29 Sep Riding Electric Bikes as a Family: Tips and Advice
Riding as a family can seem pretty intimidating. Keeping everyone in order and lil’ Jimmy off of Sally’s back is bad enough already let alone while riding a bike.
But now you want to throw a powered motor and battery into the mix as well? Having an electric bike MUST be too much to handle.
Truth is, riding together as a family using ebikes is actually very doable. In fact, it might be easier at times, just so long as you and everyone else knows what they’re doing.
This guide is intended to illuminate parents on how to ride electric bikes with their kids. It covers necessary precautions, gear, key safety tips, and more. We’ll even cover (briefly) the process of finding the best ebike for adults as well as children!
Electric bikes have changed the way people live and get around in this modern world. It’s high time that families jumped on the electric bandwagon.
The mission: have fun while staying safe
The first big family bike ride can go one of two ways:
Scenario A: “I’m having so much fun!” says the ecstatic child – This is the dream for all parents. They prepare everything beforehand, pull their shiny new electric bike out of the garage, strap in the kids, and everything goes more creamy than butter left out overnight. Truly, this is the ideal situation for any family biking together.
Scenario B: “I want to go home!” cries the not-so-happy child – The nightmare scenario, where the kids can’t stop crying and everything falls apart. This can come about from a lack of planning, bikes malfunctioning, and a general unwillingness from all parties involved. Nothing is worse or kills the ebike spirit more than a pack of screaming kids or a pair of adults riding around with their hair on fire.
The key to having a successful outing with the family and electric bikes is preparation and setting the proper expectations. Depending on the size and age of the family, you may not be going fast or really anywhere at all. Could be the case that you just do laps in a park or a quick ride down to the school. It always depends on what you as the parents feel most comfortable doing and what your kids are capable of.
So before starting your family electric bike ride, ask yourself the following questions:
- How old are my kids and what can they handle? Are they old enough to ride an electric bike?
- What kind of (electric) bike do we need as parents and do my kids need? Are the kids going to be riding with us or with their own bikes?
- What kind of accessories will be useful? A child seat? A trailer? Training wheels? Extra storage for snacks?
- Where are we going and what can we expect? Are the kids ready for hills or long distances? Are there places to take a break along the way?
- What are the local rules of the road where I live and do my kids know them?
Let’s dive in and ponder these questions more right now.
Before you ride: Choosing the best electric bike(s) for your family
Choosing the right bike for not only yourself but also the rest of the family is a crucial first step as there are a ton of options out there.
At the very least, you, the group’s brave leader, should have a decent bike. And not just any beater either, but a solid, reliable electric bike.
We suggest starting out at least with an electric city bike, like the Linky EZY. A city bike will offer enough power, comfort, and battery life to handle most family electric bike riding situations.
If you’re in need of something more specialized, there are, thankfully, lots of different ebikes available on the market.
The best electric bikes for families will offer the following:
- A generous rack in the back that can accommodate a child seat or…
- A large bucket where the kids can sit while you ride.
- A stronger motor that can handle the extra weight plus a larger battery to power it.
An electric cargo bike would be an excellent choice. They tick all the above boxes and are very popular with families. They’re great if your kids can’t ride themselves yet and you don’t want to bother with equipping a child seat or trailer. They’re also useful not just when it comes to portering around the kids but also chores and life stuff in general.
Cargo bikes with front-loader buckets are called bakfiets or Long Johns, whilst rear-loaders are called longtails. Which you choose is down to preference.
Other models that are good for family bike rides are eMTBs (electric mountain bikes) and hybrid bikes. eMTBs are a bit tougher and can handle more difficult terrain should your family decide to go biking in the woods or offroad. Hybrids are like a cross between a city bike and eMTB and fall somewhere in between the two in terms of comfort, ruggedness, and power.
Why choose an electric bike for your family outings?
Ebikes are starting to become very popular in all wakes of life. People are using them to commute to work, as means of recreation, and for taking active holidays.
It’s high time that families jumped on the electric bandwagon.
There are lots of reasons to choose an electric bike over a regular bike as a parent.
For starters, you’ll have more riding power, which is crucial in case the kids take off ahead or you need to tow something like a trailer. You’ll also look more like a badass when you crush that big hill and leave the kids in the dirt (just kidding don’t actually do that).
Secondly, you can use your ebike for most of your daily needs. On top of the things that we already mentioned, they’re also great when you need to run errands or shop for groceries, especially if you opt for an electric cargo bike. Seriously, you’ll be surprised at how convenient having an electric bike is and at how much you use it in the course of a day, You might even find yourself ditching the family van altogether.
