Small legs can tag along for a big ride

Six members of Scanlon family with their bikes and tagalongSix of the best: the tagalong meant the Scanlon family could enjoy riding even when the boys were quite young. Photo: Eddie Barkla

Gerard and Heather Scanlon are used to attracting attention with firsts.

“There was a woman who stopped at the lights when Brendan was on the baby seat and took a photo. I’m sure it was because he had this bright helmet on,” said Heather.

But that was nothing compared to the interest they generated when they brought their first tagalong.

“The first [Great Victorian Bike Ride] we did Nathan had his photo in the Melbourne Age, because they’d never seen a kid on a tagalong before,” said Gerard.

Gerard and Heather have always love cycling. They toured Europe and Ireland by bike before settling in Bendigo. The bush tracks and paths and cycling friends offered plenty more riding.

When their first son, Brendan, arrived they wanted to keep it up. So they bought a baby seat and bright new helmet in Melbourne and Brendan went with them.

When son number two joined them, Brendan was too big for a baby seat, but too young to keep up on his own bike. What were keen cycling parents to do?

In the US, equally keen parents were hooking tagalongs to their bikes. Heather and Gerard saw a magazine article about them, thought it was the perfect solution.

But no one sold them and tracking one down in the days before the Internet was hard work.

“I remember ringing around cycling clubs in Melbourne saying if anyone’s got one can they tell me where they got it from,” said Gerard.

Finally Daryl Gilmore imported one for them and they were off and riding.

As the family grew, the baby seat and tagalong were joined by a second tagalong. Now a family of six, all four boys have inherited their parents’ love of two wheels and all have done a Great Victorian Bike Ride on the tagalong.

“People saw the fun that we were having and were really impressed. The were intrigued with the idea that, hey, I can bring my child with me”, Gerard remembered. “Each year there were more and I imagine now they’d be quite common.”

Six hours is a long day for small legs, so the boys took turns over the five day ride. “We weren’t racing. We’d just meander along enjoying the countryside,” said Gerard.

“Often the last ones in,” Heather chipped in. “I remember meeting them at one stage and Caleb was asleep under a tree.”

Apart from making it easier for a child to keep up with older riders, it’s also a lot safer.

“When you’re riding with a young child, they’ll be chatting away and then they’re drifting out onto the road. Whereas with the tagalong, they’re there, you know they’re safe,” said Heather.

“You have to watch out when you’re stopped at lights and then you take off – you need to make sure the kids are ready.”

Talking to your passenger is really important, but that’s half the pleasure according to Gerard.

“When you’re a family of six, you have to make the effort to spend some quality one-on-one time with each other. The thing I enjoyed most about tagalongs was that you can have a chat as you ride and they’re always in close proximity.”

Naturally the bikes and tagalong went with them when the family spent a year in Broome. “It was a big hit.” said Gerard. “All the local kids wanted to go for a ride.”

Tagalongs are much more common in Bendigo now, but the sight of a small person happily pedalling along behind mum or dad still tempts you to get your camera out.
Gerard and Heather Scanlon are used to attracting attention with firsts.

“There was a woman who stopped at the lights when Brendan was on the baby seat and took a photo. I’m sure it was because he had this bright helmet on,” said Heather.

But that was nothing compared to the interest they generated when they brought their first tagalong.

“The first [Great Victorian Bike Ride] we did Nathan had his photo in the Melbourne Age, because they’d never seen a kid on a tagalong before,” said Gerard.

Gerard and Heather have always love cycling. They toured Europe and Ireland by bike before settling in Bendigo. The bush tracks and paths and cycling friends offered plenty more riding.

When their first son, Brendan, arrived they wanted to keep it up. So they bought a baby seat and bright new helmet in Melbourne and Brendan went with them.

When son number two joined them, Brendan was too big for a baby seat, but too young to keep up on his own bike. What were keen cycling parents to do?

In the US, equally keen parents were hooking tagalongs to their bikes. Heather and Gerard saw a magazine article about them, thought it was the perfect solution.

But no one sold them and tracking one down in the days before the Internet was hard work.

“I remember ringing around cycling clubs in Melbourne saying if anyone’s got one can they tell me where they got it from,” said Gerard.

Finally Daryl Gilmore imported one for them and they were off and riding.

As the family grew, the baby seat and tagalong were joined by a second tagalong. Now a family of six, all four boys have inherited their parents’ love of two wheels and all have done a Great Victorian Bike Ride on the tagalong.

“People saw the fun that we were having and were really impressed. The were intrigued with the idea that, hey, I can bring my child with me”, Gerard remembered. “Each year there were more and I imagine now they’d be quite common.”

Six hours is a long day for small legs, so the boys took turns over the five day ride. “We weren’t racing. We’d just meander along enjoying the countryside,” said Gerard.

“Often the last ones in,” Heather chipped in. “I remember meeting them at one stage and Caleb was asleep under a tree.”

Apart from making it easier for a child to keep up with older riders, it’s also a lot safer.

“When you’re riding with a young child, they’ll be chatting away and then they’re drifting out onto the road. Whereas with the tagalong, they’re there, you know they’re safe,” said Heather.

“You have to watch out when you’re stopped at lights and then you take off – you need to make sure the kids are ready.”

Talking to your passenger is really important, but that’s half the pleasure according to Gerard.

“When you’re a family of six, you have to make the effort to spend some quality one-on-one time with each other. The thing I enjoyed most about tagalongs was that you can have a chat as you ride and they’re always in close proximity.”

Naturally the bikes and tagalong went with them when the family spent a year in Broome. “It was a big hit.” said Gerard. “All the local kids wanted to go for a ride.”

Tagalongs are much more common in Bendigo now, but the sight of a small person happily pedalling along behind mum or dad still tempts you to get your camera out.

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