Before they started a family, Steve and Barbara Fuller of Lancaster biked thousands of miles a year, from fast 20-milers around Wachusett Reservoir to weeklong bike camping trips in the Rocky Mountains.
As parents, they have much less time for cycling. But with some planning and an investment in adaptable equipment, the Fullers have made biking a family activity and have seen their enthusiasm rub off on Stephanie, 5, and Lindsey, 3.
They first put Stephanie in a bike trailer when she was 3 months old, cradled in an infant car seat, with toys hanging from the top of the enclosure.
"You can still average 10 to 12 mph" pulling the trailer, Steve Fuller said. "Of course, it bogs down on the uphills and into the wind ... Barb would pull sometimes, but usually it was me.
"You go out for the purpose of exercise and fresh air, not biking like you used to," he continued. "It's maybe 45 minutes to an hour. I don't believe in two- or three-hour rides with little kids. They're too cooped up. Kids want to move."
They got a helmet for Stephanie as soon as she could hold her head up.
When Lindsey was born, they got a second trailer because they couldn't fit the infant seat and the 2-year-old in one trailer. But after a year, when the girls were 1 and 3, they could ride in one trailer together. "The problem was they'd fight," Fuller said.
When Stephanie was almost 4, the family got a tandem bicycle rigged with a "kiddie stoker" kit. A separate chain runs up the rear seat tube, allowing the pedals to be raised within reach of a child's feet, and an extra-long stoker stem puts the handlebars within reach.
Father and daughter started off with 4-mile rides and have worked up to 15 miles at a time. Fuller said the bike suits Stephanie's personality. "On the tandem, Stephie's becoming much more mature. I can have almost adult conversation with her while we're riding. We talk about what we're doing and what we see. So from the standpoint of communication with me, it's been great," Fuller said. "And she's extremely proud of herself on the back of that thing."
The Fullers just bought a second tandem, and Lindsey can't wait to try it when she gets a little bigger. Steve and Barbara ride together on a tandem when they have a baby sitter because it allows them, despite disparate fitness levels after Barbara's pregnancies, to bike together and talk.
"Our intention is next year to be able, all four of us, to just take off on bikes," Fuller said.
His tips for family bike rides:
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