Cycling with kids this school holidays: #Reasons To Ride

Helen Pollard By Helen Pollard

Cycling can be one of the easiest outdoors activities you can access as a family on a daily basis. A bit of planning and preparation can avoid meltdowns, and allows you to #GetOutside and have safe adventures.

Remember children are not little adults, therefore making a decision on conditions and routes should be always based on suitability for the child not on what the grown-up person can manage!

Kids starting cycle route in countryside

1. Bike

  • INVEST in a good quality, well-fitting bike.
  • CARE for your bikes properly and it will pay you back. Make friends with your local bike shop and treat the bikes to an annual service as a minimum.
  • CHECK your bikes. Bikes should be checked quickly before every ride. The bike itself will normally tell you if there is a problem (it will squeak or look funny). Involve kids with these checks and encourage ownership and care of their personal bike.
  • PAMPER your bike. It can be tempting to dump the bikes at the end of a long ride, take 5 minutes to wash down (NO power washing!!) dry and re lube the chain before storing somewhere dry. It will keep everything working better for longer.

2. Clothing

  • SHORTS: padded cycling shorts, they will save loads of moaning I promises.
  • GLOVES: useful in all weathers and essential in cold conditions. Make sure they are suitable to pull the brakes safely especially in very small children. Wear them from the start, cold fingers take a long time to get warm again.
  • WINTER KIT: the key to continuing cycling with kids throughout winter is appropriate clothing including: good base layers, good quality well-fitting waterproofs including leggings water proof socks, tubed scarf.
  • HI-VIZ: be seen!

3. Helmet

  • ESSENTIAL KIT: No excuses.
  • SAFETY STANDARDS: Look for the CE mark! This indicates it meets minimum safety standards.
  • INVEST: Not all helmets are the same. A minimum guidance is approx £30. The high cost of branded helmets over budget lines relates to build quality, comfort and to a small extent the design.
  • INVOLVED: Get your child to be involved in the purchase, they are much more likely to enjoy wearing something they have chosen personally.
  • TRY BEFORE BUYING: It is again worth shopping in a good retailer for the helmet kids head shapes vary hugely! Sometimes they may need an adult size.
  • SHELF LIFE: Due to the degradation of the polystyrene by sunlight manufactures recommend changing helmets every 3-4 years or as the child grows. In addition, helmets should not be stored in direct sunlight such on a car back shelf.
  • BIN IT! Helmets that are involved in a crash or show signs of cracks however small should be replaced.

Child wearing correctly fitting cycle helmet

4. Kit for the adults bag

For longer adventures further away from home its worth considering carrying the following:

  • Spare tubes, pump and tyre levers
  • First aid kit
  • Extra layers including socks and gloves
  • Emergency sweets, jelly babies are excellent for flagging legs and post-crash pick me ups.
  • Water
  • Personal shelter or emergency blanket
  • OS map of your area
  • Well charged phone in a water proof case
  • Bit of cash (a spontaneous cafe stop is always well received in the summer or an ice-cream)

Destinations

This decision is a very individual one and is dependent on the individual’s child’s age and cycling capacity and bike types. Remember wherever you go make it an adventure, take a packed lunch, stop for a paddle!

Group of kids cycling in the countryside

Off-road mountain bike trail riding

Upside:

  • Reduced risk of traffic related incidents away from vehicles.
  • Accessible option in wintery slippy conditions.
  • Kinder on your bikes in winter with less exposure to corrosive salt and grit.
  • Tip! Remember that you cannot use footpaths to cycle on.

Downside:

  • Environmental conditions on natural trails.
  • The temp will drop 3 Degrees Celsius every 1,000 feet without taking into consideration the increase wind chill factors.
  • Also, if you do have a first aid incident or mechanical issue, you will be more exposed and further away from outside support.
  • Tip! Kit preparation and destination choice based on weather conditions is key.

We use the Mountain Weather forecast and have installed both OS maps app and OS Locate on phones in addition to carrying OS paper maps.

Also consider setting up the 999-texting service.

Kids at bike park

​Don’t feel up to trail riding or the weather is rubbish?

Think about at trip to:

  • Converted Railways tracks e.g Cinder Trail (Scarborough) or Camel trail (Cornwall).
  • Purpose made pump tracks e.g Ingleton, Keswick.
  • Forestry Commission Trail centres e.g Whinlatter, Guisburn, or Dalby Forest.

Road riding

Upside:

  • Less technically demanding and tiring on little legs.
  • Bike choice can be more flexible.

Downside:

  • Heavy traffic routes are unsuitable for very young children due to the wobble factor! Using the sandwich technique is a good way to protect the child by placing them between older or more experience riders.
  • If you are solo parenting place the children in front so you are able to monitor and offer support.
  • Pick your times of day to manage the traffic. Increasingly in urban areas investment in cycling infrastructure can allow you to move away from challenging road conditions on to purpose built routes.

A comprehensive guide of road cycling routes and infrastructure is mapped on the National Cycle Network and can be found on the Sustrans website.

Developing children skills

If you’re keen on developing your kids skills in a fun, social environment there are community clubs running sessions throughout the country led by British Cycling and Cycling UK instructors and coaches.

British Cycling Go-ride clubs

Cycling UK Community Clubs

Helen Pollard By Helen Pollard

About:

Helen spends her days, managing a cycling business, chasing her daughter Daisy, running with dogs, falling off her bike, and hopefully encouraging others to do something similar.

Find out more about Helen.

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