Special note: can children ride electric bikes?
Whether or not your child is ready and capable to ride an electric bike is up totally up to you. If they are a good riders and you feel confident in their ability to handle a bike with a motor then by all means.
Most parents slowly work their children up the bicycle ladder e.g. training wheels, then solo riding, then the addition of a motor. How long this takes depends on the child’s proficiency and the parent’s guidance.
We, and many others, would recommend NOT giving your children an electric bike right out of the gate. For one thing, it’s probably a bit too much for them to handle at first. Better to have them learn the basics on a regular bike before throwing an electrical dive system their way. For another, depending on their age, it might not even be legal for them to ride an eclectic bike.
Most countries require riders to be 14-16 years old before riding an electric bike. Rules and regulations vary across different regions (this includes US states) but 14-16 is the general rule of thumb. In some cases, riders may even require a license. So ALWAYS check the local laws before giving someone an ebike or riding yourself.
Just start simple. Buy your child a regular bike first and once they get a handle for that and reach a certain age, then buy them an ebike.
The first ebike should also be a simple one – nothing too powerful or too heavy. If the child can handle the ebike system, then upgrade. Bear in mind too that as they get older, they will outgrow the bike and need a larger frame. Don’t waste money by buying them a bike when they’re too young. God forbid they don’t even like biking (shock and terror).
Getting equipped: what you need before riding as a family
Riding a bicycle goes beyond just the bike itself. You need to have the right gear in order to maximize your fun and safety levels.
The most important thing you can equip yourself and your family with is knowledge. Know how to ride an ebike – or any bike in general – before attempting to ride as a group. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re in over your head.
In terms of physical equipment, there are a couple of mandatory items, none more important than a good helmet. Never ride without one – you should be drilling this into the little ones’ heads as well. Always make sure the helmet fits well and make sure it follows all standard safety practices. Refer to this guide for how to fit a helmet properly.
In addition to a good helmet, you will also need:
- Comfortable clothing – Preferably clothing that can get wet and handle the elements. Pack layers.
- Additional safety gear – Gloves, arm and knee pads if the kids tend to fall. A first aid kit might also be called for.
- Proper lighting – Make sure the electric lights work and that there is some sort of reflective material on the bike.
- Drinks and snacks – Stay hydrated and happy. Avoid reaching the point where the child is hungry. Crankiness might rear its ugly head.
- Bike lock(s) – In case you need to stop and lock up. Read up on ebike safety.
Trailer or child seat?
It’s a good question and one that gets asked a lot…
Do you want to install a child carrier on your electric bike or invest in a trailer with which you pull the child?
In all honesty, it totally comes down to personal preference as each has its own pros and cons.
Riding with a child carrier
The classic way of biking with your kids is still common in the era of electric bikes. These come in two varieties: seats that mount to the front of the bike and ones that mount to the rear.
Front-mounted children’s seats are usually intended for younger children who don’t interfere so much with the bike rider’s vision or legs. Rear-mounted seats are better for slightly older children. Both offer decent protection for the child – the rear offers a bit more as the child is behind you – and are usually easy to install on most electric bikes.
The problem with having a child seat on an electric bike is that they can be a bit unwieldy. Your center of gravity will be off and balancing can be more difficult, especially if the child is fidgety. This applies not only to riding but also mounting and dismounting the bike.
Some electric bikes come with a passenger seat pre-installed. These can be convenient as they work not only with children but also with adults. Think electric cargo bike except better for people and less for portering.
Pulling a trailer with an ebike
These are probably the more popular choice with families that use electric bikes as the extra power provided by the motor makes towing much, much easier.
Child’s trailers are great because they don’t affect your center of gravity so much. In fact, they add quite a bit of extra stability as they’re lower to the ground. Because of this, many believe that bike trailers are the safest way to transport children.
The biggest issue with child trailers is that they can be heavy and require extra effort to pull and maneuver. This isn’t so much of an issue though if you have the right ebike. If you intend on pulling a trailer with an ebike, just make sure the motor is more powerful and the battery larger to accommodate for the extra weight.
Transporting your ebikes
Thinking about going on a vacation with your entire family and electric bikes in tow? Excellent idea! Traveling with an ebike can be a ton of fun just so long as you do it right and don’t overcomplicate things.
The key to having a successful ebike vacation with your family is planning. That means knowing where you’re going to go, what you’re going to do, and how you’re going to get there.
