Submitted by Marilyn Northcote
Summer break is a great time to get on your bike and enjoy some family time outside. Cycling is an excellent way to get active and have fun with your kids this summer. Kids love the independence and exhilaration of riding a bike, and the fresh air, family time, skill development, and being part of their neighbourhood is a bonus.
So, while you are enjoying the summer holidays, here are some handy tips to help you and your child ride confidently and safely.
- Make it fun!
If you are new to cycling as a family or in a group, choose beginner rides that suit your experience or confidence levels. The goal is to have a successful outing with the children, one that ends well and leaves everyone excited for their next bike adventure.
Some suggestions include:
- Flat or moderate ground – save the hill rides for when you’ve built confidence, skill and stamina, stick to the parks around your city for now.
- A short distance to keep it manageable.
- A journey to a destination that provides an incentive – the beach, the park or for an ice cream!
- Keep a moderate pace: nothing knocks confidence (or interest in an activity) like a feeling you can’t keep up with older siblings or friends.
- Stop for any breaks the children (or you!) need.
- Check your gear
- Before you head out, keep everyone safe by ensuring they have a well-fitting helmet. You can buy these relatively cheaply in many chain stores, and they really are a must. Set a good example too – ensure you always wear a helmet – every trip.
- On the day itself, pump up the tyres, check the helmet is snug and appropriately fastened and make sure the brakes are working (and your child is familiar with how to use them!).
- The right sized bike is also important – too big and the child will struggle to reach the ground and this may impact on their confidence. Too small makes balance difficult.
- Ensure that clothes are light and bright, and wear close-toed shoes to protect your child’s feet.
- For more information check out these helpful safety tips from the NZ Transport Agency.
- Scope out a good practice space
Some key things to consider when choosing a space to teach your child are:
- The area is quiet, open and free of potential obstacles such as parked cars or steep hills.
- If you’re nervous about having your child ride on the pavement, a park is a good option as it softens any potential falls.
- School playgrounds also generally provide a safe, open space with smooth surfaces – and your child is familiar with the environment.
- If you’ve got a nervous beginner cyclist – find some one-on-one time for them to quietly build their skills before a public event.
- Pack a backpack
Some suggestions for what to bring include:
- A bike tool kit for changing a flat tyre – most supermarkets and hardware stores stock these so why not grab one so you have it on-hand.
- A spare tube and pump – available from most bike or toy departments.
- A snack and plenty of water.
- Sun screen.
- A small first-aid kit to patch up any minor scrapes.
- Money for ice cream or treats!
- Keep instructions brief
When you are riding with your child, have your child go first and you follow closely behind looking out for them, and yourself, and talking them through various situations. For example:
- Move over to one side.
- Change your gears.
- Watch out for other people on bikes, etc.
Encourage your child to look around and identify interesting features, watch for potholes, or others on the trail. Kids can only take in so much information at one time, so keep instructions short and to the point, trying not to overload them with information.
- Choosing the right bike
To be a confident rider, your child needs to be on the bike that matches their age, size and ability. There are three things to consider when choosing the bike for your aspiring rider. The more comfortable they are the more they will enjoy the cycling experience.
- What type of riding you intend to do – on or off road?
- Choosing the right size bike – There are many factors to consider in getting the right size, your local bike shop can help with selecting the right sizeÂ and with your setup.
- Don’t forget to consider a good second hand bike – kids grow fast and this is a cost effective way of ensuring their bike grows with them.