If you’re riding with your kids to school, or they’re finally old enough to make the trip on their own, you’re doing something great: Not only are you ensuring that your kids get some exercise and fresh air everyday, you’re also teaching them that bikes are a great way to commute that’s both economically and environmentally-friendly. But like anything that happens in the morning, bike commutes can feel a bit hectic and stressful. Here’s what parents should know about riding their kids to school or letting kids ride solo.
Pre-plan your route
Getting to and from school is not the time to explore new roads and trails—know exactly how you and your kids will get to and from the school. Look for the most bike-friendly route possible: Lower traffic (or at least lower speed limit) roads are ideal, as are roads that have protected bike lanes. Especially if your child is riding solo, make sure he or she knows the route by heart, and sticks to it every day. This also helps you know where to find them if they need a pickup for some reason.
Figure out where the bike will go
Most schools do have bike racks, but make sure you know where the racks are, because there’s little worse than showing up to school on time, only to not be able to find a rack for 10 minutes. Some schools even have indoor bike storage—you don’t know until you ask, so it’s always worth checking with the administrative staff… Especially if your kid has a pricy bike!
Pre-ride the route
Use a stopwatch and time how long it takes to get from home to school, including getting the bike out of the garage and locking it up at school. Add five minutes to account for all those little distractions and detours that happen, and that’s how you know how early to leave to make it to class on time.
Make sure they have the essentials
- Bike lock (we recommend making sure it’s safety-rated with a gold ranking or higher.)
- Helmet (make sure it fits properly, especially on a younger student who may have outgrown a youth helmet)
- Fender (this easy-attaching one from SKS is a favorite for ensuring a dry butt on a rainy day)
- Backpack that feels comfortable while riding
- Bike repair kit (including a spare tube, patch kit, mini pump and multitool)
- Front and rear bike lights (especially if your child does after-school activities and gets home later)
- You can check out a great list of favorites and more back to school accessories right here.
Go over basic bike repair
First of all, make sure your bikes are all regularly tuned, checking tire pressure at least weekly and ensuring that chains are clean and lubed monthly, more often if weather is bad. Flat tires happen, and hopefully you or your child are ready to deal with a basic bike repair if it happens on the way to class. If you’re riding with your kids, make sure you know how to remove their wheels and fix a flat tire. If they’re riding to school solo, make sure they know how to do it themselves. And of course, make sure that there’s a bike repair kit (including a spare tube, patch kit, mini pump and multitool) in your kiddo’s backpack.
Whether you’re riding with the kids or they’re heading to school solo, for at least the first week of school, make sure you leave with 15 extra minutes of time to spare. This will help ensure that you and your student aren’t feeling rushed and can calmly and safely ride to school. This also allows for extra time to lock the bike properly, and especially in the hot September weather, can give your student a chance to cool off before heading to class. It’s better to be early than to arrive at school as the bell is sounding, quickly lock your bike and skip ensuring that it’s properly locked, and arrive in school still dripping with sweat!
Lastly, consider bike insurance, especially if your child is riding his or her nice racing bike to school. Bike insurance doesn’t just cover their bike, it covers cycling gear and even roadside assistance if your kiddo has a flat he can’t fix and you’re not around to pick him up. Get a quote on bike insurance for your kids’ bikes (and yours) right here.