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2019 is spread out ahead of us - a year that will no doubt have highs and lows, and is starting with a huge amount of uncertainty. However, what we can be sure of is there's 51 weeks left in which to have Cycle Sprog adventures! Here are my predictions about some of the trends I'd expect to see in the world of family cycling during the next 12 months.
The past few years have seen an incredible number of new kids bike brands, as the industry wakes up to the fact that there's a huge market for lightweight, well specified bikes. In 2019 I expect the trend for new brands to slow down a little bit as the market is getting crowded, although there's always room for a new celebrity endorsed brand. With Chris Froome, Dame Sarah Storey and the Kenny's being new parents perhaps another new brand or two may come along.
I hope I'm wrong, but I do fear that one or two existing brands associated with kids cycling may fail to survive the year as the big industry players catch up with the trend, and uncertainties around Brexit affect smaller businesses. Fingers crossed Cycle Sprog isn't one of them!
I'd expect established names to be filling the gaps in their range, particularly at the older age range as the riders who have grown up with these quality products are starting to grow out of their current offerings. There's a growing market for 27.5" wheel hybrid and mountain bikes and 700c road bikes designed for ages 12 years and above. We saw Islabikes launch the Beinn 27 last year for ages 10 plus, so it won't be long before the other brands follow suit and increase frame size choice. After all there's an entire teenage market out there, desperate for bikes, clothing and accessories.
There also seems to be an insatiable demand for decently specified kids mountain bikes for all ages and price brackets, so expect more and more offerings coming along in 2019 - both hard tail and full suspension, in all manner of wheel sizes.
Innovation at the smaller end of the kids bike range is likely to continue, with balance bikes and pedal bikes getting smaller and engineering more complicated. It will be interesting to see if "bikes that grow with your child" continue to grow in popularity, as several new brands launched in 2018 which start as balance bikes and can have pedals added as the rider progresses.
I also wouldn't be surprised if there's a few more quality 12", 14" and 18" wheel kids bikes released this year as brands fill in the gaps in their ranges. So far only Squish and Cube have decent 18" wheel bikes, and a number of brands don't even have a 14" wheel offering. 12" wheel pedal bikes may also become more popular as the success of balance bikes mean children are ready for pedals at an increasingly younger age.
I'm not sure anyone is ready to take the plunge and fit gears to a bike smaller than 20" wheel, but you never know!
Gravel bikes and e-bikes are becoming more and more popular choices for adults and it will be interesting to see if 2019 is the year that kids bikes follow suit. The Hoy Meadowmill was launched last year as a go anywhere drop handlebar bike but stopped short of branding itself a gravel bike. We also know that Cube are working on their first 24" wheel kids electric mountain bike, which should be out later this year.
2019 is likely to be another difficult year for bricks and mortar bike retailers, with Evans Cycles due to shut over 50% of their stores and small independent bike shops continuing to struggle against the online giants. However, as more parents realise the benefits of cycling and the need for a decent bike for their children, perhaps 2019 will see a resurgence in local bike shops that cater for all ages and types of cycling. A local bike shop that can supply trailers, bike seats, cargo bikes and kids bikes and clothing / accessories is likely to capture families and keep them loyal for several decades.
It's all well and good having a growing number of great quality kids bikes but it's a sad state of affairs if there's nowhere for Cycle Sprogs to ride them. Expect the debate on cycling infrastructure to heat up during 2019, as the evidence about the dangers of poor air quality and sedentary lifestyles continues to grow and the motoring and taxi industries increase their campaigning against cycling infrastructure.
As word spreads about what is happening in some areas of the UK, and around the rest of the world, to prioritise safe routes to schools perhaps 2019 will be a year when parents finally start to realise that their children are being denied the opportunity to get to school by foot, bike or scooter, and pressure is put on local authorities to start to act.
Public voices such as Chris Boardman, Jeremy Vine and Lee Cragie are desperately needed to keep the debate for safe active travel options relevant across the country, but I fear they'll continue to be trolled by "drivers" who hate "cyclists".
I sincerely hope the cycling community can come together on this issue, and avoid the divisive debates about helmet regulation, cycling insurance and taxation, and vehicular cycling vs segregated infrastructure which often fragment and distract the community at key moments.
Infrastructure isn't always about urban areas, and the continued popularity of mountain biking will hopefully lead to even more trails being developed. It would be great to see more dedicated mountain bike trails for all abilities (green through to black) at our national forests and parks, along with local provisions such as pump tracks and skills areas in local community areas, both rural and urban.
Expect the debate about access to the countryside to continue to rage - locally to us in Cumbria the paving of bridleways to improve access for all is leading to the loss of some iconic mountain biking routes and causing concern to many in the cycling community.
The popularity of cargo bikes to transport younger children continues to grow, particularly as parents in cities shun second car ownership (and sometimes car ownership all together).
There's already a real groundswell in some areas, and it's likely that cargo bike use will continue to grow in these places throughout 2019. Whether the popularity of cargo bikes spreads widely beyond the current enclaves will in part depend on whether councils invest in infrastructure to make cycling safe.
The publicity around the role that the Maindy Flyers cycling club played in the early years of Geraint Thomas's cycling career only served to highlight the popularity of junior cycling clubs last year. Expect your local clubs to have long waiting lists, and new clubs to be springing up around the country, some with specialisms such as balance bike training sessions or off road mountain biking. With more organisations being formed to provide schemes for teaching cycling in schools, hopefully more children will learn to ride a bike as part of their education too during 2019.
With the growth of junior cycle clubs we can also expect to see more and more kids competing across all disciplines. Hopefully this can be done in a controlled and fun manner, and I really hope we don't start hearing about the rise in children burning out from too much training or suffering the effects of excessive parental pressure and expectations.
As more and more families start to realise the benefits of getting outside and spending time together in the great outdoors (rather than shopping or watching screens), expect to see an increase in family cycling adventure opportunities. Forward thinking national parks and authorities will be seeking to attract families with attractions such as longer distance off road routes that encourage bike packing or multi-day adventures.
As more families get out there riding and word spreads I'm expecting to hear about our readers cycling exploits both within the UK and overseas. These don't have to be huge 6 week summer epics - more and more families are discovering the joys of micro-adventures and making the most of their weekends and the long summer evenings to get out pedalling.
I'm really looking forward to hearing all about the Cycle Sprog adventures our readers get up to this year in on weekly Sunday evening Facebook catch up.
I'm really hoping that 2019 will be the year more and more parents share their cycling experiences. I'm looking forward to new blogs being launched based around cycling with kids. However, not everyone wants to go to the trouble of launching their own blog, so don't forget Cycle Sprog is here to host guest posts for anyone with useful information to share and inspire others.
If you've got a tale to tell that would be useful to help others, we'd be more that happy to publish it. Perhaps you've managed to cope cycling with your Sprogs at a certain age and want to share how you did it, or maybe you rode a fabulous family friendly route that more people should know about? Or perhaps you've set up a cycle club or got more kids cycling to your school, or petitioned your local council? We'd love to help get your stories out there to inspire other families onto their bikes, so do get in touch if you've got something to share.
If you've enjoyed reading this blog and would like to see more Cycle Sprog articles during 2019 then why not buy me a coffee to keep me motivated during the next 12 months?
Thanks and here's to a fabulous 2019 full of Cycle Sprog adventures.
Here's a small selection of our best posts from 2018 you may have missed:
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