Kids’ ride: Turn biking into a family affair

Tips, treks to make riding fun for younger...
Kids’ ride: Turn biking into a family affair
Keep expectations low when riding with kids, and make fun and food part of the ride.

Parents who are into biking are always eager to pass their love along to the kids. As an ex-racer dad, I plead guilty to dreaming of turning my fifth grader into a Tour de France rider.

But the quickest way to turn a kid off of biking is to push too hard. My advice: Keep expectations low and make sure fun and food are at the top of the list.

I’ve also found it helps to have a destination in mind when riding with kids rather than trying to get in a workout. So having a bike rack or a vehicle that can carry bikes is almost a must.

For example, beat the weekend parking hassles at the Henry Vilas Zoo by driving to Olin Park and then taking the Wingra Creek bike trail to the zoo entrance. This trail goes under John Nolen Drive and passes through an arched stone railroad bridge while following the little creek all the way to Vilas Park. Bring a lock and leave the bikes conveniently right next to the new Arctic Passage exhibit.

Another favorite with kids is exploring the historic Stewart Tunnel on the Badger Trail south of New Glarus. The 1,200-foot-long tunnel built in 1887 is a great destination for a family ride and is only a mile from a small roadside parking area on, what else, Tunnel Road, between Belleville and New Glarus.

If you don’t have time or don’t want to drive to bike with the kids, pick a target like a playground or ice cream store. That breaks up the ride and teaches kids about using the bike around the neighborhood for transportation.

Yes, parents are always rightly concerned about safety, but getting kids comfortable riding on sidewalks or city streets is the best way to teach lifelong lessons about watching for traffic and staying alert.

Bringing a snack is essential on any long bike ride, but incorporating a food stop is extra crucial when you’re biking with kids. If you visit the Henry Vilas Zoo by bike, consider trying ZuZu Cafe right across Drake Street. There’s also a Culver’s restaurant along the new Cannonball Trail, which crosses the Beltline Highway east of Todd Drive on Madison’s southwest side. It has a bike rack and outdoor seating.