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This weekend we made the journey south from Cumbria to the hustle and bustle of the capital. It was the 2019 London Bike Show, and I’d been invited to give a talk on family cycling. It was very proud moment seeing posters with Karen Gee from Cycle Sprog displayed at the ExCel arena!
I was also looking forward to finding new ‘child friendly’ exhibitors that would be of interest to our readers, as well as a chance to see what’s going on in the wider world of cycling. Having been to the London Bike Show several times before I knew it can be a bit hit and miss with how many different family friendly brands there are. 2016 was a great year for cargo bikes and other more urban styles of cycling that we just don’t get up in the Lake District. 2017 had a few less brands, but some exciting innovation. Having missed 2018 I was interested to see how this year would fare.
We arrived bright and early at the show, and it was fabulous to be greeted with a surprised sounding “Is it you, Cycle Sprog?” in the foyer. It was Ben – a long time Cycle Sprog follower and provider of some fabulous photos that grace our articles. It’s so great when you finally get to meet people that you know virtually and to put faces to social media profiles. Ben was working on the Sick Bikes stand so had left his Sprogs at home – wise move!
The talk I was giving was on the Casquette Live stand – a new concept for the LBS sponsored by the innovative women’s cycling magazine and website.
I was second up on their stage, following on from the amazing North London Thundercats Black Metal Bicycle Club (NLTBMBC) who are a fixed gear criterium racing team. They were hosting a Trackstand masterclass and giving advice and encouragement for anyone thinking of racing fixed wheel bikes. After a demo, which made it all look so easy, our eldest Cycle Sprog stepped up to have a go.
Thankfully they were holding the saddle as he had his first couple of attempts – which included this great dialogue:
“Are your thighs burning yet?”
“Well you’re obviously not trying hard enough!”
Whilst we were waiting for my turn on the stage, we noticed some awesome looking camper vans parked up at the nearby CJL Leisure Vehicles stand.
Now, we have a rather old VW Transporter that we bought almost 2 years ago. It’s revolutionised our life, making our cycling trips so much more fun and easier, whether days out or longer holidays. However, it’s all very basic and whilst I’d heard that you can kit out a van with all manner of bike specific luxuries it was a real eyeopener to see the art of the possible. Let’s just say I couldn’t decide whether I’d go for a full on MTB wet room - that comes in the van shown above - complete with power washer (for muddy bikes and Cycle Sprogs!)
Or perhaps the more luxurious model with double bed, fridge, gas hob and loads of cupboard space would be better for us, with the bikes relegated to a rear rack on the back. When I started to hear about longer wheelbase vans where we could possibly do both, I knew I'm likely to have a new obsession. Better start saving!! I don't think we'd go as low as this one, given where we live......
We certainly liked the sound of an App that controls the heating, meaning you can get back from a cold winters ride to a lovely warm van!
Laden down with a huge amount of campervan envy, it was time to take to the stage. It was great to discover we had some very keen Cycle Sprogs in the audience, who had tried out a wide variety of the different types of cycling I was talking about.
I gave a whistle-stop tour of my family cycling experiences from struggling to work out how to cycle with a baby through to attempting to keep up with our boys as they become older and more competent cyclists. The aim was to highlight the great times we’d had and hopefully inspire other families, so it was great to get this tweet shortly after our talk
— Camperfans (@camperfans43) March 31, 2019
and to receive follow up messages from other cycling families throughout the next 48 hours.
Once the euphoria of having spoken wore off, we were free to explore the rest of the show. Vitus Bikes were without a doubt hands down winners when it came to encouraging family cycling.
We were all amazed at how light their Nippy Balance Bike is – at just 1.9kg it’s a real featherweight!
They had an impressive display of every kids bike in their range, including their new 20” plus bike which certainly looks like a fun ride. I was also keen to see their 24” and 26” wheel Nucleus mountain bikes, which take their cue from their popular adult range of the same name and are very competitively priced.
We had a long and detailed discussion with their designer Ben, who’d we met 18 months before at the Cycle Show trade day. His passion (some would say obsession) for creating awesome kids bikes is contagious and it’s fascinating to be able to hear him talk about the Vitus bikes that he’s so rightly proud of.
To get a feel for the amount of thought he’s put into the design of literally everything from colour schemes to geometry and child specific componentry down to the way the bikes are displayed at the Show was a real pleasure.
We also had a great chat about what to do when your Sprog has outgrowing a 26” wheel kids bike and is still growing fast. He had some interesting insights into the different effects of puberty on male and female bodies that we’d certainly not considered before. We’re really looking forward to getting our hands on some of their bikes in the not too distant future to put through their paces for review. Watch this space!!
The kids test track at this years London Bike Show was courtesy of Hope Academy, who have a long term kids bike leasing scheme, allowing sprogs to ride a bike adorned with lovely Hope components. The bikes were certainly proving popular with the young riders at the show, with one of the longest queues of the day.
