Cycling with Kids

Discussion in 'Women's Cycling' started by WebMommy, Sep 17, 2005.

  1. WebMommy

    WebMommy New Member

    Sep 17, 2005
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    I've read lots of training tips on here and appreciate all of the good information. This seems like a friendly little corner of cyber-space, so I've come out of lurk-mode to ask a few questions. Please, no laughing from the crowds!!

    First off, I ride a mountain bike. From my mountain bike I pull a trailer with two children. They are with me on 99.9% of all biking I will do, now and in the forseeable future. If I had to guess on weight, I'd say I pull about 70 pounds total (trailer, kids, and assorted water/blanket/etc). I live in an area that is all hills. Even the flat sections have a slight incline, and there are some wicked beastie hills all around. I'm also in converted-farmland suburbia, which means I either ride within the neighborhoods, or on the two-lane no shoulder roads (speed limits from 35-50) connecting the neighborhoods.

    I ride mainly for fitness, and also run three times a week (2-3 miles). Generally I try to take the kiddos some place fun so that they get something out of the ride too. We have a few parks and some shopping nearby, but other than that it's just roads or neighborhoods.

    I am NOT interested in getting a new bike or riding without kids, so please don't suggest those options. Maybe a new bike next year... for now this is what I'm dealing with. I do have a bike computer that measures time, distance and average speed.

    Ok, with that background, here come the questions:

    1. Everything I read about gears and cadence doesn't assume the huge load that I'm pulling. Seriously, if I wanted to keep spinning at 90 and even was in the gear with the least resistance, I would not move as I tried to climb the hills around here. I would appreciate some guidance about exertion (how should my body feel), cadence on hills with a load, and using gears appropriately. I feel like I do fine on the slight rolling hills but the bigger ones have me standing to climb and really working. Then at the top I need some recovery time. I'm looking for tips to make it more smooth.

    2. I'd like some advice on warming up before really getting going. So far I haven't found a good way to warm up because as soon as I'm out the door it's either climbing hills (generally the direction I go) or some fast downhills where I cannot go too fast because of the busy intersections at the bottom. So I need a warmup that takes into account that I can go about three blocks before getting on the hills. I'm tired of slogging through the first mile...

    3. I'm averaging 10-11 miles per hour right now, and I go about 5 miles at a time. I'd like to build up those numbers - any ideas on attainable goals and how to reach them?

    4. I'd appreciate some safety tips for being on the two-lane roads. They FREAK ME OUT!! But if I don't ride on them at least a little bit, I can't go more than a mile from my house.

    5. How do I keep the kids warm once it gets chilly out? Their cart has a plastic shield on the front (but about an arms' length is open in the back). I want them to be toasty when we go out, and am not sure about the best options for them. I will obviously not ride when there is any chance of ice or snow...

    Thanks in advance for your comments.

  2. energetix

    energetix New Member

    Jan 22, 2006
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    Hey Doesn't look likes theres too many Mums pulling their kids around here!!
    Sorry I haven't got any answers or advice for you, new to this forum & spotted your post. Just wanted to say good on ya! How old are the kids?
    I've got a 3yr old & 15 month old. My husband & I go riding with the kids on the back occasionaly, but as I much more prefer dirt, I tend to dash our for 1-2hr rides when Hubby is home & looks after the kids for me. Now that they are getting older I've just started getting back into it. What youre doing is no doubt great for your fitness & endurance, could just imagine if you went into a race - you should be flying without all that extra weight!
    Anyhow Keep Well....

  3. mgagnonlv

    mgagnonlv New Member

    Sep 25, 2003
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    Someone bumped the thread up. I'm a dad, but have been cycling with 2 children for a long time. I have now "graduated" to tandem + trailercycle. Here are a few tips; if they don't apply to you, they will be useful for somebody else.

    The bike
    A touring bike, a hybrid and an unsuspended mountain bike are all good options. Here are a few improvements you may do onto your current bike:
    – Knobbies (i.e. tires with lots of sculptures) are best in mud, snow, etc., but to ride on roads and nice trails, slicks are best. So try to replace your tires with relatively narrow high pressure ones, like 26 x 1.75 or 2" at 60-80 psi.
    – Really low gears. Count the number of teeth on your cogs and chainrings. The larger the cogs (the dented wheels which are on the rear wheel) and the smaller the chainrings, the lower the gears. If in doubt, use Sheldon Brown's gear calculator and compare what you have vs what you could buy to see if it's a worthed expense.
    Useful cassettes (i.e. rear cluster of cogs) could be 12-32 or , 11-34 or 14-34; in front, a 22 or 24 small ring would be great, thought there may be a few compatibility issues. With low enough gears, you'll be able to ride uphill slowly, but without problems. With all the load, I typically spin at 80 rpm (average) on flat terrain and at 60 rpm on a steep hill (8-10%)

