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One positive side note to this global pandemic? Apparently, Americans love to ride bikes. Sales and service are booming according to most reports, from bike shares in New York City to the suburbs in Middle America. And families, in particular, seem to be adding bicycling to their stay-at-home routines, whether for exercise or a much-needed break. We say you should (responsibly) run, er, pedal with it and ride the wave of popularity, even after local restrictions are relaxed.
Here is everything you need to outfit your kids so they’re ready to make the most of your family rides, whether you’re cruising the neighborhood or finding local trails to shred.
The Five Ten Freerider set the industry standard for grown-up mountain bike shoes, and this kid’s version has the same qualities of the adult kicks, most notably the Stealth Rubber bottom, which sticks to flat pedals without locking the foot. Pedal grip is key, especially when your kid starts hopping curbs and looking for roots to jump. Three hook-and-loop straps keep the shoes tight, so there’s no need to worry about loose laces getting caught in the cranks. $70; sizes 13-3
Your kid doesn’t need a bike-specific jersey, but a shirt that wicks sweat and provides sun protection is smart. Enter the Tech Trek, a simple T-shirt from Columbia that can handle long, hot rides without soaking up sweat like a towel. The poly-and-elastane blend of the fabric has a bit of stretch as well as the maximum UPF 50+ sun protection. $30; sizes XXS-XL (girls’ and boys’)
Fun idea: Play Bike Ride Bingo where the family is tasked with finding several items on a group list. It could be anything: a vintage Volkswagen Beetle, a fire truck, a jogger with a dog. Collect the items together or turn it into a competition by sending members of the family off in groups to separate parts of the neighborhood. If you’re in need of some inspiration, download our Bug Bingo card.
No piece of cycling gear is more important than a helmet. This one from Giro comes equipped with MIPS—a sliding layer inside the helmet that helps protect against rotational force and brain injury during impact. A bevy of vents (18) helps fight off overheating, and Giro’s Roc Loc Sport system is easy to adjust with one hand. It’s even ponytail-compatible. $65
Smaller kids need just as much head protection as bigger kids and adults, and this pint-size lid from Nutcase, available in toddler and youth sizes, offers MIPS protection. It also has one-hand twist adjustment, so you can dial in the fit. The skate style and graphics look good on the ’Gram too. $70
With people flocking to the greenways and streets, a bike bell has become the essential tool for riders hoping to maintain a responsible distance and pass slower riders politely. Electra’s bell clamps to your kid’s handlebars with the twist of a screw. You can choose from a handful of different graphics, but it’s hard to beat a cat wearing sunglasses. $12
If your kid is big enough to pedal, they’re probably big enough to carry their own stuff. The Osprey Moki comes with a 1.5-liter bladder and hose, and has enough gear storage for an extra layer, a snack and a stuffed animal, plus a sternum strap for security. The pack is on the smaller side, so most kids will age out of this by the time they hit double digits. $55
Fun idea: Let your kids fill their own packs with things they think they’ll need on the ride and try not to veto their choices. You never know what you’ll find, but those “silly” items could bring new purpose to the adventure, like taking photos of their favorite stuffed animal at various spots throughout the neighborhood.
Bringing snacks on a ride is essential, and these tiny beans are simple to dole out throughout the excursion to keep kids motivated. Jelly Belly Sport Beans have electrolytes and vitamin C, plus sugar to help keep the pedals pumping. (Be wary of the flavors that include caffeine.) $1.35 for a 1-oz. pack
Fun idea: Make your own trail mix at home. Find three recipes we love here (and read about the origins of GORP).
A smaller version of PEARL iZUMi’s popular adult mountain bike gloves, the Jrs have full fingers for added protection and soft, synthetic leather palms for a good connection with the bike’s grips so there’s less chance of a slip. Hook-and-loop closures make getting them on and off a no-help-required process. $20; 3 sizes
Kids aren’t great at hovering over their bike seat when cruising over obstacles, so a padded chamois can be key to keeping the ride comfortable. (Also, it can make young rippers feel like “real” cyclists.) Fox’s Youth Ranger is a burly ripstop short with plenty of stretch that comes with a removable liner and even has a zippered thigh pocket for an extra snack. $59.95; sizes 22-28
Putting a bike computer on your kid’s rig isn’t about fitness—it’s about fun, especially for older riders looking for a challenge. The Urban Wireless Plus from CatEye connects easily (and wirelessly) to the bike fork or spokes while the monitor clamps to the handlebars, with a big display that’s easy to read. $49.95
Fun idea: Tracking mileage and speed can “gamify” your family rides, allowing you to compare max speeds and set distance challenges. How many miles can you ride in a week? Who can end a ride on exactly 2.2 miles? My son has been tracking his mileage since our stay-at-home bike rides have picked up and he always gets a kick out of seeing his speed.
Even if you’re only planning on riding your neighborhood streets, consider getting your kid a mountain bike instead of a street bike; the relaxed geometry and larger tires can help boost confidence during those first rides. All Co-op Cycles REV bikes are made from a light 6061 aluminum frame, and the 20-inch has disc brakes for reliable stopping power and six gears, which will let the rider learn the basics of gearing up or down.
The REV 16 is built for younger riders transitioning to their first pedal bike. It has a low stand-over height and optional training wheels. It even comes with a sticker pack so your kid can customize the frame. $339 for the REV 20, $189 for the REV 16
This is the bike you wish you had when you were 10 years old. Salsa shrunk its popular Timberjack frame for young rippers, giving it an 80mm front fork, a 1×8 drivetrain that’s easy to use and mechanical disc brakes for solid stopping power. The best feature might be the 3-inch-plus tires, which add a “floating” feel to the ride while providing traction on technical trails. $559
Not all kids are old enough to pedal their own bike. Enter the Coaster XT, a sleek Thule trailer built for carrying two toddlers around town. It has five-point harnesses to keep your tykes safe, plus storage room for more gear. Drop the rain shield if a storm moves in, or roll up the front screen if your kid wants to feel the wind in their hair. It converts to a double stroller. $429.95
Fun idea: Make sure your family bike rides have frequent stops that will excite your kids, like a local park or an ice cream shop. My daughter is passionate about art, so we try to work public murals into our rides as often as possible.
Interested in more staff picks and kits? Find more collections here.