Next week marks the start of The Big Pedal 2015 – a UK-wide initiative to get kids, their parents and even teachers, cycling or scooting school.
The challenge – which runs from 2nd-20th March – sees schools compete to see who can record the greatest number of pupils, staff and parents making the journey on two wheels.
Powered by Sustrans and funded by the Bike Hub, the comp is open to individual classes as well as whole schools.
Now – everyone who rides a bike remembers the skinned knees, grazed palms and high-speed encounters with tarmac that come with those first forays into pedal-powered joy.
Combining the multitude of skills that allow you to steer, balance, brake and pedal – sometimes all at once – involves time, patience and (yes) even the odd bump and bruise, too.
Of course, before long it all becomes second nature. Just like walking, once you’ve learned how to ride a bike, you never forget – and that’s where the fun starts!
In honour of The Big Pedal, check out our top 5 tips to make the going that bit easier on yourself and your budding Wiggo.
1. Start them early
You can get children used to the idea of bikes as soon as they can sit unassisted – wrap them up warm, strap them into a tow-along trailer buggy or a bike seat and away you go! Swedish firm Thule – known for their roof bars and bike racks – have gone one further with their stunning multi-sport Chariot CX, designed for jogging, cycling and just plain old strolling.
It’s not cheap at £999.99, but does comes with adjustable suspension, disc brakes, an outstanding 10-year frame guarantee and options for an impressive range of accessories including a hammock for newborns and even adapters to for cross-country skiing!
2. Balance bikes not stabilisers
De-stabilisers would be a more accurate name, because – if anything – these paradoxical pieces of cycle accoutrement encourage instability.
Instead of stabilisers, start your littlun on a balance bike – from as young as sis months old! With no brakes or pedals to confuse them, and no mucky chain for you to fret about, they can concentrate on developing the key skills of balance and coordination. When the time comes to move on to a bike with pedals, they’ll have the tricky business of balancing down to a tee, and find the transition a cinch.
We have balance bikes from £100 from British brand Frog and we’ll also be stocking Early Rider’s unique, space-age looking Spherovelo, for kids aged 6-24 months (£69.99).
Instead of wheels, these sturdy machines roll on hard-wearing, polyurethane spheres, with the upshot being they encourage young riders to learn about balance, while also being incredibly safe. As well as more traditional wooden balance bikes, Early Rider also have some very classy-looking rides in brushed metal, including this cool drop handlebar number, the Early Rider Road Runner! (£149.99).
3. Be prepared to spend on a decent bicycle
Picture the scene: dad cruises along on his svelte, stealth carbon trail weapon. Meanwhile little Jimmy is sweating cobs as his tiny legs strain against the pedals of some scaffold-tubed steel monstrosity. It’s a recipe for disaster – the perfect way to ensure you put the kids off cycling for life.
The plain fact is, if you want to get them into riding bikes, you’ll need to invest a bit of money in one they actually enjoy pedalling. Look for a lightweight aluminium frame fitted with decent components that won’t fall to bits the first time it rains. As well as road and mountain bikes for children, we carry the Frog range – and we can’t wait to get our hands on Early Rider’s pedal bike – the Belter – the world’s first belt-driven kids’ bike. (£260). No bike chain means no grease and minimum maintenance!
Yes, there may well be a sharp intake of breath at the initial outlay, but a decent bike will hold its value far better than an el-cheapo lump of lead picked up for peanuts – you can always sell it on to fund the next purchase when it’s time to go up a size. Speaking of which…
4. Size matters
A common mistake parents make is to buy a bike that’s too big for their child, thinking they’ll grow into it over several years.
Of course, they will grow into it – but by that time it’ll be long abandoned at the back of the garage, covered in cobwebs. Whether you’re an adult or a child, a poorly-fitted bike is no fun to ride. The solution? Come into the shop and get fitted with the help of experts.
5. Fun and safety
All the above adds to up to making sure your child has fun on his or her bike – but it’ll count for nada if you choose a route beyond their abilities. You may relish the challenge of trying to beat your friends’ PBs on a categorised road climb – but the kids will be wishing they were back at home with the XBox.
Look for easy-going, smooth-rolling terrain. Traffic-free riding is ideal when they start out – for their own safety and to avoid shredding your nerves.
With the right route, and older children, considerable distances are quite doable – consider the Taff Trail, Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal and around the Elan Valley. Our sister company Drover Holidays has a number of child-friendly cycling tours.