    Speed I find it very good. Don't forget you are cycling with a load, on an unefficient bike (speedwise), in hilly terrain and in a city (i.e. with stops and traffic lights). If you want to compare, you might borrow a road bike – or even a touring bike – and leave the kids with a friend for once, and you'll see that you're probably as fast as all those who brag about their 20 mph average. With your load, aim for perseverance (i.e. more distance) rather than speed.

    Traffic. The best gizmo I find is a rearview mirror. That way, I always know what's coming and I'm never surprised by traffic. I also know that the overwhelming majority of people avoid me. And for the others, usually a left turn sign is all they need to wake up and move a bit. My eldest daughter also quickly adopted the rearview mirror, even when cycling on the tandem.

    Kid staying warm. I have a Chariot and used to carry 1 or 2 children at temperatures down to -20 C. When they are properly dressed, the trailer is a relatively warm environment for those kids. In fact, winter cycling became more problematic later when the then 7-year-old couldn't fit in the trailer and chilled out very quickly on the trailercycle.

    As for warmth in the trailer, the only problem is after a day in the playground. They come in the trailer full of snow, so it's best to shake the snow off prior to their entry in the trailer.
  4. Velo Steve

    Velo Steve New Member

    Jan 27, 2006
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    Let's see. So many questions. I'll start with the one about perceived exertion and how you should feel. A disclaimer - there is a huge range of personal opinion on these matters, and I'm just one person.

    It sounds like you are fit enough to ride really hard without hurting yourself, but you shouldn't have to do it all the time. If you are breathing really hard and hearing your heart pound in your head on a routine ride, I'd say it's time to follow the advice above and get some easier gears (smaller rings in front or larger cogs in back).

    On the other hand, if you are comfortable chatting with the kids while going up big hills, you are taking it pretty easy. Go ahead and push yourself a bit more.

    Another angle on this - see if you can climb by alternating standing and sitting to give your muscles some variety. Maybe 30 seconds or a minute in each position. You may have to stand all the time on the very steepest parts, but on most hills you should have the option of sitting if your gears are right.

    Some comments on speed:
    1) Slow uphills and fast downhills will give you a slower average than the same amount of flat riding, and even more so in your case since you probably need to hold back on the downhills for safety. That's just how it is.
    2) The biggest thing you can do if you care about average speed is minimize the amount of time spent at your slowest speeds. Work hard up hills and leaving every stop sign, for example. Whether this is worthwhile or good for your knees is another question...

    Gears: basically ignore anything that says something like "you need a 28x24 gear to climb a grade of X percent". They don't know your fitness and what you are pulling. Just shift to find a good cadence and if you run out of gears frequently consider some equipment changes (gears, not a whole bike). Try to spend some time pedaling between 80 and 100 rpm, even though something like 60 or even lower may be more realistic on tough hills.

    Safety: I found that the trailer itself was a safety feature, because people found it more noticeable than "just another bike". Ours had a flag that stuck up to head level or above - probably a good idea.

    Warmup: That's tough, but if you end up with lower gears it will at least let you take it a little easier at first. I suppose you could pop the bike into a wind trainer and spin for a few minutes before leaving the house.

    Warmth: Move to California. Sorry, but I have been so serious until now - I can't think of anything that's not obvious.

    I don't know if any of this really tells you anything new, but that's what I can think of. Good luck.
  5. dreamstar-fight

    dreamstar-fight New Member

    Apr 22, 2006
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  6. Sore-arse

    Sore-arse New Member

    Apr 19, 2006
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    I concur about the "mirror" comment... without a mirror, not only do you not know who is behind you, but angry motorists will see you as a two-wheeled Volvo equivalent, i.e. "I don't care about other traffic..." when a "moron-orist"
    (oops I should say "motorist") spots the mirror, I think they realise you care about other traffic.
    TYRES: (English spelling) get rid of your tyres if they are 28 mm and have chunky tread. Replace with slick tyres of about 23 mm maximum. Don't know the imperial equivalent, but 25.4 mm= one inch.
    Using slicks lowers the rolling resistance, i.e. narrower slicks take less energy to overcome inertia and keep rolling.