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For Parents / FAMILY OUTING : Trails Offer a Safe Place to Pedal : Experts also advise bike riders to stay away from traffic, make sure children understand rules of the road and ensure that everyone, especially those under 18, wears a helmet.


It's a lonely spot where the San Gabriel River Bike Trail begins, near where Azusa Avenue becomes San Gabriel Canyon Road.

The hills rise high above the trail and scrub brush abounds. But the secluded trail can be a perfect spot, especially for parents who want to ride their 10-speeds while the kids roll along beside them.

On weekends, bicyclists can buy permits across the road at a National Forest Service building, park their cars on the roadside and pedal off. The trail is marked by a small yellow sign rising above the weeds.

Using a safe and scenic trail is just one bit of advice for prospective bicyclists, however.

For starters, all riders should "stay away from traffic," said Brian Arnett, manager of Covina Schwinn. "Most of the streets in the (Covina) area are wide enough for traffic and bikes.

"And also make sure your children understand traffic laws," he said.

Just because children are riding two-wheelers doesn't mean they're up to keeping pace with an adult.

"With kids, it's helpful if they're old enough to ride a bike with multiple speeds on it," Arnett said. Typically that means about 7 years old.

Youngsters weighing 40 pounds or less can ride in a baby seat; older toddlers might ride in a bike trailer. Arnett said trailers can handle up to 150 pounds, "and the weight limit is not on the trailer; it's on how much the bike can really pull."

Every rider should wear a helmet, and state law now requires those younger than 18 to wear one.

All riders should ensure that their bikes are roadworthy. "You want to make sure that the tires hold air pressure properly and (that) the brakes and the shifting systems are working properly," Arnett said.

It's also important that riders not overdo it on their first ride. Start with a mile or shorter, using a bicycle odometer to keep track of the distance. Carry water, especially when riding more than five miles. Riders should bring along food if they plan a long ride.

Besides the San Gabriel River Bike Trail, there are many suitable places for riders. The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission publishes a map of bike trails, paths and lanes that may be obtained from any Parks and Recreation Department office. Or call the commission at (213) 244-6539 and leave an address to which a map can be mailed.

The map also contains tips on bike riding for families and for commuters.

The Details

What: Family bike riding.

Where: The San Gabriel River Bike Trail begins just beyond where Azusa Avenue becomes San Gabriel Canyon Road. Several other trails can be found on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission bike map.

When: Daylight hours are best for family riding.

Cost: Free.

More information: (213) 244-6539.

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