The summer holidays may have come to an end, but that’s no reason for your children to slow down on activities that they have been enjoyed in abundance over the long break.
Cycling is a great way for children to get exercise, develop their sense of balance, and learn road skills if you deem them old enough to get on the highway. Even cycling on an off-road cycle lane will help then learn more about negotiating the road with other users – be they walkers or oncoming riders.
Of course, sometimes parents can feel a little bit nervous about first letting their children out on two wheels – but with a little know how you can help them develop as a cyclist. Here are a few tips…
Teach them about the bike
Don’t just teach your children how to balance and pedal – add an extra string to their bow by introducing them to the key components. Explain to them how to squish the tyres to check pressure, demonstrate what they should feel like, and show them how the brakes pull on the cables or snap the disc to bring them to a halt.
You can’t expect your children to become fully fledged mechanics, and you probably wouldn’t want them tampering with tools until they reach a certain age, but understanding the bike and how it works will help them appreciate it, and they’ll be more likely to spot something that isn’t right.
Between the two of you – you should check:
Tyres – are pumped up.
Brakes – are functioning and bring the bike to a stop quickly.
Chain – is not rusty, and has a thin layer of lube. You may want some wet wipes to hand.
Saddle – is not so low their legs don’t extend, but not so high they are stretching to reach the pedals.
Be seen and be safe
Lights are only a legal requirement once dusk sets in, but visibility is greatly increased by a set of front and rear lights regardless of the time of day, so it’s a good idea to fit these to your young ones bikes. High viz clothing and a helmet are also good pieces of kit to invest in – they’ll protect your child and teach them good habits.
Though the opposite is often the case in teenage years, young children like to imitate their parents – so if you want your child to wear a helmet and high viz, set an example by doing so yourself.
Bikeability training is the modern day version of the Cycling Proficiency. The training comes in 3 levels – level 1 is learning to control the bike, level 2 includes some road skills and is usually tackled by children in year 5 or 6. Level 3 covers more challenging traffic conditions and is usually completed by secondary school age youngsters.
The courses are generally taught at school – teachers can get more information here, and parents can find out about courses near Reading here.
Learning about cycling to get about is one thing, but you might also want your kids to have a go at cycling for fun, or as a sport.
British Cycling’s Go-Ride scheme is all about getting children on bikes. Skills classes and ‘Go-Ride’ clubs are held all over the country, and for those who really take to two wheels, there are ‘Go-Race’ events.
Sessions are organised by qualified British Cycling coaches who have been to a sports UK’s Safeguarding and Protecting Children workshop. Sessions are always risk assessed, and have a focus on making cycling fun as a sport, developing skills, confidence and fitness.
The sessions will vary depending upon the area and coach, some for example might be at an outdoor velodrome whilst others could be on grass or off-road, but they are always in traffic free environments and there should be plenty of opportunity for kids to socialise and meet new friends on the ride.
You can take a look at local Go-Ride clubs here.
Ride with them
Finally – make sure you get a chance to enjoy the fun. Getting out on your bike with your children gives you a chance to guide them in best practice, and it is a great way to spend time together doing something active and learning at the same time. For inspiration on local rides, check out our routes pages here.