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‘What do you mean you don’t want to go on a bike ride?’ Top tips for cycling with kids

Turning grumpy children into enthusiastic cyclists!

You’ve done all the hard work; chasing toddlers on their little balance bikes; running nervously towards a precipice as your child pedals merrily towards it with no idea what brakes are…
That moment the stabilisers come off – oh, the excitement!!

But what’s happened since…? The kids know how to ride a bike but now they don’t want to!! The moans and groans at the mere suggestion of it would make you think they’d been asked to help with the chores or something equally as horrifying.

So how can you make children want to go on a bike ride?

There are a few tricks that I’ve learnt along the way which will entice my kids out for a cycle.

cycling at Ashton Court
Pump Track at Ashton Court

Off-Road biking

Cycling on the roads can be a little repetitive, especially when you’re having to constantly be on ‘car alert’. Being off-road is awesome.

Bridleways
Search the map for local bridleways to ride along. They’re likely to be bumpy and muddy but that’s all part of the adventure. See who can get mud splatters on their face (it’s easier than it sounds!) Bridleways are also often connected by quieter lanes which are fun to cycle along with the kids.

Search for local off-road biking routes. Cycling through woods and around tracks is way more interesting than the road. If the kids get tired or unsure about certain bits, you can hop off and walk.

Cycle Paths
If the kids are a little nervous about being off-road, try looking for a local cycle path. They tend to be flat and easy to cycle along, plus being car-free always reduces stress levels.

There’s been a huge growth in designated cycle routes recently which is fantastic!

If you’re Bristol/Bath/Somerset based, some family cycle routes are listed at the bottom of the page

off-road biking south west uk
Bridlepath Cycling

Energy Boosters

‘Energy boosters’ (aka edible treats) are essential for any bike ride. Yes, the kids use a lot of energy whilst cycling and need to replenish their never-ending hunger but most importantly, treats are essential for bribery….

Hot Chocolate & Picnics
We like to take a thermos of hot chocolate and/or a picnic with us so we can stop along the way and refuel.

Sweet-Stuff
A ready supply of sweets (or home-baked, healthy snacks if you’re that way inclined) will get any child up a hill. I tend to always challenge them to another 5 minutes cycling before reaching for the Haribo again.

The children know that if they don’t moan, I’m more likely to be generous with the treats….

family bike rides near bristol
The keeper of the sweets (aka the pied piper)

Choose a cool destination to head for

The concept of ‘going on a bike ride’ might seem boring to children – especially is they go to the same place time after time. To add a bit of excitement, try plotting a new route together.

Go Adventuring
Take a look at a local map (OS or google maps) and between you, choose somewhere interesting to head towards. It may be a landmark that looks interesting (we once headed to a mysterious place called ‘Cleeve’s Well’ which turned out to be a drain but the mystery kept interest levels high!), an ice cream shop or even the pub!

Take a look at our favourite ‘Flip-A-Coin Adventure’ for some ideas.

Ditch the car
You could even swap the car for your bikes on a normal route you take…. Cycling to school is a great way to start the day, or try cycling to the shops or a friend’s house.

Wherever you go, track your distance. Kids never realise how far you travel on a bike ride and they do love a big number. Make sure you show them the distance they’ve covered and then challenge them to beat it next time!

cycling with children

Have fun along the way

Just like taking the kids on a walk, it’s always good to have some distraction tactics for in case their interest starts to wane… Here are a few games we like to play;

  • Count the car game! If you’re on the road, everyone guesses how many cars you’ll see in the next 10 minutes. The winner gains ultimate car-game glory
  • Time trials – set up some races. Get the stopwatch out if you need to see who is the fastest cyclist.
  • Silly cycling. If anyone is a Monty Python fan, this is the cycling equivalent of the Ministry of Silly Walks. There’s a lot of legs out and bum wiggling….
  • Hill training – no one likes a hill. You’re mad if you do.
    When we approach a hill, we turn it into a challenge… how high can you get before you have to walk? Is that higher than last time you tried that hill?
    Plus I find that playing ‘Body Moving’ by Beastie Boys (Fatboy Slim remix) quite loudly on my iphone gives us all a little push up the hill
  • One handed/no handed cycling. The children love the fact that I can’t cycle no-handed (why would you!?) so they repeatedly challenge me to try.
  • And if all that fails… there’s always Eye Spy.
Family bike rides bristol
Guess the game….

Get kitted up

In my mind, cycling kit doesn’t matter that much. Yes, I’m sure a lighter bike makes a marginal different but if they don’t want to be on it – it doesn’t matter how much their bike weighs!?

But, as ever, what does matter with kids is getting their temperature right.

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.

Parents are donkeys, we all know this. Carry a backpack for all the extra layers, waterproofs, sweets, hot chocolate, picnic, water, ice, map, puncture kit, plasters, and everything else you need for a trip out with the kids….

The secret to cycling with children

As ever in parenthood, a successful family bike ride is all a question of getting creative with little humans who generally have dangerously low patience thresholds.

Having cycled a great deal with my children, the good news is that the more we get out on our bikes and the more engrained it is in our routine, the more we all enjoy it. Fitness and tolerance levels increase and occasionally we hit the sweet spot of a family cycle without any incident or moaning!!
*not including the grazed elbows, cut knees and occasional trip to A&E that we’ve endured along the way.

best kids bikes

Bristol, Bath & Somerset Family Cycle Routes:

If you’re a Somerset local here are some great cycle routes to try out.

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Plotting an Adventure
Bike Backing for Beginners
Cycling Somerset’s Cider Trail
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