When the kids are driving us batty by doing science experiments using peanut butter and the cat or burying their faces in a screen all day, it can be hard to remember that the days are long, but the years are short.
It seems like yesterday that we steadied their bikes with the full weight of a child’s trust on our fingertips. We ran alongside and watched with pride as they took off on their own two wheels.
We saved some falls.
And kissed bandaged knees until the bittersweet moment when they fell and got back up all on their own. Sometimes we’d give anything to turn back the clock to those moments, if only for an hour.
Bikes aren’t time machines, but they do have a knack for transporting parents and children alike back to simpler times far away from the pull of work, school, screens, and the complexities of teenage social hierarchy. If you’re looking for new ways to connect with your growing kids, here are tips for bonding by bike:
Don’t be afraid to play in the dirt. Explore bike parks, natural surface paths, or mountain bike trails to spend time off the beaten path together.
It’s about the journey, not the destination. Don’t worry if your fancy picnic in the park turns into PB&J sandwiches and riding in circles around the driveway. Often, it’s the small unplanned moments that create the most important memories.
But sometimes it is about the destination. Let the kids choose where they want to go and work together to create a route to get there. Show them the fun of everyday adventures while learning real-world lessons about planning and adapting to unexpected changes.
Screen addict? No problem. Ride to a Pokémon gym and hit up a few PokéStops on the way. Introduce screen-bound kids to Strava and race each other up and down the street. Or get away from it all and head out to a reception-free campground where kids spend hours riding dirt paths and basking in the glow of a campfire.
It doesn’t really matter where you’re bicycling as long as you’re doing it together. So go for a ride. Talk. Listen. Be silly. Be kids again together.
Kristin Butcher has been a rider and bicycling advocate for more than 20 years. After riding in nearly every state, she’s seen the power of bicycling communities across the country firsthand and eaten at more convenience stores than the FDA would recommend. Her stories have appeared in Bicycling, Mountain Bike, USA Today, and BIKE Magazine where her column “Butcher Paper” appears monthly.
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