Northern Michigan Vacation: checked in with Christian Janssens, peddling papa of three and owner of Latitude 45 bike shop in Petoskey, for great gear and ideas about making biking in Northern Michigan fun for the whole family.

For the wee ones:Can’t quite spin those wheels yet? Janssens suggests looking into trailers like the Chariot Cougar 2, which allows you to “comfortably pull the kids along while they read books, munch on snacks or check out the Northern Michigan view, all while they are safely shielded from the sun and covered should it rain.  These trailers have plenty of room from storage and ride like a dream.”

The Balancing Act:
For toddlers and young children, balance bikes like the Strider that Latitude 45 carries are all the rage.  Instead of learning to master a two-wheeler via traditional training wheels, these bikes take out the “scary” factor by teaching kids necessary control and balance without peddles. Their feet can find the ground whenever the wobbles hit.   Latitude 45’s website has a video of Janssens’s twin boys rocking their Strider bikes: latitude45.comAlmost Ready for Riding Solo:
“The Giant Halfwheeler tag-a-long bikes allow that up and coming young rider, just off of training wheels, to enjoy a great ride with the family on the bike path and most importantly, to keep up.  Multi-speed and single speed options available,” Janssens said.
The Cool FactorWhen it comes to the big kids, fit (and style) matters.  Janssens said the Giant Kid’s Bicycles his Petoskey shop sells come with wheel sizes of 12 inches, 16 inches, 20 inches and 24 inches, allowing any young rider to find the perfect bike.  With “training wheels on some, single speed on others, multiple speeds too—these bikes are age appropriate in all ways, especially when it comes to their colorful paint jobs,” he said. 

And of course, bells, horns, streamers and baskets make any kid’s bike more fun.Janssens offered the following tips for fostering enthusiastic young riders:

Make the distances realistic and have a destination, like the Bob-In in Petoskey  (located alongside the Little Traverse Wheelway) for frozen custard.

Make sure that the bicycles are functioning properly prior to pulling them out of the car just before the ride.  Look for flat tires and check for brakes rubbing or shifting problems.  If you need help, head to a local bike shop.

Let the kids put on their helmets in the house and wear them around prior to the day you plan to hit the trail.  Make a game out of the "helmet day" and play astronauts or something creative.  Take the opportunity to make sure that the straps are aligned properly and that the helmet actually fits.  If you are unsure, head to the local bike store for help.

Bring snacks and water – kids need and love to eat!

Do not expect perfection the first time out (but know that at one point, it will come around when you least expect it)!