Thursday, May 23, 2013

Kids on Wheels - An Introduction to Bike-Hiking - AND a Giveaway from Alberta Balance Bikes!

Continuing with my Kids on Wheels series, I wanted to write about a great multi-sport activity that you can do as a family this summer. I also have a great giveaway from Alberta Balance Bikes (a bike in fact) at the bottom of this post so make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom for details on how to enter!

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'm thirsty...
I'm hungry...
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

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
 For information on trails in Banff visit the Parks Canada website

 If you have other trails to recommend I'd love to hear about them.

Attempting an "interesting" trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park

The Giveaway

I'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.  


    1. Oh my gosh! We would so love to win this bike. I'm new to Calgary and have a young son. It would be great to have this bike for our outdoor adventures! Whether we win the bike or not we're excited to check out some of the hikes you've written about. Thanks!

    2. I would love to win a strider balance bike as I honestly feel I took the wrong route by jumping to a pedal bike with my two oldest girls. After watching all the kids in the Outdoor Playgroup and their amazing balancing and biking skills on the strider I would like to get it right the third time around :)

      Thanks for the awesome posts Tanya.

    3. I would love to have a balance bike for baby #5 coming in Sept. He's going to need all the help he can get to keep up with the other kids as he grows up.

    4. I would love to win a Strider bike so my son's friends can come bike-hiking with us! They are the best...and we are right on board with you re the bike-hiking in the Rockies. Balance bike = freedom.

      If I can add a Chariot tip: they make a basket that fits on the handlebars & sits forward, above the child. A light bike like the Strider straps on there perfectly, so we can do the long-and-boring part of the bike pulling small boy, but he still has his bike along for the fun parts...

    5. Tanya - though my kids are a little old for one, I would love to get one for my niece - to be used wherever her parents want to. :) I know they walk everywhere in their little town and this would make it that she would get lots of fun and exercise while doing it, instead of riding the stroller.
      rle75 shaw ca

    6. I would love to win a Strider bike for my 2 year old daughter. She has 2 older brothers and this would be great for her so she can keep up with her while we are out hiking.


    7. I love your blog so much, and would be ecstatic to get this bike for my 2.5 year old son. We have a new baby due next month, and had been trying to figure out a way to still go out in nature with my son(who often will ask to be carried by my husband), and take a baby, and this bike seems to be a great solution! We've tried pedal bikes but my son has delays and can't figure out the pedals yet, this seems like a great option!

      Thanks again for your blog, you always encourage me to get outdoors more!

      My email is

    8. Your blog makes me wish, time and time again, that we lived closer to the mountains so all of your glorious trails could be more frequently explored. Right now, hiking with our 14 month old has only left me with the option of carrying her in our Deuter KC, as she is still not walking. I've heard of kids using balance bikes before they can walk and, with a whole summer of hiking ahead of us, I would love for her to get the chance to try one. Maybe it will be the push to get her walking and the saving grace for my back as #2 is due in September and I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to tote her around in the backpack. I love your blog and its pushed me to start a journal of all the trails we've been exploring around SK since our daughter arrived. Can't wait for our summer trip out west as I already have a list of possible trails, thanks to you :) Keep up your amazing work, both blogging and parenting!!

      Natasha, Dave and Nora

    9. I would love to win a Strider bike for my little guy. He loves watching his big sister on her Norco bike, and he tries hard to play with it, but it's big and too heavy for him. We have been borrowing my sisters' Strider bike and it's PERFECT for him. He loves it and I'd love to win one for him to have of his very own!


    10. I would actually love this for my nephew. He is the perfect age for it and it would be a great gift!

      summerdual AT gmail DOT com

      1. Congrats Summer! You were the winner. I will email you.

    11. would love to win a strider... with 2 girls riding and only one having a strider, I have to lug around extra weight... at least with 2 striders it would be easier to manage when both decide to run and let mom carry their bikes ;)

    12. Our little one (Owen) is just getting interested in biking. He just learned to say "bike" a few days ago! It would be great to win a Strider bike for him so he can keep up with his big sister! What a cool contest, thanks for organizing this Tanya!

    13. My daughter has been rocking her Strider! I'd love to get another Strider for my 2 year old son so he can join in on the fun :)

    14. I would love this for my son's friend. He comes to visit and they want to ride bikes together but he doesn't know how to yet. He would have a great time getting around the neighbourhood on this!

      1. Forgot my email - dftrew(at)gmail(dot)com

    15. My two sons are both addicted to biking and are both riding two wheelers already (3 & 5) It would be so great to have a little Strider Bike for their younger sister so that she can also bike with them!! We currently bike all over the Calgary Pathway system and would love to branch out onto the Banff and Canmore trails as well. (This Kids on Wheels post will help with that for sure, THANKS!!)


