The Hippo


Nov 13, 2019








Bike Manchester. Courtesy photo.

Wear a Helmet

Tim Blagden said properly fitted helmets are where you need to start. The alliance is a nonprofit bike safety advocacy group that visits local schools and works with organizations like the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and the Bureau of Trails to create bike safety legislation.
“[Wearing a bike helmet] is a law in New Hampshire, so it sounds pretty simple, but if a kid won’t keep a helmet on, then don’t put them on a bike,” Blagden said.
State law requires children under 16 riding in a public way to wear a helmet. 

Young bikers
Where to go and what to bring when biking with kids

By Matt Ingersoll

 Even before they’re old enough for their first princess or superhero bicycle, kids can enjoy the experience of biking with adults — and once they outgrow those “tagalong” options, there are some easy ways to help them learn to bike on their own.

Sharing a ride
For adult bikers with much younger children, there are strapped seats that can go either at the front or the rear of the bike. According to Tim Blagden, a board member for the Concord-based Bike-Walk Alliance of NH and a father of four, front strapped seats typically mount just below the handlebars, while rear seats can be propped on a rack inserted above the rear tire of the bike. Most bike seats can accommodate children from 9 months to up to 3 years old, or between about 30 and 50 pounds in weight, depending on the product line.
“Using back bike seats will probably give you a little bit more control over the bike without extra weight on the handlebars … but they also have a taller back to them, so they make it easier for kids to fall asleep once they get enough fresh air,” Blagden said.
There are also tagalong or third wheel bike trailers, which attach to the adult bike. Some even provide the child with their own bike seat, complete with handlebars and pedals. Blagden said these are especially great for kids who are not yet old enough to pedal independently on a biking trip with their families.
“The child is also able to learn balance and observe bicycle decision-making skills,” he said. “Having one of those in addition to having a small bike the child can ride on is a big plus … because you could still go an adult’s distance while your kid is riding semi-independently.”
Finding balance
Balance bikes, which do not have pedals, are designed for younger kids to learn basic coordination on a bicycle.
“This can seem like an unnecessary step, but for very young kids it can be a way for them to start out on their own and they may enjoy that for an entire season,” Blagden said.
Patrick Lessard, sales manager for the family-owned Bike Barn in Manchester, recommends a balance bike as a child’s first bike to build confidence in balance and turning.
“If a child can turn and balance on a balance bike, then they’re not even going to need training wheels; you’re just going to take them off,” he said. “We’ve only been selling balance bikes within the last 10 years or so, but they’ve been fairly popular in that time span.”
If your child is using training wheels but having trouble making that transition to be free of them, Blagden recommends removing the pedals of the bike to temporarily convert it into a balance bike.
“One pedal is threaded one way and the other is threaded in reverse, so you can usually do it using some kind of wrench,” he said.
Lessard said a good step toward achieving balance independent of training wheels involves practicing on some sort of softer terrain like a grassy field as opposed to a paved or dirt road, and making sure the bike fits the child.
“You still want them on a right-size bike for them to be able to use the power in their legs to push it,” he said.
Find the right bike
Children’s bikes come in different sizes, and finding the right one isn’t an exact science.
“We usually start with how old the child is and then how tall they are, so if a child is a little tall for their age, they might get the next size bike up,” Lessard said. “We do a 12-inch for children up to 4 years old, then it goes to a 16-inch for ages 4 to 6, a 20-inch for ages 6 to 9 and a 24-inch beyond that.”
Blagden recommends looking for gear offered at bike swaps — a good option for bikes that kids might outgrow in a year or so — or at local shops in the area.
“A decent bike is going to last forever … and [these shops] carry really quality gear, they know their stuff inside and out,” he said.
Ride the rails
When you have all your equipment and you’re ready to go, Blagden said, the most ideal environment for kids and families is often exploring rail trails, and there are dozens of them right here in the Granite State, including in Boscawen, Derry, Londonderry, Windham, Salem, Goffstown and Manchester.
“Rail trails are often relatively flat and have good sight lines,” he said. “You can call them the beginner slopes of biking.”
Lessard said books about some of the most popular bike paths and rail trails in the state are available for purchase at the Bike Barn, including the latest edition of Charles Martin’s book New Hampshire Rail Trails.
“You definitely see the advent of rail trails becoming popular [for families] because they are … great for practicing on bikes,” he said. 

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