Getting out and about on your own or with friends is a great way to exercise, de-stress and see the world from the saddle. However, those of us with children know that taking them out for a bike ride is also a wonderful and rewarding family hobby.
Introducing children to the beauty of biking means that you'll have an inclusive family hobby for many years to come and might even mean you can plan for a family holiday cycling. Children love the great outdoors, the exercise and the thrill of riding faster than their little legs can normally carry them, and of course it's a great way to spend quality family time together. Anything taking children away from their screens and out in the fresh air has to be a good thing!
There are a few important guidelines you need to know in order to keep everyone safe and have an enjoyable time:
Before you set off, it's vital that your children are wearing a suitable, well-fitting cycle helmet. Please don't be tempted to cut costs – your local bike shop will sell you an EN 1078 European Standard approved helmet for your little one(s) and will ensure that it fits and stays on securely. If you wish, there are also cycling mitts, knee and elbow protectors designed for children.
Make sure your children are suitably attired for the conditions – remember that a small non-cycling child will need to be wrapped up warm in cold weather and make doubly sure that there are no 'dangly bits' – laces, loose clothing or soft toys that can end up getting caught in a wheel.
Very young childrenMost children under the age of five will not be able to cycle independently, so you have several options to bring them along on the family bike ride.
Trailer: You can fit a trailer to the back to the back of your back – your local cycle retailer will be able to advise and help you with this. The trailer should come equipped with a flag for visibility and there will be plenty of room to carry all those bits and pieces that are inevitably needed for a family day out – water, snacks, extra clothing, sun cream etc. A trailer is usually a more expensive option and requires a bit more leg power, so the alternative is a:
Child seat: This is cheaper than a trailer and requires a little less leg power, but you'll have to carry those extras on your back. Again, your local bike shop will be able to advise the type of seat that suits your child and bike and they'll be able to fit it for you too.
Once your children are old enough to cycle independently start them off by riding off road. That way you can build their confidence and bike handling skills in a safe environment so when they (inevitably) take their first tumble, there will be no traffic and other hazards around. You will also find it easier to regulate speed and can enjoy a family chat without the roar of the traffic and its attendant fumes.
Although children as young as six can ride up to 12 miles, for your early outings try not to overdo it. Plan a leisurely off-road ride towards an objective such as a café or park – something that the children will enjoy - and above all have fun!