Do you know what your next cycling adventure needs? The fun factor! Trust us – it works every time. And that's simply because kids like doing what they enjoy – and exploring the world on two wheels should most definitely rank highly in the enjoyment stakes.
The secret to success here is to get that first bike ride just right. Try to focus less on the exercise side of things and more on the quality time you spend together as a family and your child is much more likely to develop a passion for cycling. Of course, we're here to help you with our top tips and tricks for family bike ride success…
1. Choose the right bike and equipment
If you want your child to really enjoy cycling, you need to make sure their bike is absolutely perfect for them. That means it should be tailored to fit a child's body and designed for the type of cycling they have in mind. Make sure you factor in all these points when picking the ideal children's bike:
- Size: The bike needs to be just the right size –not too big and not too small.
- Weight: The lighter a bike, the easier the handling and the more the fun times can roll.
- Safety: You obviously don't want your child to have an accident, so make sure the bike has as many safety features as possible. Think about grippy tyres with reflective strips, large platform pedals, a steering limiter and bumpers on the ends of the grips.
- Ergonomics: The frame design should be optimised to suit a child's proportions and movements, while reflecting the motor skills of the age group in question. It should be easy to access and adjust the main components of the bike, such as the saddle, brake levers and trigger shifter, to suit your child's build.
If you're interested in reading more about what else you need to consider when buying a children's bike, here's our handy list of six key points to help you on your way.
Once you've found the right bike, you're obviously going to need the proper equipment to match.
- You simply can't do without a helmet that fits properly. How about our KIDS' Helmet with all its safety features?
- And don't forget the bike gloves, non-slip shoes and sunglasses in the right size for extra protection.
- Depending on the route, time of year and length of your bike ride, you may need to equip your child with other accessories and suitable clothing, so they're well prepared for sunny, windy and rainy conditions. Above all, make sure other road users can see them clearly even when visibility is poor.
You can read all about the gear you won't want to be without on your cycling adventures right here.
2. Remember that the journey is the destination
The number one rule to remember when you're setting off on a cycling adventure is that part of the fun is getting to wherever it is you're heading. Make sure your child sees going out on their bike as an enjoyable and exciting way to relax and have fun rather than a boring form of exercise. When deciding on the route for your bike ride, take care not to make it too long or demanding for your youngest or least-experienced child.
These are our top tips just for you:
- Children are curious by nature and keen to explore. Before you set off, include your child in the route planning. This will increase their anticipation and give them a better picture of what lies ahead.
- The most child-friendly routes tend to be exciting and never excessively steep. Your child will become overwhelmed if you take them out on routes that are too long or challenging for them. That's why we recommend starting off with a shorter route that can also be cut even shorter if needed. It would be sensible to find a route close to a train line to give you the option of hopping on the train for part of the route.
- They say that variety is the spice of life and that applies to your bike ride route too. Your child will appreciate the adventure even more if you take them by the water or through the woods. You may even try a family-friendly trail once everyone's had time to develop their cycling skills a bit further. Flow trails are often a good starting point because their gentle waves and twists and turns are a recipe for rollercoaster fun.
- If your kids are already more experienced, bike parks may be a better family adventure for you. They have a line for every skill level and very often pump tracks, which are specially made loops where you can play fun games aimed at developing cycling skills. Here's a closer look at the bike park world and an introduction to the terminology your child needs to know before they start exploring it.
- Throwing in games designed to improve your child's cycling skills along the way is a great way to keep spirits high and the fun times flowing. Mother Nature will be happy to help you out with a few training tools too. Why not set up a slalom course using pine cones to help your child perfect their corner turns. Or line them up in a row, so your child knows where they need to try to stop by applying the brakes. If you're in need of a little inspiration for skills training, check out our top ten list of fun drills here.
3. Make sure the conditions are spot on
It's so important that the weather conditions and temperature are on your side for your child's first few bike rides at least. After all, you're trying to get them excited about cycling, remember? You don't need us to tell you that sunshine is ideal, but you might not have realised that it's at its best on a spring or autumn morning when the air is still crisp and fresh. Having said that, you don't need to let colder weather or a bit of drizzle put a stop to your cycling intention provided you're well prepared and have the right equipment at the ready. At the height of summer, take care to stay out of the burning sun and stick to a shady route through the woods instead to stop your kids overheating.
Whatever happens, safety and enjoyment come first. And there's no need to compromise on either – simply check the forecast in advance and postpone your bike ride if you feel that the weather isn't going to be on your side.
4. Plan breaks and sights along the way
When working out the length of your route and your plan for the day, make sure you schedule in enough stops for drinks, snacks and exploration. We may not even be aware of it most of the time, but children are much more sensitive to physical activity and external factors like sunlight than us adults. On top of that, they barely realise that they're thirsty and can easily forget to keep their fluids up in all the excitement. You can help by encouraging them to take short breaks for a drink every so often. Drinking plenty of water is paramount to ensure our bodies function properly – particularly on a hot day. Stop frequently on descents too – even if it's just to shake out your hands or realign cycling glasses that may have got jostled up along the trail.
Pinpoint your stops along the way before you set off. After all, the prospect of an ice cream or an adventure play park can unlock energy reserves and keep your child going when they start to get tired.
5. Encourage and motivate your child with praise
Praise your child for things they do and learn along the way. Focused praise can be a confidence boost and a learning tool. Whenever your child tries something out – no matter how big or small it may seem – they need plenty of encouragement. For your child, their first try at slaloming or their successful attempt at getting past a root on their bike may be an important milestone. Encourage your child to keep going even if they aren't achieving success at something just yet. What matters most is that they're putting in the effort to try their hand at something new and challenge themselves.
6. Gather friends and family
The fun factor will shoot off the scale if your child has company on the bike ride, such as their best friend or a similar-aged cousin. Kids learn from each other, support and motivate each other, and – perhaps most importantly – are less likely to fatigue early. Zooming down woodland tracks and mastering bumpy gravel paths have the potential to become special memories that last a lifetime when friends are on board. And it's those little things that are at the heart of strong family units and forever friendships.
We hope you enjoy your quality family time out on your bikes together!