Damien is the crazier of our two kids. He is the one most likely to run, not walk. To jump from high places. To run into traffic laughing. To need to be told 3 times to stop before actually stopping. To laugh when he falls. He’s also crazy co-ordinated, so we’ve armed him with his own 2-wheel scooter since he was 2 and a pedal bike since his 3rd birthday. He spent 2 days using the training wheels then we worked on taking them off. With the aid of Escape Adventures and his own daring co-ordinated nature, he’s become a strong biker. Thankfully, he’s also recently learned how to stop!
Now, whether it was wise to arm this child with the ability to go faster than we can… we are working HARD on his listening skills!
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.
Last year, in an effort to safely teach Aiden to ride on roads, I purchased a new bike. The first bike I’ve had in many years. As someone who has suffered from neck injuries for many years, I thought my biking days were done… until I was introduced to the city bike style. City bikes allow you to sit more upright, like you see all over Europe, and suddenly the world opened up to me! I love my Brodie Bike!!
Last year, we took some long bike trips as a family, including around Stanley Park and more recently along the Spirit Trail. I’ve been wanting to bike on my own a lot more, but have had difficulty finding time in my schedule go head out. I think I’ve also been a little stubborn on my road to physical recovery, wanting to resume running nearly 1.5 years after I injured my foot. After a few months of ‘saying’ I wanted to switch the toddler bike seat onto my bike, it’s finally happened! And, since then, I’ve managed to take Damien on 3-4 rides per week – even trips to pick him up from preschool, then a jaunt up to the park for his lunch, are enough to fit in my ‘workout’ for the week.
Biking with a 3-year old strapped onto the back is a lot harder than just biking on my own. It’s taken some practice to get used to the balance, and I’m getting a lot more of a workout on the hills for sure!
Damien still loves riding in the bike, though we’re starting to hear a bit of grumbling about him wanting to ride his bike instead. For now, this is working out for us. I’ll take advantage of it as much as I can, at least until Aiden is out of school and unwilling to take such hilly rides!!
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.