The clocks have changed and spring is officially here, so it’s time to start planning those fabulous family cycle rides! If you, your kids and your bikes have been hibernating all winter, here are the Cycle Sprog top tips to make your first family bike ride of the year memorable for all the right reasons.
1. Check that your child’s bike is still the correct size
Kids have a habit of growing! Chances are that when you’re getting ready for your first family bike ride of the year you’ll be amazed at how much they’ve grown since last summer. You may need to raise the saddle or amend the position of the handlebars before the bike ride.
Of course you may also have that dreaded moment where you realise that they’ve totally outgrown their bicycle, so plan ahead and check that they can still pedal without hitting their knees on the handlebars.
If you do need to upgrade the bike, then be aware that this year there is a real shortage of kids bikes, so it’s worth checking out our article Help! Where can I buy a kids bike with quick delivery? if you don’t want to miss out.
Kids can also quickly grow out of cycle helmets, bike gloves and cycling clothing, so it’s worth checking in advance to avoid spending ages trying to find something to fit just before you’re setting out.
2. Make sure that all your bikes are in a roadworthy condition
Of course, you should check your bikes before each ride, but before your first family bike ride of the year, it’s advisable to do a full once over of each bike. Ensure that tyres are fully inflated and the wheels are turning smoothly.
Bike spokes can sometimes get damaged during winter storage, and the chain may well need lubricating. You should always check that the brakes and gears are working before your child gets on their bike. There is plenty of good advice on the Sustrans website about maintaining your bikes, including their ‘M check for your bike in 11 steps’.
Here at Cycle Sprog, we recommend buying as decent a bike as your budget will allow because we know that some very cheap kids bikes may come out of a winter in the shed in a very sorry state.
If you’re unfortunate enough to be facing a seized up bike that’s changed colour to ‘rusty brown’ then you may require professional help to get it usable and safe to ride – most bike shops will offer a maintenance service.
3. Have a little practice ride before you set off
Kids can lose confidence over the winter so give them a chance to get used to pedalling, braking and changing gear again before you set off on your first family bike ride of the year.
Don’t be surprised if a child who had become a confident rider during last summer seems a little wobbly – they’ll soon be back to where they were, but may need some encouragement and a helping hand.
It’s also worth reminding the entire family of the basic rules of cycling (i.e. which side of the road you’re riding on, how to signal clearly at a junction, riding considerately on shared paths).
You may also need some reminders about how you ride as a family. For example – how far ahead are your kids allowed to ride? What do they do if they come to a road junction? How do you signal for them to stop in an emergency? How long can they go before asking for a snack?
4. Pace yourselves
Just because your kids rode 15 miles uphill at the end of last summer doesn’t mean that they, (or you!), are fit enough to do the same straight away this year. Make sure that your first family cycle ride of the year is a gentle one to get you all used to being back in the saddle.
5. Keep warm
The sun may be shining when you set off, but spring weather can be very changeable and you can suddenly find yourself riding through a shower of rain, or an icy blast of wind. Remember that few things can spoil a family bike ride like cold or wet kids – layer up and remember to take gloves for cold fingers and an extra layer for when you stop.
6. I’m hungry! I’m thirsty!
It’s almost impossible to carry enough food or drinks on a family bike ride! Remember that a route with a hot chocolate or an ice cream at the end is always easier to get round… just check that your favourite stopping point is still open – and whether they have anywhere warm to shelter if needed.
7. Have fun on your first family bike ride of the year!!
Your bikes are in safe working order and your route is planned. The bag is packed and the kids are raring to go. Have a great time, and enjoy this, the first of many family cycle rides together this year.
8. Let us know how you got on
Here at Cycle Sprog, we love hearing and sharing your stories of family cycle rides. If you’ve found a great new family cycling route or had an exciting or amusing adventure, do let us know. We can be found on Facebook Instagram and Twitter, or you can contact us via email.
Other posts you may enjoy whilst you’re here:
- How we became a mountain biking family in just one year
- The best kids bike trailers
- The best kids bikes – our pick of the very best
- How to keep your child’s head warm under their cycle helmet
- The best front bike seats for toddlers and young children
- The best 16″ wheel bikes for 4 and 5 year olds
- The best bikes for 6 and 7 year old kids (20″ wheels)
This post was first published in March 2016 and updated in March 2021