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Family Cycling

Family Cycling

Cycling can be a great way of getting the whole family together to do something active outdoors and, with particularly young children, a way of building their confidence on a bike.

Chris Gleeson leads mixed ability bike tours as a Mountain Bike Guide for Mark Warner's activity holidays. His role involves offering advice to parents about using bikes and helping them decide on suitable routes for their group.

Chris explains: “The first few rides are really important in mustering enthusiasm among younger family members. A little bit of planning and consideration can go a long way in making sure you create fantastic days out that are memorable for all the right reasons.”

Here are Chris's expert tips on how to get the best out of a family cycling trip:

Where to go

A good place to build up a child's confidence is using some family-friendly cycle routes around local parks. It's a safe environment where kids can get to grips with their bikes on different terrains.

It's important to start gently with shorter rides before you plan a whole day out so you can make sure you have an idea of everyone's ability in the group and plan a suitable route that the whole family will enjoy.
Remember to consider the conditions and gradient of the route you're taking as small children will tire quickly on muddy tracks and steep hilly paths.

Keep it fun and adventurous by choosing a round-trip route, planning some pit stops along the way to re-energise and an end destination
family on a bike ride
for kids to look forward to. You could cycle to a cafe, the beach, a castle, a park for a picnic or a friend's house that's close by. Consider stopping at interesting points along the way where you're likely to spot animals, get a good view and pass through various types of scenery.

What to take

It's vital to be prepared for any ride so pack a comfortable rucksack with the following essentials:
Bullet  Camera - remember to record your adventures
Bullet  Extra thin layers and light rain jackets in case the weather changes
Bullet  First aid kit - be prepared for small accidents and find a cycling or adventure first aid kit, like those offered by Lifesystems, which pack everything you need into a handy little pouch
Bullet  Sunscreen in the summer
Bullet  Mobile phone ¬- make sure your battery is fully charged
Bullet  Bike locks - make sure you have adequate chains to secure all bikes
Bullet  Plenty of water - all bikes can be fitted with bottle cages to make sure no rider goes thirsty
Bullet  Cash for ice creams, drinks and anything else you may need
Bullet  Snacks like fruit and cereal bars to keep energy levels up and sandwiches if it's a day trip

Staying safe

Cycling proficiency is still offered in schools nationwide but is now called 'Bikeability'. It's worth contacting your child's school to see if they have signed up for sessions or contact a local provider in your area. When they do take to the roads by themselves, the skills they will learn should ensure that they grow into confident, safe cyclists.

Wearing light coloured clothing and fluorescent clothing for dull days and evenings will ensure that you're always visible. It's also worth remembering that you are required by law to have working lights fitted when cycling at night. You need a white front light and a red back light, as well as a red rear reflector.

Always wear helmets and consider long-sleeved tops and trousers which are good protection for children who are new to cycling to avoid cuts and grazes!

It's a good idea to cycle behind children so you can keep your eye on them and don't accidently leave them behind. If there are two adults in the group, position one in front and one behind to keep the group together.

It may sound obvious but make sure any bikes you're using fit properly. Children should feel in full control of the bike, so they can stop and place a supporting foot on the ground and start again easily.

The UK is wonderful for the beautiful country roads it offers for cycling enthusiasts. However, do plan carefully when taking children out on the road as some narrow, winding roads where drivers are likely to speed are not suitable for family cycling. Aim for quieter roads, country lanes and cycle tracks.

Looking after your bikes

Like all vehicles bikes need a bit of TLC to stay in safe working order. Look after your investment and they will last for years to come. A few days before you plan to go on your bike ride do a safety inspection, checking tyres are pumped, chains are intact, and gears and breaks are working efficiently.

When you return home wash off bikes and store them in a dry area. Once a year take the bikes to a bike store for a professional service.

Going further afield

Cycling on holiday can be a great way to explore an area. If you are going abroad consider selecting a resort that offers guided mountain biking so you can relax while a guide takes care of the planning and leads your group along the most scenic tracks in the area. You may of course prefer to plan your own bike rides so you'll need to do a bit of research, choose a location where you can hire bikes and where there are bike tracks and quiet roads. If staying in the UK, the Forestry Commission has a built up network of off-road cycling areas.

Chris Gleeson is a Mountain Bike Guide at the Mark Warner Levante Beach Resort in Greece where he leads tailored bike tours out across the beautiful island of Rhodes.

August 2012

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