If you're keen to encourage your children to take up cycling, making their early cycling experiences enjoyable is a good start. If they enjoy it, they'll want to do more and more bike rides and will gain confidence with every revolution of the pedals.
When you plan your first cycle ride with them, whether they're riding their own bikes, are on a tag-along cycle or in a trailer, these tips might help:
- Plan your route using the local Ordnance Survey (OS) map or look at your local/county council website - they may well publicise suitable routes in your area. Your local tourist information office will also be able to assist you.
- Choose a flat route, perhaps using disused railway lines or where wide, enough canal/river paths. Note: if the children are on their own cycles and are not yet confident riders, a disused railway path or your local park might be the best option.
- Don't make the route too long - you can build up your family cycling distances over a period of time. Too many hills along the way are probably not a good idea either. After all, you want your children to enjoy themselves!
- Where possible, try to make the ride more fun by making the destination really enticing. Cycle to a play park, for example, go for a picnic, or visit a local attraction that all will enjoy - if the latter, it's worth checking to see if there's somewhere secure to park your bikes.
Dad and daughter on a ride
- Be prepared for plenty of stops - there's so much to see on a bike ride that it's a shame to keep going at all costs. It's really better to travel than arrive in many cases!
- Easily removable layers are another must - temperature control is vital to happy cycling. Too many, you'll get too hot and sweaty but too few and children will easily get cold and miserable. Good quality cycle clothing is hard to come by but Altura and Polaris have a reasonable range for kids. If your children wear helmets, full-length zips will spare you many hours of wrangling to get clothing on and off without taking the helmet off.
- If you can't afford cycle clothing, 'normal' clothing will do fine for most rides although leggings or tracksuit trousers are preferable to jeans, especially if the weather is damp, and sturdy shoes are better than soft-soled ones. Cycling mitts or gloves will spare small hands from blisters if they're not used to holding brake levers.
- Take plenty of snacks and drinks - cycling is thirsty work and a stop for a sandwich, some dried fruit - or even chocolate - can boost the spirits and blood sugar levels enormously.
- Above all, enjoy yourselves and you'll want to keep cycling!