    16. While my 5 year old is very adept on his 16 inch pedal bike, it weighs a ton and I know he would derive a lot more satisfaction and fun with a lighter bike for mountain trails.

    17. My daughter has a Strider she is currently learning how to ride and I would love another Strider for her younger brother so they can ride and learn together! These bikes are great for building confidence and for learning exceptional balance skills. They are also heavy duty enough to withstand the elements no problem! Would love to take the kiddies to the mountains and try some of the hiking/biking trails there. The kids can practise their balance skills and mom can enjoy the scenery. Then when they tire I can easily carry them on the stroller (their very lightweight too). Thanks Tanya for organizing this great contest.

    18. We have been hunting for a Strider on Kijiji for MONTHS now and I never seem to be the first responder to the ads! My husband and I are both avid cyclists and I dare to say that my 20 month old daughter already loves biking, too, given that she says 'Wee!' every time she sees a bike and loves riding in the Chariot! This summer we would love to get her gliding. That would be so rad. skahah at gmail dot com

    19. Hi
      we currently have a BeginBikes brand that we picked up at a church sale and my son has already grown too tall before he learned how to ride it. I like the strider bikes as they can grow with your child and are not too heavy. We went to a strider event at Vecova a couple of months ago and used the striders there...what a great intro to mountain bikes for a 23 month old! Thanks for running the contest.
      Thorin's mom.
      malison @

    20. We would live to win, my daughter has a trike but can't use it with her shorter legs. We would love to visit grandma in Canmore and take her out on some easy trails. Thanks for the chance to win. Britne_johnson@

    21. This would be great for Connor. He's not sold on his bike yet, and a change to ride around with one like this might help a lot with that.

    22. This would be a great prise to win for my little guy that turns two this summer. Would love to take him to some of the trails around Canmore where my husband and I spent many days hiking and mountain biking before getting married.

      1. Oops sorry, my email address is Kim McD

    23. Hooray for the Strider contest!

      My four year old would love to win the new strider so we can explore more of Calgary trails together!

    24. While Matthew has a bike which he loves, a good friend keeps getting left behind on the trails in K country. thebigpicturecalgary (at) gmail (dot) com

    25. I never even realized there was such a thing as balance bikes. I would love to win one of these for my son Theo. We have a Chariot to tow him on our bikes but it would be fantastic if we could do short bike-hikes on the rail trails here when he is as young as 18 months. I'd also take it down to Toronto and up to Parry Sound to ride on the trails near my brother's and mother's houses.

      Lots of great pictures in this post.

    26. I'd love to win this bike to have for my nephew when he comes over to visit. I'm moving to a new house right across from a quiet park with rolling hills and kid friendly paved trails, and this would be the perfect thing for him to use when he comes to visit. I know several friends' kids who would love to give it a try too. Thanks so much! river26[at]gmail[dot]com

    27. I would love to have the opportunity to win a strider bike. They look fabulous and lots of fun! As a family we are trying to get out more. Thanks for all the suggestions on routes....that is the biggest fear that you take your kids on a too diffcult route. Thanks

    28. This is wonderful! It would be an awesome birthday present! Would be great along the paths around the large pond, or bike paths at different parks!

    29. This would be so awesome! My little one could use it on the trails around our city and in our community forest!

    30. I'd love to win one for my 3 year old. She could ride it around our neighbourhood and to the local park. Thanks for the chance!
      olivia lasting at gmail dot com

    31. i think my son would absolutely love this bike. i could see him using it in the back yard and on walks.

      1. I just need your email address Charity.

    32. I would love to win this for my grandson who is 3 and this would be perfect as they live about 30 kms out of Calgary and I can see him using it on the trails around his house. suzanne dot giroux at gmail dot com

    33. I'd love to try this on some of the trails you mentioned with my daughter! We hike in Kananaskis, but haven't biked there yet (I think it's about time!). She LOVES the outdoors (spotting wildlife is a favourite pastime). I'm so glad you posted a list of good starter trails. Thanks!

    34. I've been contemplating bike options for our preschooler, but the option of taking it on hikes isn't one we'd even thought of. Great post! I like the idea of a balance bike and Strider is a great option because our girl plays hard and I want something durable that her little brother can use in a couple of years when she outgrows it. If we had one, we'd use it in the city on walks to the park or in Fish Creek, and definitely in the mountains when we hike this summer. We usually push the Chariot, but this would be nice because she could ride her bike and walk and we could wear our youngest in a hiking backpack.

