1) Ride a lot. Log as many saddle hours as possible to get your child used to being on the bike. One of the worst parts of a bike tour are the first couple weeks when your bum is getting used to being perched on a saddle all day. Logging plenty of hours beforehand eliminates that problem.
2) Praise, praise, praise. Nothing breeds success like success, so let your child know he’s doing a great job. If he makes it up a small hill without pushing – high five! Made it seven miles without taking a break – good job! By praising your child for small accomplishments on the bike, you’ll build up his confidence so he’ll be able to push himself a bit farther next time.
3) Gradually build up distance. If you cycled five miles this weekend, aim for seven next week. Your child will barely notice the small incremental gains, but he will be building strength all the time.
4) Set a slow, steady pace. Children are great for bursts of energy, but not so good for the long haul. As you cycle with your child, teach him to set a steady pace that can be maintained for a long time. That may mean you go in front so he can follow.
5) Choose interesting destinations at first. The motivation for riding will, at first, come from the destination. Once your child learns the joy of riding that won’t matter any more, but at first aim for some location he wants to visit – a park, BMX track, or swimming hole.
6) Sandwich your child to teach him rules of the road. This is the most dangerous part of cycling, as your child won’t know how to ride on the road when you first start. Have him ride between two experienced riders so he has an example to follow and someone behind that’s watching out for him and can call him back if need be. The hardest part for kids to grasp is that they, alone, are in their particular spot in time and space. Just because the leader can safely pull out for a left turn doesn’t mean the child can. He needs to learn to look for himself and decide if he can turn.
7) Give him panniers. It’s tempting to let your child ride unencumbered on your tour, but he’ll feel more a part of the group if you give him some panniers. Don’t load them heavy – maybe just his toys and clothes – but he’ll take more ownership of the tour if he’s fully part of it.