Saturday, August 29, 2009

Riding with Children: Bonita (South SD)

Bonita, CA, just south of San Diego (near CA-54 and I-805) is another great place to ride with children. When my eight-year-old friend Esther was visiting me from New Mexico, I borrowed a Trail-a-bike, hooked it up to my bike, and off we went on our trail adventure!


The Bonita Bike Path is a great ride to do with kids, even if they are on their own bikes and not hooked up to yours, because you are on a dedicated bike path and not riding in traffic. If you don't want to cross Willow Street with children on bikes, park your car at Rohr Park and ride around the golf course to get to the bike path.

Route from Donny's Cafe (link goes to MapMyRide.com)

Location: Start at Donny's Cafe or Rohr Park
Distance: 6 miles out and back to the horse stables
Elevation gain: Almost flat
Riding time: 1-1.5 hours
Road conditions: dirt path
Traffic conditions: pedestrians, horses, bikes
Difficulty: Easy
Equipment: knobby tires work best
Kid-friendly: Yes
Notes: Rest rooms at Donny's Cafe or the Bonita Library. Mostly shaded route.

Esther and I took off from Donny's Cafe, cutting through the Kaiser parking lot, and carefully crossing Willow St to get to the bike path. The bike path skirts the Bonita Golf Course and runs along Bonita Road.

Although the ride can be done on a bike with slick tires, it's best to have knobby tires, so you will have better traction in the dirt.

Once we arrived at the stables, we parked our bikes and asked the owners if we could walk through the stable and look at the horses.

Inside, we found chickens running about. It was more than we expected to find at the end of our bike trail.

From the start of our ride at Donny's Cafe down to the stables was about 3 miles. The horse stable was a good half-way point to get off the bike and stretch our legs a bit. We had some water, then got back on the bike to return home.

It was a very fun, healthy, and interesting way to spend the afternoon.



Friday, August 28, 2009

Bicycle Theft Prevention


Theft-prevention advice from the man.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Riding with Children: Lake Miramar

One of the questions I am often asked is: Where can I ride with my kids?

We in San Diego are very fortunate to have a number of dedicated bike paths throughout the county. Over the next few months, Jane and I will be exploring some of San Diego's many great places to ride.

Lake Miramar
Location: Near I-15 and Mira Mesa Blvd.
Distance: 5 miles around the lake
Elevation gain: Almost flat
Riding time: 30 minutes
Road conditions: Paved road/path
Traffic conditions: Usually light
Difficulty: Easy
Equipment: Any bicycle
Kid-friendly: Yes
Notes: Very little shade along the route. Recommended riding in the morning or early evening, or on overcast days.

Lake Miramar, located near Mira Mesa, is a great place to take a relaxing ride alone, with friends, or with children. The five-mile paved path is wide enough in most places for two cyclists to ride abreast against oncoming pedestrian and cycling traffic.


The road is virtually flat all the way around the reservoir. Two parking areas are available, a smaller area located just as you enter the park, and a parking area for RV's and boat trailers about 400 yards down the road. Restrooms and water fountains are located along the interior parking area. Additionally, you will find a port-a-john about one mile from the parking area, on the north-west side of the reservoir. Lake Miramar is a great place for a picnic, with a picnic area on the north side of the reservoir.

Lake Miramar is an ideal place for adults and children to practice skills and techniques essential to riding safely on the road, since you are in a controlled environment with no vehicular traffic.

Drills you can do while riding (Wow! What a great idea!)
Riding in a straight line without deviation. If the path is clear in both directions, try riding the white or yellow line.
Taking a hand off the handlebars to reach for a waterbottle. Replace the bottle without looking down.
Practice riding
in close proximity to your riding partner by gently putting a hand on his shoulder as you ride.

These drills will help you to become a better, more confident rider.


Jane and Laura at Lake Miramar, Jan 2009

Resources:
MyBikeSite.com (Lake Miramar) - info on trail conditions, routes, and a place to share your stories

Now pack up the kids and go have fun!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Riding with Children - Fun for Everyone!

Several years ago when I first started cycling, I thought that "bicycling with children," meant that the kids would all be on their own bikes, I would be on mine, and we would have to go as slow (fast?) as the youngest could manage to pedal. Oh, and we would have to stay within two blocks of the house, because kids have a low tolerance for activities lasting longer than ten minutes (at least this is what I remember from the forced marches my dad used to take us on, that, in reality, were only a half-mile). I thought riding with kids would be somewhat... tedious.

This was before I learned about the many possibilities out there for riding bikes with children.

Riding with children: the first year or two
From about five weeks old, I had my baby in a Burley bike trailer. Burley makes an infant snuggler, which they tell you is not intended to be used with the trailer when it is attached to a bike, but only with the unit used as a stroller. Blah blah blah... whatev. Jane and I have been having great bike experiences for months!

Jane at 5 weeks in the Burley trailer with the infant snuggler.

I like this trailer because it's light-weight and has 20-inch tires. Most trailers come in one and two-seater models. If you have two kids, consider whether one will antagonize the other while in the trailer. If they ride from infancy, you will have less issue then if you start when one is
three and the other is 12 months. A better option in this case might be: child seat attached to your bike and a trail-a-bike in addition (more about that in a moment).

