Family Biking: Set summer goals and make a biking bucket list

(A goal could help push you into something new. Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

A year ago as a new family biker, I set the modest goal of heading out on “one bike adventure” every week. We weren’t perfect at that (and we took a chunk off on maternity leave), but that little goal pushed us out the door many weeks when we just weren’t feeling it.

Off to new adventures!
(Photo courtesy Shannon Johnson)

Our weekly goal helped us get far more use out of our bike, and it made the difference between us just taking a few casual rides, and riding regularly. Of course, once we were finally loaded up and on the road, we loved the ride and all of its associated adventures. As a result, biking became our favorite mode of transport and the vehicle for the majority of our outings. Biking had taken pride of place, naturally nudging aside our minivan, quietly asserting its own power over the car-dominance of our past lives.

Mindful of this sweet victory, I have begun dreaming up new goals, thinking of new ways to challenge us, to push us farther, develop new skills, and get even more use and enjoyment out of our bicycles.

I would encourage you to think about setting summer goals of your own, or even make a biking bucket list.


How could you get more out of your bicycle? What skills might you improve? What new places might you go?

If you are a long-time cyclist, how can you give back something that biking has given to you? How can you contribute to better cycling in the community?

Below are some questions and suggestions to get you thinking, dreaming, plotting and planning…

Personal Goals (for me):

  • Should I take a bicycle safety course or a bicycle maintenance class to increase my skills?
  • Can I increase my distance/range/challenge of terrain?
  • Where do I currently drive that I could bike? Can I commit to “one less car trip” by making this destination a new always-by-bike destination?
  • Can I try going carfree (or low-car) for a week, a month, all summer long, forever?
  • Do I want to plan a special bike trip? Go bikepacking? Try mountain biking for the first time? Enter a race?
  • Is there any special gear, bike upgrades, or a new bike that would improve my biking life? Can I commit to a savings account or savings jar to put away money to make this purchase? What regular expense could I sacrifice to save for this item?
  • If I usually bike with my kid, or for work/errand reasons, can I add a weekly bike ride that is just for pleasure? How about a momma’s day out? (That sounds like a lovely idea for Saturday mornings!) Would I enjoy solo adventures best, or do I want to invite someone to join me?
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    Family Goals (for the kiddos, or all of us):

  • How far can we ride together? Let’s make a list of new destinations we can bike to! Can we make a map of destinations? Let’s plan the routes together. We’ll cross them off our map after we bike to each one…and maybe we can award ourselves a prize once we’ve biked to all of our new goal destinations. (My friend is doing this with her kiddos. They’re really excited about it.)
  • Can we set a weekly biking goal? Do we want to bike daily? Or try one bike adventure each week? Or set a summer mileage goal? Or maybe a car-free days goal? Can we make a calendar or chart to keep track of our progress? (Maybe you can make it into a bigger project for older kiddos: figuring out how much money you saved on gas, or how much you saved the planet on carbon emissions this summer.)
  • What new bike gear do we want? Bike basket? Gear rack? Cool backpack or panniers? Rain cape? Let’s make a savings jar and save up to purchase this item! (And/or we’ll purchase this item once we meet our biking goals.) We could also make a savings jar for spending on bike adventures: like riding out to buy ice cream at a local shop. This is a good chore reward too!
  • Are the kids ready to bike on their own? What needs to happen for them to be ready to go solo? Is there a bike camp or clinic that could help them gain the skills and confidence to head out on their own bike adventures?
  • Are we ready to go bike camping? Is there a biking vacation we are ready to try?
  • Community Goals (give back to the community):

  • Am I a BikePortland subscriber? Can I increase my support? (Yep, I’m plugging that here. But seriously, it’s one of the first things I did after I got my bike as a thank you to BikePortland for community-focused reporting and for inspiring me to start riding with my kids.)
  • Have I tried any group rides? How can I ride with others for a good cause? Or join in a regular group ride to build up community?
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  • Are there any biking advocacy organizations I can contribute to, or volunteer for?
  • Can I volunteer as a bike mechanic for a shop that donates bicycles to those in need?
  • Do I have any old bikes I can donate?
  • Can I work as a biking summer camp instructor? Or get trained as a League Cycling Safety Instructor? Is there anyone I can invite to join me?
  • Who of my friends/neighbors can I invite to begin biking, who doesn’t already? Can I encourage a colleague to bike commute? Can I encourage my neighbors to form a “bike bus” to school, or make the daycare drop by bike? Can I provide encouragement and support by riding with them until they are comfortable?
  • What would make biking better in my community? What can I do to contribute to better biking? Can I get my kids/spouse/friends involved too?
  • Just for Fun Goals:

  • What silly thing would make biking more fun? Is there a sort of biking fun that I haven’t considered because it’s out of my normal ? Cyclocross maybe? Next year’s Tweed Ride?
  • Commit to a childish ride in the rain: splash through all the puddles, just for the fun of it!
  • Can I decorate my bike? My kid’s bikes? How can we personalize and accessorize? Streamers? Basket? Reflective stickers? Helmet hat?
  • Have you given your bike a name? Or, for a family bike, let your kids do the bike-naming. Make a name tag and use it to personalize your unique bicycle.
  • Celebrate your family biking birthday! Throw a bike party. Eat cupcakes. Ride your bike.
  • ***

    I hope these spur some ideas. A bit of goal-setting could be just the thing to get you and your family out of any ruts you may have fallen into and get you moving in the right direction this summer and beyond.

    P.S. Stay tuned for my post of upcoming summer bike camps and clinics, which you might want to include on your list. (Please email me with any bike camps/clinics that should be included, or leave a note in the comments.)

    Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)

    Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)

    Shannon is a 36-year-old mom of  five who lives in downtown Hillsboro. Her column appears weekly. Contact her via

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    1 year ago

    Try mountain biking for the first time?

    Yes! I got a coworker to join me at Sandy Ridge for his first time mountain biking, and he said it was the most fun he’d ever had. Caution: May be habit-forming. (He bought his own mountain bike within a few months after that ride.)

    Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)
    Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)
    1 year ago
    Reply to  Matt

    This is great to hear. I think we underestimate the value of personal invitations to encourage folks to try something new. And I am really eager to try mountain biking…I wish someone would invite me!

    1 year ago

    I especially like the goal of going car-free for one month. There’s strong evidence in psychology studies that it takes at least three weeks to form a new habit. For families that regularly use two cars, I’d recommend only using one car for a whole month. Great article!