Aiden has now spent two summers in bike camps, but with different programs. Damien is in bike camp for the first time this year. This has given me a unique perspective to compare two bike programs offered in North Vancouver: Pedalheads and Escape Adventures.
Last year at age 4, Aiden completed Level 3 of Pedalheads, which was entirely conducted in a field at Brockton School. The camp focused a lot on maneuvering and obstacles, as well as road safety. Following the camp, we focused on teaching Aiden the Level 4 basics ourselves, which were mostly about road safety. We have since done some amazing and long family bike rides.
This year, I wanted both kids to go into bike camps again. Damien, at age 3, was decent on his Strider run bike and was already learning his pedal bike. Given his adventurous nature and overall level of co-ordination (drumming, 2-wheel-scooter, etc), I knew he could pick up pedal biking at this age. Initially, I had both kids registered in Pedalheads: Damien in Level 1, Aiden in Level 4. I felt like Level 4 was a bit basic for Aiden’s skill level, but the next level required a bike with gears, which we don’t have yet. Pedalheads is great for skills, but it’s progression in levels is very rigid.
Then I heard about Escape Adventures, a locally-run bike program which very quickly takes kids outside of fields and roads and gets them on trails. Already it sounded more interesting. Road and trail safety are integrated, but it’s not the sole focus – the actual bike part is quite an adventure! And, as a bonus, the program for Damien’s level was 2.5 hours instead of 1 hour (the Pedalheads equivalent for his age). DONE.
So, I took the cancellation hit and switched the kids into Escape Adventures and it has been the BEST choice. Damien is in Mini Rippers, learning how to start and stop and ride on his own. He was just figuring out the riding part when he started the program, and is now solid on that. He’s officially done with his run bike. Starting and stopping are still a work in progress, but he’s getting there. It’s crazy that my 3-year-old is on a pedal bike without training wheels. Awesome. After working with us throughout the year, I expect I’ll put him in Mini Rippers Trails next Spring, perhaps Little Rippers by Summer. At age 4, his class at Escape Adventures will be far more interesting than it would have been if we stayed on the Pedalheads advancement track.
Aiden has been in Little Rippers Stage 2 and bikes from Lynn Valley’s Kilmer Park down into the Inter River Bike Park, taking different side trails in Lynn Valley between snack and lunch time. He’s grown in confidence amazingly, doing hills and stunts that would have freaked him out last week. It’s amazing to see.
We plan to get Aiden a bike with gears and hand-brakes within the year, either repeating this level or going to the Extreme Riders .5 group in our next session. If that’s the case, Aiden may win the argument and get the full-face helmet he’s been dreaming about!! I just bought him a new helmet, but full-face seemed like overkill for road riding.
This weekend we biked the Spirit Trail from Shipbuilders’ Square in North Vancouver to John Lawson park in West Vancouver, a ride of about 8.5km in each direction. I’ve marked our start and end positions on the official Spirit Trail map, above. The Spirit Trail is almost entirely flat, except for a short incline section at the Harbourside West Overpass, which allows bikers and pedestrians to cross over the CN Rail lines.
We rode with another family, so we had 4 adults (2 with toddler seats) and 2 kids (age 5.5). We rode part of the Spirit Trail last year, ending at Whole Foods for lunch, but this year decided to push further, since our kids very obviously were both faster and had more stamina for a longer ride.
We made the trip there with a stop at a local playground about half way into the ride, to give the kids a chance to have a snack and take a break. On the return trip, the kids pushed through the entire ride with only a brief stop to chat with friends near the Kings Mill Walk Park section, which is a beautiful section of the ride.
The whole ride is very easy, paved, and with wide-paths for the majority of the time. The area near Park Royal requires some street riding (be careful on the bridge and at the intersection), and there can be a bit of pedestrian congestion on the trail in this area too, but generally speaking it’s a super fast ride. The only problematic part of the Spirit Trail is an “incomplete” section through the Mosquito Creek Marina / Squamish Nation, which is not marked well on all maps. It is hoped that an official passage through this area will be ready by 2016, but until then you either have to go around or hope someone at the Marina is generous enough to let you pass through the gated areas.