First of all, make sure to have a reliable means of transport besides the ebike itself. That usually means having a car with a good ebike rack or the ability to pull some sort of trailer. Note that the type of car you have heavily influences whether or not a rack can actually be mounted (good luck Prius owners).
That being said, a lot of people are opting to ditch the car and travel either by public transport or join an organized tour. Traveling by public transport with an ebike is arguably more doable in Europe where the system is more built-up and trains can actually accommodate the bikes. Whether or not your family or children travel well on public transport is also circumstantial.
To reiterate, before embarking on an epic ebike journey with your family, know ahead of time the practicalities. Plan out, as best you can, the logistics of the trip and assess whether or not the juice is worth the squeeze. Get a good bike rack or arrange for some kind of alternative transport.
People interested in learning more should read our guide on traveling with an ebike.
During the ride: planning makes perfect
Doesn’t matter if you’re going far away or just down the street on a family bike ride, having a plan is always in your best interest. The more you know about the ride, the fewer things can go wrong; and as we all know, families have a tendency to complicate things.
When going for a spin with the family and your electric bikes, make sure of the following:
(First-time family bike ride organizers pay special attention.)
- Plan your route ahead of time – This is imperative! Knowing where you’re going and avoiding tricky spots like hills, rough roads, and construction will ensure you and the kids have a good time. Those living in the city with an ebike already know the benefit of route planning.
- Be the leader – Instruct your kids (not too strictly) on what to do and be very clear about the day’s plan. This can be a simple as telling them “we’re just riding down to the store” or “stick close to me munchkins”.
- Make sure they know enough – Kids, especially young ones, won’t know everything about bike riding yet. But if you have an idea of their aptitude, you can plan a trip accordingly and not introduce them to something too difficult.
- Be patient – Young ones might struggle at first and bike more slowly. Stay with them and keep in mind that this is a learning experience. If you find yourself ahead of the pack often, you might consider cutting the ebike motor and riding un-assisted for a while.
- Be observant – Kids can be temperamental. If it looks like they’re not enjoying themselves, take a break. Give them a snack, chill out, and wait until they’re ready to go again.
- Make it fun – Remember your primary objective? Stay safe while having fun. This is supposed to be a good time, so make it one! Don’t set any lofty goals and just ride. Be positive and praise your children when they do a good job. That’s how you create lifelong cyclists.
Safety: some extra tips for riding electric bikes as a family
As if getting the whole family together for an electric bike outing was hard enough, now you have to keep them all in one piece! Understandably, this part of the trip can be pretty stressful for parents and kids alike.
To ensure that everyone has a good time and is not put into any unnecessary danger, follow these safety tips:
- Check your bikes before riding – Make sure everything on the bike works correctly. Check the tire pressure, brakes, chain, battery level, and motor.
- Stick to lower riding modes – Going fast, especially when the kids are riding with you, is not the goal of this trip. Take it easy and set a leisurely pace.
- Teach them the proper hand signals – Start with the basics, such as indications for stopping and turning. Read up on what the official hand signals are here.
- Ride in safe places and with the flow – Stick to bike lanes or bike paths as much as possible. If these don’t exist, ride on the far edge of the lane as close to the curb as possible, perhaps even on the sidewalk (if it’s legal where you live). Also, never ride against traffic – always go in the same direction.
- Be visible – Wear bright clothing, have reflective surfaces, wear ridiculous costumes while riding if that’s your choice; just make sure that other people can see you and know that you’re riding together.
- Ride as a group – No rogue riders in this family! Everyone should be riding together and within sight. You need to be able to communicate with the kids so make sure they’re within (reasonable) speaking distance. Once they know the rules of the road and are confident riders, then you can let them fly.
Conclusion: ready to get the family together?
Investing in and riding electric bikes together as a family is not just a great bonding experience: it’s also the chance to educate everyone on the benefits of biking in general. This includes environmental impacts, health benefits as well as leading an overall more sustainable lifestyle.
Just don’t forget to make it fun. At the end of the day, bikes are meant to be enjoyed just as much as they are meant to be useful. Plan your route out, have all the necessary gear, and don’t go too hard.
Safety should be a primary concern but no one had a good time in a suffocating situation. Make sure everyone understands the rules of the road and then let them ride. The baby birds have to leave the nest eventually and sometimes all they need is a little push in the right direction.
Light the fire of electric biking in the hearts of your loved ones! Stoke the passion and let them grow into ebike lovers. They and the world around them will be a better place.
Are you a part of a family that rides electric bikes together often? Do you have some personal anecdotes or tips to share? Leave a comment below and let us know!