The other big draw of the day was the Bike Battle which was generating huge Oooh and Aaahs with their display of no-fear tricks. I’ll certainly be wary if the boys ask me lie down on the floor underneath a ramp any time soon. You certainly need nerves of steel to do this:
Despite the popularity of these two attractions, one of the noticeable things about the Show was how quiet it was. I’m not sure whether it was due to it being Mother’s Day, or the beautiful sunny spring weather outside, but there certainly weren’t the huge crowds that we’ve struggled through at other cycle shows. This made for an altogether more relaxed day and allowed us to let the boys roam free in search of freebies whilst we had more in-depth conversations.
They certainly weren’t disappointed, returning at various points to hand over their haul which included t-shirts, caps, pens and notepads. There was a bit of panic when the 12 year old Sprog announced “I don’t know why people don’t like energy gels – they’re delicious!” Thankfully only tiny samples were on offer, but we gave firm instructions not to sample any more gels or cubes. However, we were assured that Beetroot flavoured nitrate supplements are child friendly, so he got his vitamin and mineral hit for the day.
Sadly, our quest to bring you loads of news from family friendly brands was frustrated by a lack of suitable exhibitors. So, I’m afraid that I don’t have a very long list of innovative new products to report back on. However, there were a few new names, including Coco-Mat. They're a German company who specialise in sustainably sourced bed linen, but have branched out into making wooden bikes (including wooden e-bikes) made from Ash. They have a balance bike called Argos and their range also includes a 16" wheel kids bike with the wonderful name Telegonus. This, along with the 20" wheel Telemachus, are single speed bikes fitted with a rear coaster brake. This makes them a viable choice for kids wanting to cycle in relatively flat urban areas. I can just picture kids riding on great cycling infrastructure to school on these bikes - obviously the majority of urban Germany but some lucky parts of London too.
What disappointed me about this years show was the lack of cargo bikes which, given their increasing popularity in London, was a bit surprising. I wonder if the cost of exhibiting is pricing out the smaller, independent bike shops who tend to stock this type of bike?
The only other real display of kids bikes was from Orange Bikes.
Now I’d love to tell you more about the three kids sized mountain bikes they had on display, but the ongoing inability of the blokes on their stand to make eye contact, let alone speak with me continues (it’s now 3 bike shows in a row!). It’s really strange. Is it because I’m a female? Or I’m over the age of 30? Or not dressed in cool MTB clothing? Could it be all three? Oh well, their loss……
One stand which was much more family friendly was the one promoting the Tirol area of Austria. They had a virtual mountain bike ride that got both boys active and enjoying riding some of their stunning looking trails.
The region certainly sounds like a brilliant location for a family cycling holiday, with plenty to keep kids and parents entertained on and off the bike.
Another interesting sounding active family holiday destination is Cyprus and their stand got the boys prize for biggest haul of free gifts!
Whilst Cyprus gets extremely hot during the summer months, it sounds a great location for a half term break during autumn or spring. They seem to be catering well for triathletes (their stand was in the Triathlon Show part of the arena) with various tri camps and events for kids held on the island.
Of course, no Cycle Show would be complete without the obligatory cycling baby attire and this year these came courtesy of The Vandal. As I was passing there were two dad’s trying to work out which would be the correct size for their Sprogs, so they’ve obviously hit a sweet spot!
Our day ended with an inspirational talk by track cycling legend Katie Archibald. It was fascinating hearing her speak to Rebecca Charlton about her early cycling experiences and her journey to Olympic and World champion. She came to competitive cycling relatively late compared to many other members of the GB squad who had been through British Cycling’s Go-Ride and Regional Schools of Racing programme. For Katie cycling had been a mode of transport she used to get to her other after school sports sessions. It was success in some grass track races and at the Highland Games that persuaded her to get more involved in the sport.
Katie talked very honestly and candidly about the highs and lows of elite cycling, giving her audience a brief but emotionally raw insight into the mindset it takes to reach the highest levels of a sport.
We also learnt that whilst Katie advocates a healthy and controlled diet (Team GB have their own chef for major events), Laura Kenny takes a slightly different approach and once munched her way through a family sized bag of Minstrels for breakfast. Thanks Katie – how are we supposed to decline when our boys ask for this nutritious meal before our next ride out???!!!
All in all, we had a very relaxed day at the London Bike Show. It was fabulous to have been a part of it and to hopefully inspire more families to give different types of cycling a go. However, the lack of family cycling brands was a bit disappointing, and something I hope the organisers address in future years. If they're reading this and can also sort out the show programme, so there's a numerical list of stall holders so you can quickly match the map to the exhibitor, I'd be eternally grateful!
Disclosure: Thank you to Casquette who paid our expenses to attend the London Bike Show. We received complementary press passes to the event. Some of the links in this article will contain affiliate links, which mean that if you make a purchase after clicking on them we may receive a small commission. This all helps us to keep the website going. If you’d like to support us, and see us write more about family cycling, you can buy us a coffee here. Thanks!
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