Getting the kids riding bikes is a real achievement. Keeping them enjoying the riding experience is another mission! The temptation to push your own enjoyment of riding bikes onto them is hard to ignore. Here are some ideas to keep cycling with kids fun for the whole family. From those first wobbly pedal strokes, into the teenage years and beyond!
1. Route Planning
Keep it interesting, keep it short and keep it flat! Plan on the side of caution, it is better if a short ride is completed easily, rather than a long ride that ends in tears. If a longer (or hillier) route is planned then consider getting a method of towing when little legs get tired. A TowWhee is light-weight to carry and can be quickly attached to any sized bike or rider. For smaller children consider a Trail-gator, this stays attached to your bike when not in use and takes around 3 minutes to connect when needed.
Traffic free paths are best and kids love being able to ride their bikes where there are lots of things for them to be able to see and do along the way. Have a look at some of these route ideas from Sustrans.
As they get older and more confident on their bikes you can get more adventurous and start heading away from the paved paths. Forestry England have an excellent network of way-marked trails to explore.
Us Brits are famous for saying “There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” That is not true when it comes to cycling with kids! In cold weather little fingers and toes quickly become frozen which is no fun for anyone.
Cycling in heavy rain and strong winds can also be pretty miserable for even the most seasoned of cyclist. Children don’t have the same levels of resilience compared to an adult, so if the weather is looking dubious it is probably better to find a different activity!
Whatever you do don’t leave home without snacks and plenty of them! Kids are ruled by their tummies! Children have a much higher metabolism compared to adults and smaller stomachs so they need food in more regular quantities. Smaller wheels and fewer gears also means they will be working harder.
A range of snacks will keep them going longer and keep them happier! Things like nuts and dried fruit offer a good alternative to sweets. A planned cafe or ice-cream stop on the route is always a hit!
Kids bikes have come on leaps and bounds in recent years. There is an excellent selection of bikes out there and having a bike that is the right size and in good-working order is really important to make cycling enjoyable.
Both Isla Bikes and Frog Bikes design and build bikes specifically just for kids. But most of the bike manufacturers offer a children’s range. You don’t have to buy new, eBay and Facebook Market Place are great for finding pre-loved bikes, kids grow quickly! The Hope Academy is a great scheme where you ‘rent’ a bike on a monthly subscription basis and they will send you a new one when the previous bike has been outgrown. Ensuring they always have a quality bike that is the correct size.
Clothing is also important for protection and comfort. Little Rider have a great selection of technical bike wear for kids. We really rate their gloves, which can be difficult to find for small hands. A well-fitting helmet should be worn and all the major manufacturers offer child and youth sizes. We have always found Giro helmets to be good quality and true to size.
5. Keep it fun!
Most of important of all keep it fun! It doesn’t matter how far or fast you go or how many times you have to stop. If everyone gets to the finish with a smile on their faces it will have been worth it! Cycling with kids is a great way to get everyone outside, improving not only their physical health but also their mental well-being.