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Heading out en masse as a family can sometimes seem daunting enough without factoring in bikes.
But just because you've got the kids in tow doesn't mean cycling can't be fun. In fact, a family-friendly bike ride is just the ticket for some bonding time, and will teach your children vital skills along the way.
Clearly there are many health benefits to cycling, but it can also improve key skills like balance and coordination. Your children can learn the importance of safety, and how to be alert to potential danger, as they see how you deal with junctions, busy roads and unexpected situations. If you choose to ride locally then another bonus is that your children will begin to learn more about their own area. You can combine this with map reading to get an understanding of how to plan a route, follow and read a map and navigate to and from places. As you travel, point out key focal points that they can recognise as well as locations like the police station, school or supermarket.
But don't leave a successful family ride to chance. There are plenty of resources and websites to help ensure everyone stays safe and has fun. And take heart from the fact that if the kids get enough practice in with you, by the time they reach their teenage years they won't require the services of mum or dad's taxi!
How To Make Your Ride Safe
Always go at the pace of your slowest rider, while they're still gaining their confidence.
Familiarise yourself with the route before you go.
Always check every bike is roadworthy.
Ride with an adult at the front and, if possible, another one at the back.
Avoid peak times like rush hour.
Keeps the rides short or plan plenty of stops.
1. Pick Your Route
The National Cycle Network is a collection of cycle routes, cared for by Sustrans, and all signposted with an easy-to-spot red sign. Pay a visit to the website, which includes a searchable route finder. You can specify the location, the distance and the type of route, including family-friendly, traffic-free options.
2. Ditch The Stabilisers
The HSBC UK Ready Set Ride website is just the ticket to get kids cycling if they're still reliant on their stabilisers. It's packed with activities and games that are designed to get young cyclists more confident to ride independently. After your children have played each game there's a challenge to test their skill, and they can unlock a certificate when they complete it too.
3. Size Matters
Family bike rides are more enjoyable if your child's bike is the correct size. Take a look at ICEBIKE's comprehensive guide to buying the right bike for your child. It uses four approaches to identify the best sized bike – the child's age, height, inseam and the wheel diameter.
4. Read All About It
Grab a copy of Judy Bell's Bicycling with Children: A Complete How-to Guide. From how to bring your baby on a family bike ride to safe cycling for children, this book has all the answers you need. The section on cycling with children features challenges and additional resources.
5. Safety First
It's important that everyone wears a helmet. Although not a replacement for bicycle safety awareness skills it's a crucial piece of safety equipment. Take a look at Raleigh's Kids' Cycle helmet fitting guide online. It takes you through 10 steps to ensure that helmets are a good fit. Over time, straps can loosen and heads get bigger so every few months repeat the steps to ensure kids are protected when you're out on two wheels.
6. Family Cycling Skills
Scoot on over to the Bikeability website where you can find videos aimed at teaching families the skills they need if they're planning on riding together. It includes expert advice on navigating junctions, passing parked vehicles, stopping and starting en route and preparing for your family bike rides.
7. Improve Your Own Knowledge
If your children can ride without the aid of stabilisers then they can take part in the Bikeability training programme. It's often organised through schools once children reach the older year groups. Parents can download the Bikeability Parents' Handbook which detail what your child learned in the programme as well as tips for safe family bike rides.
8. Test Your Skills At An Event
If you want to gain more confidence in family cycle rides, why not find a local Let's Ride Pop Up event near you. These traffic-free events are organised by British Cycling and provide a safe and secure environment for families to cycle together. There are also opportunities to improve your skills, and hands-on training for little ones. Find more details at the Let's Ride website.
9. Don't Let A Puncture Ruin Your Day
Don't leave the house without first downloading the Haynes Bike Repair Guide App. It includes step-by-step video tutorials to follow for basic bike maintenance as well as repair jobs. Not only could it get you out of a tricky fix should someone break down on your family bike ride, but older children can also use the videos to begin to learn how to look after their own bikes – an important skill for all riders. Plus, it's regularly updated with fresh content.
10. Travel Further Afield
Don't be confined to a 10km radius of your own house. If you have a bike rack for your car you can head anywhere to find your perfect family route, even abroad. The Bike Citizens App can certainly make your rides more pleasant. You can find suitable routes for the whole family to enjoy and the route planner uses voice commands so everyone knows where they're headed. It also covers over 450 European cities and offers tips, points of interest and advice for making the most of exploring a new spot under your own steam. Available on Android and iOS (free, but with in-app purchases).
11. Be Prepared
Better to be prepared for every eventuality, which is why we rate the St John's Ambulance First Aid for Cyclists App (Android and iOS). We hope you never need it but if you do there's a heap of essential information for treating the most common cycling injuries that you or your family may encounter.
12. No Bike Needed
No bikes? No problem! Download the Santander Cycles App from Transport for London, and you can find the location of your nearest bike for hire. You can also plan your route, asking the App to find the quietest routes to keep kids safe, and it features a countdown timer so you can take charge of your usage costs. The Santander Cycle scheme operates in London, Milton Keynes and Swansea and is suitable for children aged over 14 years as the bikes are all adult sized.
13. Get Kids Excited About Cycling
Get reluctant riders excited about exploring the world from their bike, with a story from Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy. Flying Fergus 1: The Best Birthday Bike tells the tale of Fergus who gets an old rusty bike for his 9th birthday – but little does he know it's a bike with magic powers.
Cora Lydon is a freelance journalist living in Suffolk with her husband and two children. She’s also a children’s book author who loves finding activities and place to inspire her children. Her dining table bears the scars of many craft activities attempts (many unsuccessful).