If you’re in North Vancouver, this a great introduction to longer bike rides for younger kids, with forgiving paths and trails that can help you teach them the rules of safe biking (which come in handy on busy biking trails like at Stanley Park).
Aiden learned to ride his bike this Summer. As the Summer progressed, and the purchase of my own bike, we have been on bigger and better bike adventures. With a parent in front and behind, we felt much more comfortable on road riding scenarios. Our first major road ride was in Harrison Hot Springs. Following the invitation of a good friend, we made the jump and tried out the Stanley Park Seawall as a family. It was AMAZING!
The Stanley Park Seawall is a 9km circuit. The path is fairly easy for young riders, particularly if you have a parent behind to keep your child on the proper part of the path. The view from the whole path is amazing and great motivation for young riders.
Along the way there are many points of interest, from the lighthouse to the spray park to our favourite, Third Beach.
If you plan on biking the full 9km, pack lots of snacks for your young riders. We stopped for a snack early on, then biked to Third Beach for lunch. On our second trip, we added a second bike pannier filled with swim shorts and beach toys, so we were able to spend a very relaxing few hours at the beach! I even packed the Ergo so I could nap Damien when appropriate.
We have ridden this path twice now and it is definitely more fun for little riders when they have friends, but it is entirely doable either way.
Notes for families: The bike path is one-way only. There are a couple of points when you need to walk your bike through busy areas. The path is mostly flat and a very comfortable ride for confident young riders. Be sure your child knows to stay on the right of the path at all times, so others can pass, and can ride in single file without veering off the path (there are no guard rails).
If you have a child in a bike seat like we did, have some handheld snacks on hand to keep them awake if that’s your goal. Damien always started to nod off before nap time, so I was glad we had a lot of snacks on hand. Also pack a light sweater for children in bike seats, as it can be windy and cool in some of the shady areas.
As noted on Let’s Go Biking, the Stanley Park Circle route looks something like this:
View #4 Stanley Park Circle 3Feb13 in a larger map
The only difference we made was to park in the lot on the North side of Georgia, off Denman.
We recently purchased a Strider bike for Aiden. He was a pro at his Wishbone Bike in the 2-wheel combination, but never seemed to get the hang of two wheels. He said it was “tippy.” Since there were a couple of instances when he got on other bikes at stores, while refusing his own bike at home, we wondered if it was too heavy for him.
Since Aiden can be rather temperamental about these things, and we wanted to encourage him to at least try to ride a bike, we opted for the Strider. Damien will be on the Wishbone by next summer (yikes), so we would be looking for a new bike anyway. We loved that the Strider offered tool-free height adjustment.
Aiden took to his Strider right away. Although he has little patience for any activity, he has taken some longer bike rides. He mostly walks his bike, not trusting himself to ‘glide’, but his skill level is improving. He doesn’t usually ask to ride his bike, so I know he’s not in love with it (perhaps because it’s basically just sitting and walking not gliding), but it’s been a good step towards him using the bike.
Did your kids enjoy the run bike concept?
A couple of weeks ago, I learned of the Wishbone Bike from a friend and immediately went out to buy one. I’ve always intended to buy Aiden a balance bike, but those are marketed to kids 2+. Tricycles are also aimed at that age, since the ability to pedal is not something kids at Aiden’s age can figure out yet.
However, the Wishbone Bike is aimed at kids 12+ months!!
The Wishbone Bike starts with 3 wheels – a stable and light base for kids to push themselves along. Later on, it converts to a 2-wheel balance bike. Not to be outdone, the frame flips over when the child is 4-5 and becomes a taller balance bike – one of the tallest on the market.
Aiden can successfully get on and off the tricycle and push himself forward. He doesn’t get much speed yet, just barely reaching the ground, but I figure that, with regular practice, he’ll be flying along by summer time.
Also, he may get a little upgrade on his birthday – the temptation to pimp out his ride is just too much!