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5 Things You Need to Commute to School by Bike

5 Things You Need to Commute to School by Bike

My seven-year-old son and I bike to and from school every day. It takes about 10 minutes each way, and is mostly flat, so it’s an ideal commute for a smaller cyclist. He is on his own bike and I am on mine. This isn’t an option for everyone, I know – in our last city his school was much too far away and up a giant hill. We’re now in a small European city with extensive bike lanes and an incredible amount of cyclists on the road, so it feels like drivers are much more aware of us.

There are a few bits of kit that make this much easier, most of them really inexpensive. I’ve lusted after cargo bikes and bakfiets, but the reality is with one child we just don’t really need it, nor can we afford it. So if you’re thinking about changing your commute, or just want to ride with your kids more often, take a look:

Bike rearview mirror

Rearview mirror

This bendy-armed thing might look a bit ridiculous, but it has made such a difference. It’s hard not to turn around constantly to see what your child is doing, but with this mirror I can always see him. It minimizes those bike-wobbling full body visual checks too, and allows me to keep my eyes on what’s going on in front of me as well. It just fits on your handle bars, no need to remove grips.

Front and rear baskets, bungee cords

Because we bike to school, there are school bags and sports kit, plus the unwanted jumper or coat on the way home. It’s quite hard to cycle with a backpack on when you’re small, so I have both a front basket, and a big rear basket with a four-hook bungee cord thing that spreads over whatever I have crammed in there. I find this set-up easiest so I am free from backpacks too, and my bike can accommodate whatever comes home from school.

Front and read bike baskets

Lights for everyone

In the autumn and winter, it’s quite dark during commute times, and if it’s raining, visibility to car traffic is tough. Having lights on your own bike and your child’s really helps. Lots of kids helmets also have lights on the back which is a great feature, as rear lights on kids bikes are quite low to the ground. My son has cheap LED USB battery lights on his bike, but I have dynamo-powered lights on mine. I have an after-market bottle dynamo, which is like a little bottle shaped thing next to my front wheel that I can click into place, and it rubs along my tire, generating energy that powers my front and rear lights. I like this because all my lights are screwed permanently in place, and never run out of power. It can make it harder to pedal, and it’s not quiet, but I do mostly city cycling, so it works for me. Also, if my son’s lights run out of battery, at least his helmet light works and mine always do.

biking to school

Gloves and cowl

These gloves don’t need to be fancy – in fact I buy a pile of cheap stretchy gloves from H&M, as well as his main pair, which are fingerless with a flip over top to make them mittens. In the autumn and early winter it can be 1ºC when we set out in the morning. He also has a cowl made from fuzzy fleece which can be easy to whip up on the sewing machine – it looks like a single loop, so no ends to flop about.

biking to school 2

Seat covers for wet weather

Sitting through school with a wet bum is pretty horrible, so we have a selection of waterproof covers to pull over our seats. What we’ve also used: plastic bags tied underneath or shower caps. And if you’ve forgotten to put one on and your seat is soaking, use the seat cover anyway and just sit on it, keeps your bum dry for that ride at least.

Do you cycle often with your kids? How about riding to school? Let me know in the comments!

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Doing the school run by bike – not quite yet

Doing the school run by bike – not quite yet

elBodaBoda-side_595

The thing with cycling with small children is they grow.

You think you’ve got the set-up organized, the rear seat works and everyone is happy, then suddenly they are too tall to fit.

I’m still struggling with the journey to school problem. We’re at the bottom end of a significant 12-block hill, with all routes being on roads shared with light traffic. What I would dearly love is a Yuba ElBoda Boda with my son sitting on the back hanging on. While I would love to make the switch to a cargo bike for most of our trips, that’s just not within our budget. As well as nearly impossible to find in Canada it seems.

Which brings me to our current family cycling solution. I bought an Adams Trail-a-Bike off craigslist for $100, and for longer, mostly flat trips than my son can manage on his own bike, it’s a good solution. It’s heavy, and I miss the rear seat for the lack of added weight (other than the 40-pound kindergartener of course). However when he’s pedalling as well, I can feel the propulsion. I like that he’s doing some work too, which takes the edge off his boundless energy when we arrive home and I’m knackered.

Further downside is I can’t fit a rear rack on my bike when the Trail-a-Bike is attached, and so my cargo is limited by what fits in the front basket.

So until my piggy bank is bursting, and then magically replicates a few times, I’m not sure I’ll be doing the school run by bike for a bit. Though, we have been walking up the Big Hill, and that seems to be working for now. The 25-minute journey one way, though, means I spend nearly 2 hours in transit doing the school run. Not ideal when I’m also trying to get some work done.

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Lovely things: cool schoolbag edition

Lovely things: cool schoolbag edition

Lovely things bags aug 12

 

There is no escaping it, school is coming. At our house, we’re heading into the big tumble dryer that is elementary school this autumn, so that means full days and packed lunch. I am trying very hard not to buy every cool bento thing ever. But first things first – everyone needs a cool schoolbag!

1// Beatrix NY Alexander the Robot

2 // Hanna Andersson Kids There & Backpack

3 // Herschel Supply Co Heritage Kids Collection in Sunday

4 // MadPax LatorGator

5 // Schoolbags for Kids Dragonflyer Fuzzy Flyer

 

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