Naomi Freireich, an endurance mountain biker based in Edinburgh, Scotland is back with the fourth in her series of blog posts written exclusively for Chain Reaction Cycles.
In her latest blog, Naomi takes us through her top tips to encourage even the most unwilling kid to get out on their bikes…
Glutton for punishment
When I look back on my own childhood I’m pretty sure I remember always being happy about getting outside for a hill walk or a cycle with my family. I bet my mum doesn’t remember it that way though. It’s certainly not my experience as a parent of two reluctant cyclists. So what’s the key to getting your kids outside and enjoying a sport that you love? Here are a few of my tips for a bike ride with kids without whinging (or at least keeping it to a minimum!)
Without a shadow of a doubt, the best way to avoid complaints is to make sure that it all runs smoothly.
Make sure the bikes are in good working order. If your idea of servicing is ensuring the tyres aren’t flat, have a look for a good local bike mechanic to give those bikes that generally live under the last few rides’ coating of mud a once over. Gears and brakes are a must for a happy ride! And ALWAYS carry spares and tools and know how to use them. Teach the kids too… most kids love to learn.
Plan a route too. Don’t improvise with a reluctant cyclist. Taking a wrong turn or an ill thought out path will usually elicit an eye-roll at best and all out war at worst. Your local trail centre will have good sign-posted routes, or check out Sustrans for local cycle paths. If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, something like Trailforks will allow you to piece together some user-graded paths. Be inventive but realistic. Nothing will put them off faster than a trail they find too hard.
If there’s something to moan about, a reluctant child will find it. Cold hands, sore bum, wet feet. A lot of these gripes can be avoided with good clothing. Loads of really good children’s outdoor clothing is readily available these days. It needn’t even be bike specific as long as it keeps them warm, dry and comfortable.
I’d recommend kids bike gloves as a minimum though, as every child I’ve ridden with has complained of sore hands at some point. And flat soled shoes. The trend for converse-style trainers at the moment fortuitously means that a lot of kids have a good bike shoe too. Even better are skate shoes. Regular trainers can often have shaped soles and they’re slippy on flat pedals. One rake of the shins sliding off a pedal and your peaceful ride goes up the swanny.
Oh, and carry spares. Lots of spares. Because there’s always one who goes for a swim in a deep puddle or smashes out some epic skid in the mud!
3. Food and (more importantly) water
Do not underestimate just how much the incentive of a jelly baby* (*other sweets are available) will get a kid up a hill. I tend to set a timer on my phone for 15 minutes. That’s our cue to stop and pass the sweets round, set it again and head off for another 15. As your kids get less reluctant (trust me… I’ve heard it can happen) you can stretch this out to 20 or even 30 minutes, although personally I find little and often prevents fatigue.
As for water, I like to get my kids to carry their own. What that usually means though is that they’re finished it within the first half hour. Get them to have a BIG drink before you leave, carry plenty yourself and, if you can, plan a route near somewhere where you can restock. A thirsty child is a stubborn child.
4. A purpose
OK, so in your head, the purpose is a bike ride, but that’s exercise and for most kids that’s a reason NOT to go. Try to give your ride some other purpose. Take a picnic, visit somewhere (or someone), or (and this is my favourite) don’t call it a bike ride but an adventure! Be explorers.
Even better, if you can encourage one of their friends to come along too then it’s amazing what peer pressure will do. Then it’s just a play date on bikes! With Haribo* (*other sweets are available).
5. No expectations
If you think you’re all going to be cruising along at the same pace like happy families, smiling and singing songs, you might be disappointed. And don’t anticipate this to double up as a training ride for you. The fewer expectations you have the better the ride will be. Have a shorter, fall-back route in your back pocket, or carry bus fare and a bike lock if things just get to be too much. And above all, keep patient and show your kids that you’re enjoying it no matter what. Kids are happiest when you’re happy too, and soon they’ll be begging you to take them out!