Everything You Need to Know to Start Biking With Your Family
Welcome to our new series on family hobbies, real advice from real families on how they spend time together, both inside and outside the home.
Family names and ages: Emily, Peter, Katherine (9), and Brynn (7) Jabbour
Where they live: Hoboken, New Jersey
Family hobby: Urban biking
Emily Jabbour, Hoboken councilperson-at-large, can often be found riding her bicycle around the 1 square mile city on Hudson River. During COVID lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, biking became a family activity, as it did for many. “There were shortages on bikes during COVID, because this became a hobby that a lot of people discovered,” she says. “I looked at the data on our bike share program for the city, and rates went way up. Everybody was looking for something they could do outdoors that was safe.”
Now, biking around town — as transportation, for leisure — is entwined in the rhythms of life. Cubby spoke to Jabbour about her “wheelie good” family hobby, from how she got her kids into it to their essential biking gear:
How long have you been biking around the city and how did you get into it?
“Five years ago, I was running for city council for the first time and became friendly with an incumbent council person. Jim was an avid cyclist and, as a hobby, liked fixing old, busted bikes. He fixed one up for me so that I would have it to toodle around town on all these campaign events with him. We were like a funny, little biker gang! It was the most convenient way to get around town while we campaigned.
As my older daughter got a bit older, we got her a bike. Teaching a kid to bike is not easy or straightforward, but once she became adept at it, she and I would go on bike rides all the time. My husband would be on a scooter; I’d have my bike; my older daughter would have a bike; my younger would have her little foot pedal scooter. We’d all be getting around town, just for fun, to do something to break up the time.”
What do you love about it?
“As an adult, it makes you feel like a kid, because you’re freely out biking around with your children. It’s invigorating. My favorite way to see the city is on a bike — the best way to get up close and personal with what’s going on. You run into people and stop and have a conversation. It’s practical and social at the same time.”
How did your kids take to it?
“During lockdowns, it was something we looked forward to. It’s more seamless now that things have gone back to a normal cadence of things — going to school, going to softball, going to basketball. It’s built into our routine. I’ll ask my elder daughter, ‘Do you want to walk there or do you want to bike there?’ If we’re late, because we’re often late, I say, ‘We have to bike there because we need to get there fast! We don’t have a choice. You’ve got to pedal, kid.’ My younger one hasn’t learned to ride a bike yet. She had a balance bike for a while. She was hesitant to do much biking during the cold months; we’re revisiting it with her this summer.”
What were your initial costs? What are the upkeep costs?
“I was lucky. My first bike was the one that Jim fixed up for me. Her name is Lulu. That cost me nothing. Once in a while, I have to get the brake pads replaced, and we have a bike shop in town. Wear-and-tear type of repair has never cost more than $20 or $30. My older daughter’s first bike was a My Little Pony-themed bike with training wheels from Target — less than $100 (here is a similar one]. When she really got into biking, we inherited a bike from someone else. My husband bought a bike during COVID lockdowns. There were shortages on bikes during COVID, because I think this became a hobby that a lot of people discovered. We went to Grove Street Bicycles in Jersey City. It was about $350. But it’s nice to live in a community with a lot of families who are often passing along the things that their kids outgrow. That’s the way to do it.”
What are your must-have family biking gear?
“Our clip-on baskets are our favorite thing. We’re carrying our stuffed animals. We’re carrying our water bottles. I have my purse. I have a more fixed basket on the front, because I use mine for grocery shopping and schlepping things home. My daughter loves her bicycle bell. She’s trying to learn the practice of street biking versus sidewalk biking. She’s in that in-between stage: sometimes it’s safer for her to just stay on the sidewalk, but when it’s Sunday morning and traffic isn’t as crazy, and we’re on side streets, I’m trying to teach her how to ride on the street. Having a bell has been really helpful for her, in terms of making sure cars hear her. The girls have these bike helmets, and my helmet is whatever the bike store has in stock!”
What advice or tips do you have for other families wanting to take up urban biking?
“Don’t push too hard. It took a little while to get it into our routine. Some kids come to it more naturally than others. It can be frustrating, especially for kids who are starting to learn and get comfortable with biking. It’s been frustrating moving to street riding with my daughter — making sure that we’re staying together. I don’t want my kids to see it as a chore to go out for a bike ride. I always want it to be fun for them, even if it’s for the very specific purpose of getting from point A to point B.”