Family Bike Rides & Cycle Trails with Kids
Family bike rides are a great way to get outdoors. Good for the environment, good for health, great for exploring nature… what more could you want!? Cycling with the kids is one of our favourite things to do and we’re generally out on our bikes most days, whether on the school run or hitting some forest trails.
As with anything, the more time the kids spend on their bikes, the greater their skills and confidence become and the less likely they are to moan… and that applies to adults too!
Here we explore everything there is to know about off-road cycling with kids and how to plan a family bike ride adventure.
How to get the children cycling
Start with easy, relatively flat off-road cycle paths to allow the children’s (and adults) biking skills and confidence to grow.
Then, as the kids get bigger and more competent, begin to take on some more challenging and exciting cycle routes which will keep everyone entertained and allow for learning new skills… they’ll be doing jumps and riding drops before you know it!
Here we share our top tips on how to get children bike riding
At what age should kids learn to ride?
Any age between 2 – 8 is great. But the kids are generally ready at about 4 or 5 years old. Get those stabilisers ready! There are some great tips on teaching kids to cycle here.
What bike should I get for my child?
Choosing the right bike for your child makes life a lot easier. A lot of the lower-priced kid’s bikes are under-specced and overweight (a heavy bike can make riding much harder).
The kids will be able to cover more miles, and be much happier if they have a lighter bike. As a rough guide, we look for 13kg or less for 20in- and 24in-wheel bikes, especially if they’re likely to go off-road.
That said, bikes are expensive so it’s worth searching the second-hand market or look into a service like Bike Club where you can exchange bikes as the kids grow.
We all have Vitus bikes because they’re reasonably priced and awesome to ride.
What else do I need for children’s biking?
Wear clothes that are comfortable and breathable and not likely to rub. As ever, it’s worth taking plenty of snacks and water for your ride. Take a backpack or bike bags to carry your gear.
Getting the temperature right is essential for happy biking too.
To keep warm:
- wear gloves (warm gloves in winter or ‘cool’ fingerless biker gloves in Spring/Autumn)
- try a balaclava or pull a neck warmer up over their ears and mouth
- Long socks are great to cover cold ankles. Take spare socks in case they get wet!
- Pack some waterproofs – just in case
To keep cool:
- take extra water so they can pour it over their heads if they’re too hot.
- Bring some ice cubes in a tupperwear box to suck like sweets or enjoy ice cold water if it’s melted.
Where can I find family cycle routes near me?
This is the key question. Having all the right gear is great but totally useless unless you get out there and find some trails!
I have 4 key recommendations for finding local cycle routes;
- Bridleways and by-ways
Search the map for local bridleways and by-ways to ride along. The bumpier and muddier they are, the more the adventure. See who can get mud splatters on their face (it’s easier than it sounds!)
Search for local off-road biking routes. Cycling through woods and around tracks is more interesting than the road. If the kids get tired or unsure about certain bits, you can hop off and walk. There are some great tips on identifying trails here.
- Cycle Paths and trails
The UK has a network of designated cycle paths and routes. They tend to be flat and easy to cycle along go great for beginner off-roaders, plus being car-free always reduces stress levels. Search the Sustrans website for cycle routes near you.
Forestry England have created a network of fantastic woodland cycle trails. More on that below.
- Bike Parks
Visiting a Bike Park, like Bike Park Wales, makes for an awesome day out. Hurtling down hillside bike trails following kamikaze kids may be a little nail biting at times, but it’s also the BEST fun and great for developing the children’s cycling skills.
Even better, check if the bike park offers an ‘uplift’ service, so you can hitch a ride to the top and spend 100% of your time on the downhills.
Kids love to learn tricks on their bikes and a pump track is the ideal place to do this. A pump track is a short circuit of rollers, banked turns and other fun features designed to be a safe
The Forestry England cycle trails has been a revelation for us and made for many happy days biking.
With a network of woodlands spread all across the UK, you can easily find some brilliant Forestry England cycle paths near you. Generally speaking, there will be a selection of different trails depending on what level the family are at.
Whether it’s a relatively short, flat cycle path for families looking for a gentle ride, blue or green rated trails for those just starting out on downhill tracks or some more advanced trails for the more experienced shredders.
Cannop Cycle Centre
Our favourite is Cannop Cycle Centre in the Forest of Dean. It’s a great day out and the kids (age 10 & 8) love the trails there (as do I). Mixing between red and green, the kids have been trying out some jumps and taking on some more technical stretches like stones, roots and berms. Plus, there’s a great little café for a drink after the trail.
How can we cycle more?
Once you’ve covered the basics, the kids can cycle and you all have a bike, start trying to integrate cycling into everyday routines.
The easiest way is to swap out the car for a bike. Cycle to and from school, to the shops, or over to a friends house instead of using the car. Or, if there are busy roads along the way, try cycling a short stretch of the journey on the quieter stretches.
You will likely need to transport your bikes on busy roads or for longer distances so make sure you get a bike rack that is easy to use! If it’s too much of a faff, you’ll be less inclined to use it.
We’ve been sharing our experiences of cycling the 4 miles to and from school every day (come rain or come shine) on the GoWildGoWest social media pages. Check them out for tips on how to jazz up the school run and make it more entertaining!