmore|
- Fenland Loop (option to bike the paved Bow River Pathway Trail from downtown Banff to reach the Fenland Loop)
- Sundance Canyon (bike the paved trail to the canyon and then hike the loop through the canyon)
- Johnson Lake (Bike around the lake on the hiking trail. One short narrow section where you will have to carry bikes)
- Stewart Canyon, Lake Minnewanka (Bike from the parking lot through the picnic area and then hike or bike to Stewart Canyon. There are a few narrow rocky sections where bikes will have to be carried)
|Using the Chariot on the Johnson Lake Trail, Banff|
|Late fall hike on the Sundance Canyon Trail|
If you have other trails to recommend I'd love to hear about them.
|Attempting an "interesting" trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park|
The GiveawayI'm excited today to announce that Alberta Balance Bikes is partnering with me to give one lucky reader their very own Strider Balance bike so that you and your little one can get out for your own bike-hiking adventures this summer. Alberta Balance Bikes is located right in Calgary and is on a mission to become more active in the community this summer with group bike rides and a strong presence on their Facebook page. (In fact they are giving away a Strider Super 16 balance bike on their FB page right now too so you have two options to win a bike!)
While I know there are many options out there for balance bikes, we have loved our Strider bike dearly for several reasons:
- It is one of the lightest (if not the lightest) balance bikes on the market weighing in at less than 7lbs!
- They are super sturdy and will handle anything your toddler or preschooler throws at it! (including riding down stairs)
- No training wheels! This means off trail riding, flying down grassy toboggan hills, jumps, and all kinds of crazy fun
- Special Eva Polymer tires require no maintenance or air
- Strider bikes are aimed for kids as young as 18 months! Again, I'd love to see a child that young on training wheels. It's just not possible.
And if you think your child has outgrown his or her Strider bike - thing again! Strider has just introduced the new Strider Super 16 aimed at kids ages 6-10 years old. This bike has bigger tires, a bigger frame, and a hand break for the tyke that is ready to tear up those dirt and mountain trails but isn't ready to do it on their heavy more complicated pedal bike yet. And they are giving one away this week on their Facebook Page. Check it out!
The bike that you can win in this contest is a classic Strider ST 4 bike. The Winner will get to choose his or her colour of bike and Alberta Balance Bikes will ship the bike to you if you are not in the Calgary area to pick it up.
This contest is open to all Canadian residents. Sorry to my American friends on this one.
|My Strider Biker|
To enter the contest:
- Leave a comment telling me why you want to win a Strider balance bike for your child and where you plan to use it.
- Leave your email address with your comment so that I can contact you should you win. Alternately, please send your address to me at koob.tanya at gmail dot com if you are concerned with privacy.
- If you are unable to enter the contests because you don't have an account to log in with, please email me your comment and I will consider you entered in the contest.
The contest will close a week from today on May 30th at 11pm, Mountain Standard Time. I will draw the winner's name on May 31st and immediately notify the winner.
The contest is now CLOSED. Thank you everybody for entering. The winner has been contacted.
To read the next story in this series please follow this link to the story: An Introduction to Bike Hiking
Disclaimer: I was not compensated by Alberta Balance Bikes for this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions were my own for this story.