Helmet note: If your child is in a bike trailer, he may not not need to wear a helmet. Most trailers come with a rollbar and 5-point safety harness. If the child is not protected by the trailer, make sure he is wearing a helmet. Since Jane is protected by the trailer and reclines while in it, she does not wear a helmet in the trailer.

If you do it right, by the time they can express opinions, your kids will let you know it's time to saddle up and go. I opened the garage one morning to ready the bike, leaving the house and side garage doors open. Jane crawled outside the house as I darted back inside to get water. By the time I returned, Jane had crawled to the front of the garage and was waiting for me next to the trailer.

C'mon Mom! Let's go ride!

Riding with children: 12 months - 3 years

Once the child's head is large enough for a helmet (48 cm in circumference) and he can safely sit up and hold his head while wearing a helmet without his neck getting tired, he's usually old enough for the bike child seat.

The bike child seat fits onto a rear rack that is bolted onto your bike. Advantages over the trailer are that a child seat costs significantly less than a trailer, you have better maneuverability, and you are not dragging a 28 lbs trailer in addition to the weight of the child. However, I like being able to give Jane a bottle and let her play with toys as we ride. We can ride when it's cold, because I can cover her with a blanket. Were she in a bike kid seat, bottle and toys would be dropped or thrown long before we reached the first mile marker, and we would have to curtail our activity in really chilly weather.

If you anticipate 45-minute rides in moderate weather, or have two small children who might not do well together in a trailer, a bike kid seat is probably your best option for the younger one. Most bike kid seats have a weight capacity of 40 lbs.



Riding with children 3 - 10 years old

When my little 8-year-old friend Esther was in town from New Mexico and asked me if we could ride bikes,
I found her a loaner bike of her own, but even better than that, a friend lent me his Trail-a-bike. A Trail-a-bike allows the adult to be in control, allows the child to rest when she gets tired, and best of all, makes the ride much more predictable, knowing that the child will not get distracted and ride into traffic - she's connected to your bike.


The Trail-a-bike gave Esther and me tremendous freedom! We were able to take water and snacks and ride 3 miles down the bike path to the stables and see the horses. We were able to ride for short stretches on the road in the bike lane without me having to worry about Esther riding into traffic. Suddenly riding with a kid was really fun!


Given the choice of her own bike to ride and riding on the Trail-a-bike, Esther usually chose the Trail-a-bike. She especially liked going really fast down the hills!

Regardless of his age, there's a bike or bike attachment that's right for your child. Start them early, and ride often!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cycling and an Instant Community

(cross-posted from the Bruise Chronicles)

One of the great things about riding a bike is that you have an instant community of people who share your interest for cycling and the outdoors. Regardless of your skill level, you can find people to ride with and learn from if you just look around a bit. Wait, wait! I know what you're saying: But I'm slow/not very good... there's not really anyone for me to ride with.


Au contraire!

When I learned how to mountain bike, I had the good fortune of being about as self-aware as a puppy running in a park. I had no idea that I was going out riding for my first time with a couple of guys who were Cat 1 (Expert level) downhill racers. Even if I had known, it would not have occurred to me that I might be slowing them down, and that they might enjoy their ride more without me tagging along and crashing all the time. They asked me to go riding, so I went.

Good thing I was more excited about mountain biking than worried about what other people were thinking, because the assumption that I would be a damper on their fun would have been completely wrong.

People of different abilities do things together all the time, and the more skilled have just as much fun as the novices. For example, my mom enjoys the outdoors, but is not very athletic. But if she asked me to take her hiking, I would jump at the chance. Not because I could show her how nimble-footed I am, or how much gear I can carry, or how I could make it to the top first. No way. I would enjoy just being with her, doing something challenging together, and I would delight in her triumphs up the hill. We might not even make it up to the top, but that wouldn't be important. The important part is just getting outside with good company.

Similarly, when someone of greater ability than you asks you to go bike riding, it's not because your he is looking for a hammer-fest training ride and wants to see how fast he can drop you. Especially if it's someone who knows he is a better or faster rider than you. Most people enjoy the company, and truly don't mind helping others along or waiting for them.

There will always be people better than you who will be delightful to ride with, as well as others who are miserable to ride with. Don't let your fears about holding people up, or a past bad experience with a particular rider interfere with your getting out on the bike with others. Of course, you should know what you're getting yourself into and be careful not to get in over your head, but also know that when someone asks you to ride, she usually hopes you will come along.

If you are the one doing the asking, tell the more experienced rider that you want to do a relaxed ride, and what duration you'd like the ride to be. If your hammer-head friend turns you down with no encouragement, she may be one of those who only takes long hard rides; don't take it personally. You might ask her if she knows someone you could ride with.

Finally, if you are looking for someone to ride with and simply know no one, here are a few resources:

Women's specific:
For any cyclist looking for road or mountain riders: Bike Meet-up
Just enter your ZIP code on the right for the list of groups in your area. Or try this one.


Good list of Bike Clubs

If you've tried these places and still can't find a person or a group, contact me. I'll find you someone to ride with or gather a group of people myself. :)

Now go outside and play!

Laura is a member of the San Diego Team LUNA Chix, a group of eight women who organize and lead local bike rides, sports skills and informational clinics, and host charitable events benefiting the Breast Cancer Fund. For information on LUNA Chix bike rides, please see: teamlunachix.com, and click on San Diego.