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Family Cycling: Get Outdoors and Get Healthy

Family Cycling: Get Outdoors and Get Healthy
By: Tim Bachman

Taking a bike ride is a great way to get exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and spend quality time as a family. Whether your ride of choice takes you to parts of the 43-mile Tanglefoot Trail that passes through Union, Chickasaw, and Pontotoc counties; over the Crosstie Walk, in downtown Cleveland; down the Great River Road Byway in Tunica; over a stretch of the Natchez Trace down in Vicksburg; or just down quiet streets in your own neighborhood, there’s a cycling option available somewhere in the Delta region for every skill level, interest or season.

The month of May is National Bike Month, so it’s a perfect time to consider grabbing the helmets, airing up the tires, and hitting the trails, paths or roads for some fun.

Families who are serious about cycling, though, might want to consider investing extra time — and often, funds — in making sure the under-18 riders have bikes that suit their needs. Every bike is not suited for every body, and understanding the correct seat height, bike size and weight, and type of bike for the situation can go far in assuring the adventure is fun for everyone.

Several years ago, I contacted Rodney Watt, owner of Cyclist’s Choice bike shop down in Gulfport, for a “Parents & Kids” story. He told me there are several things to consider when purchasing a bike for a child. His advice is still valid today.

“What kind of biking are they going to do?” is the first question Watt said a parent should ask. He said the choices include “BMX, trick bikes, small mountain bikes, road bikes.” He said it all “depends on the type of riding they want to do.” Watt, and other shop owners, will often ask questions to those new to the sport so they may hone in on how the bike will be used.

The next consideration is just as important.

“The size of the frame, getting the right size … 20-inch, 24-inch …” said Watt, about the next point to ponder when buying a two-wheeled ride.

Of course, budget-conscious families may buy a bike at a box store such as Target or Wal-Mart, or they may get one second-hand. For these families, a simple Google search for the phrase “How to find the correct size bicycle for a child” will yield helpful results.

When a bike is purchased at a designated “bike shop” instead of at a box store retailer, the extra cost often comes with extra service in fitting the right bike to the human who will be riding it; this can be very important. Often this fitting is a make-it-or-break-it aspect of whether or not a child embraces the cycling life. The more ergonomic — or comfortable — a bike is, the more likely the child is to actually ride it for long distances.

A big part of adjusting the bike is finding the right “saddle height,” or, in layman’s terms, adjusting the seat. This might not seem like a big deal, but in truth, it is everything when it comes to pedaling comfort. Your saddle height is no doubt best determined by a bike shop employee, but if you are using a second-hand bike or buying from a retailer such as Wal-Mart, you’ll need to do this yourself. 

Find information on making this essential adjustment by Googling the phrase “adjust your bicycle seat” or “find your bike saddle height.”

According to Watt, a very nice quality entry-level bike for a serious child cyclist may be had for “starting at about $250,” with the higher end BMX bikes costing as high as $700 to $800. 

Often, the price of a bike has to do with the material used for the frame. Generally, the lighter the material, the higher the price … but the quicker the speed.

“Steel frames are heavier, aluminum is lighter,” said Watt, giving a guideline of what to look for in materials.

Of course, what bike you purchase depends on the family’s budget. Most shop owners will help a buyer find something that works for the comfort of both the rider and the family pocketbook.

In either case, please remember that the more time you spend considering your child’s bike, the more time your youngster will spend actively enjoying it.


Tim Bachman’s favorite sport is cycling. His bicycle is a red and white Specialized Roubaix, which he loves to ride alongside his two children when the weather is cool.
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