A New Spin on Family Biking
Cascade Bicycle Club executive director Elizabeth Kiker's family shares resources and tips for getting rolling with the kids.
Photo: Joshua Huston
If you aren’t already the family that stays together by cycling together, now’s the perfect time to give it a whirl. With local cycling clubs and family groups leading the charge, it’s easier than ever to pedal to a new happy place. Don’t let the hills, busy streets or even lack of gear deter you — the Kiker family shows you how to get ready to roll.
As executive director of the Cascade Bicycle Club, Elizabeth Kiker is someone who takes bike riding seriously, having developed a Seattle Bicycle Master Plan and other programs that encourage recreational and commuter cycling. She and her husband, Jason, frequently bike around Seattle with their three children: Oliver, 7, Allyson, 5, and Eleanor, 3. Oliver bikes to and from school most days, and Jason ferries Allyson and Eleanor to preschool via cargo bike.
From their home in northeast Seattle, the family cycles to Matthews Beach, U Village and the Woodland Park Zoo, as well as movies at the Regal Thornton Place Cinemas near Northgate. “We look at the map and usually choose destinations that are within a five or six mile radius of our home, and go,” says Jason.
If all of this causes your head to spin, consider that the Kiker family slowly led up to this. “You have to start small and build incrementally,” says Jason of their learning process. “It sounds cliché, but yes, it’s just like learning to ride a bike.”
Initially apprehensive about family biking (Jason shattered his forearm in a bike accident when he was 25) his attitude is one of trial and resilience. “You have to learn what works best,” Jason says. “And you have to discover what’s bikeable.”
The Kikers first carried their little ones in child seats before graduating to a cargo trailer. “Both take some getting used to,” Jason says. You want to practice to get a feel for shifts in weight and balance, the distance between you and the end of the trailer, and how long it takes to brake.
Seattle abounds in family biking programs. Familybike Seattle offers a wealth of resources, including bike expos, seminars and a full rental fleet. They also organize Kidical Mass rides, where all manner of bikes, trailers, tandems, and trikes are welcome. Pedalheads offers bike safety and skills programs for kids age 2 to 12, including summer camps, and Cascade Bicycle Club offers family classes as well.
Finding the right gear
There’s no need to rush out and buy a bunch of new biking gear, advises Jason, though he’s quick to give a nod to G & O Family Cyclery in Greenwood as the best spot to shop and try out new equipment. The Seattle Family Biking Facebook Group, run by Madi Carlson, who Jason describes as the “matriarch of family biking,” is another great resource. Here, find out about family meetups where you can test ride various equipment, or post a message to the group about what you’re looking for. Craigslist and thrift stores can be a great option too; just be sure to take your stuff to a reputable bike mechanic and have it checked out before you venture too far.
Where to go
The Kikers have always lived on busy arterials, so they’ll often find quieter roads and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways as their preferred travel routes. City and regional bike maps are also available on the Cascade Bicycle Club website. Other family friendly spots include the Burke-Gilman Trail, Bicycle Sundays (select Sundays in summer along Lake Washington Boulevard) and for kids looking to try out mountain biking, the I-5 Colonnade Mountain Bike Skills Park.