Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
Did you know that Houston plays host to the largest sanctioned USA Kids Triathlon in the world? Neither did I until our 7-year-old came home from school begging to sign up for the Houston Texans Kids Triathlon. One weekend in May, more than 3,000 kids show up bright and early to the NRG parking lot to swim, bike, and run their little hearts out. The race also doubles as a fundraiser and gives out over $38,000 in charitable contributions to local school teams and organizations. We can’t think of a better reason to get your little ones biking early! While 300+ miles of interconnected bike paths and bike sharing through Houston B-Cycle have made things a lot easier for us grown ups, how do you get your kids on their own two (or three…or four) wheels?
This year, four-time US Olympic Triathlete, Hunter Kemper helped out with the triathlon, and our daughter was lucky enough to attend a training session with him. Hunter is a father of four and knows a thing or two about teaching kids how to ride a bike safely and avoid scraped knees. Read on for his seven bike safety tips to keep in mind when you begin your learning-to-bike journey, plus our picks for great bike stores and places to ride in the Houston area!
• Make sure your bike is in good working order—brakes work properly, tires pumped up, gears and chain work smoothly.
• Get your bike properly fit at a local bike shop. (We’ve got plenty of suggestions—all of which due fittings and tune ups—below!)
• Always wear a helmet and make sure it fits properly. Wear it snug, level, stable and low on your head as possible.
• Practice changing gears so you feel comfortable with your bike.
• Know the rules of the road.
• Stay alert and always keep your head up looking at what’s in front of you.
• Alert other riders when you’re passing and always pass on the left.
• Bike Barn: With locations in Champions, Clear Lake, Katy and University, this is an easy spot for cyclists all over the city to access. They sell an awesome variety, with sizes as small as 12-inches for the 2- 4-year-old itching for their first wheels. Check their online cycling resources for shopping and maintenance tips. Bike Barn also rents bikes along Buffalo Bayou!
• Bicycle World: Find Bicycle World locations in Memorial, West U, The Woodlands and Katy. You can schedule a bike fitting online to assure you get in! Snag a new ride, plus fun streamers, bells and other bicycle goodies while you’re at it! Bicycle World also hosts No Drop rides that are the perfect excursion for families!
• Planetary Cycles: This giant bike shop in Meyerland sells a great variety of kids bikes from 12 inches to 24 inches, and are renowned for their great service.
• Bikeland: Up in The Woodlands you’ll find this awesome bike shop selling kids bikes that are both toddler-friendly and neighborhood-adventure ready.
Once you’re sure you’ve got the biking thing down, now you need a place to ride with family and friends that doesn’t involve dodging traffic! Here are five spots in Houston that are perfect for family bike rides (or a little light triathlon training maybe?).
The city is hard at work on expanding the Brays Bayou Greenway to its eventual 30 miles of hike-and-bike trails, but there are already a number of public parking areas and access points to bike along. It will eventually connect several pretty cool attractions and hidden gems like the Orange Show and Hermann Park, which will make for great bike adventures!
If your family is more into mountain biking, then try checking out some of the color-coded trails in the southwest section of Memorial Park. Rain does affect these trails, so call the trail line at 713-863-8403, ext.1 before you head out. If you’remore of the cycling variety, then the mile long Memorial Park Picnic Loop is a good fit for you. This loop does share the road with runners, stroller walkers, and skaters, so be prepared. (It’s also the perfect chance to practice passing on the left)
Buffalo Bayou Park is a great location for all kinds of outdoor family fun. The Sandy Reed Memorial Trail in Buffalo Bayou Park is realigned and resurfaced, making it great for bike riding. Remember that there are pedestrians too that you will need to watch for. The whole trail is pretty long, so we would suggest looking at the trail map to plan your route. Don’t have your own adult bike? You can rent one from Bike Barn here.
Terry Hershey Park has 10 miles of biking trails with a mix of paved and dirt trails. There are many points of entry, but we suggest the Dairy Ashford entrance for a paved ride. If you want to try one of the mountain biking trails, including the Anthills trail, check this map for access points. These trails are best to ride when dry as they get tacky after a rain.
The trails inside the park are designed for runners, but you can park at Hermann Park and ride your bike over the Bill Coats Bridge to the Urban Forest at Bayou Parkland. It is 80 acres with trails along the bayou. The best access point is a pedestrian underpass below North and South MacGregor. If you don’t have your own bike, but want to bike with your kids, you can also check out the Houston B-Cycle bike sharing program. You can rent the bike for $3 for 30 minutes (and $3 for each additional 30 minute after that) or $9 a month. The bike-sharing stop is located between the Kinder Station and Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park.