    35. Our four-year-old never quite got the hang of the balance bike last year and is much more interested in it this year. His 20-month-old sister is hot on his heels however and there's usually a squabble over who gets to ride the bike. I would love a Strider so both kids could have a bike and I don't have to deal with so many tears come bike time (hopefully!).

    36. My daughter has a pink strider. Love it! Would love to win a strider that's more boyish for my son now. Fingers crossed! trankie829 at gmail dot com

    37. I would love to win a Strider bikes for my son. He's not showing much interest in regular bikes and a balance bike might just do the trick. We'd use it on urban trails, local parks and nearby kid friendly hikes. Can't wait until we can all bike as a family! mmarsden at gmail dot com

    38. Tanya, not entering the giveaway but great post and your son is already getting to ride in some beautiful places. Loved the quote about "Not an exciting trail - unless you're on a bike! Then it's awesome!". That's the sign of someone who loves to bike :)

      1. Thanks Andy. Yes, we are trying hard to raise a well rounded mountain boy who loves everything from biking to climbing, paddling, hiking, and camping.

    39. I would love to win this Strider bike for my son because he is starting to show interest in bikes and I think starting him a balance bike might be the best first step for him. I can't even think where we wouldn't use this bike. We would take it to the park and for walks. I figure we would be able to go farther with him on a bike.

      danceswithpucks at gmail dot com

    40. I would love a Strider bike to take camping with us and us on our family hikes. And for playing around on in the backyard. jeannehowland at gmail dot com

    41. Hi , I would love this for my toddler. Let's face it he is so rambunctious and the qualities and make of this bike will probably save me some panic attacks :), as well as giving him the fun he needs. He has one of those 3 in 1 trikes from Little Tykes but he can all ready flip that over which is scary and the Srtrider bike seems like a better choice not only for my nerves but for him as well. (18 months) . We would be using the bike on the trails and on our daily walks through the paths .We have beautiful paths at a lot of our conservation areas, My guy is also a little clumsy just do to his fearlessness and his eagerness to just go, so this would be a perfect for him. Thank you so much for offering this contest.

      Carey Hurst

    42. I would love to win this for my grandson, it would be perfect for in town & also at the farm
      9oofus(at)gmail dot com

    43. Not only would my son love this but yes!! it will curb the complaining...thank you so much forthe chance!

    44. We would love a strider! We would use it everywhere from the backyard to the woods :D. Morgancaswell at gmail dot com.

    45. I would love to win this for my daughter because our family loves Hiking and outdoor activities. We are planning to use it everywhere we go!

      Narathip Wall.
      polo_wataga at yahoo dot com

    46. I would love to win this for my son. He loves playing outsid. It would be great for walks, hiking and play ;)
      Ashleigh Swerdfeger

    47. I want to win for my 5 year old grandson because he is afraid of his bike pedals.

      1. I just need your email address to enter you into the contest.
        Email me if you want. koob.tanya (at) gmail (dot) com

    48. I would love a balance bike for my son who is 4½ yrs old and has Autism. Due to his having autism, he can't peddle a bike or even tricycle,. but he loves to walk his bike like a balance bike, but he always hits his shins on the peddles so we don't get very far. We have the Red Hill trail and Bruce Trail that this would be perfect for. Even for just going around the block as the bike distracts him from wondering, so it helps with saftey issues as well. Thank you for this chance and your consideration.

      Kari and Colton

    49. I want this for my grandson. He is terrified of the pedals on his own bike.

    50. I would like to win a Strider bike because I have had many negative experience teaching the kids to ride bikes and I would like to avoid it this time. We would use the bike around the neighbourhood and also on our Grand River Trails system.
      pam freecycle at gmail dot com

    51. I would like this for my grandson ... he don't have much and he would so love this bike .... i would take him on the track trails for a nice walk with him .! (:


    52. I would love to win this for my 2 year old daughter. She so wants to ride a bike but her legs are too short for pedals of even a tricycle! I would take her over town on her strider bike (downtown consists of main street - town population is 500) :)


    53. I'd love to win this for my son. We would take it on our summer camping trips mostly.

    54. I would love this for my niece who I babysit while at home with my boys. Her legs are not long enough for the trike I picked up for her, and she is sad she doesn't get to play with her big cousins while they bike! We live on the Bruce Peninsula so this would get a lot of use in different places! Thanks for the chance!

      breej23 at hotmail dot com

    55. I learned that they are also useful for children with special needs.I like that it is lightweight and easy to balance.I’m adding it to my reading list.