There’s no better way to bring out your inner child than whizzing along in the sunshine on a bicycle. So, just imagine how exciting it is for kids themselves. Fun for all ages and abilities, family cycling ticks a lot of boxes: no digital screens, heaps of fresh air, exploration and exercise. Unfortunately, as much as we’d love to spontaneously load our families up on bikes and head into the countryside, it’s never quite that simple. What kit is needed? Will there be food and drink stops en route? What about traffic? Will little legs manage the whole way? Is it really worth it?
Yes it is, and here’s the info and inspiration you need to get the family whizzing off together:
The UK isn’t quite up to speed with France when it comes to dedicated cycling paths but there are still plenty of options for families not wanting to brave open roads. The National Trust has set up cycling trails in gardens and grounds throughout England and their collection of ‘bike rides for little legs’ includes an 8-mile circuit from Wray Castle around Lake Windemere and a route where you might spot six types of British reptiles on Studland Peninsula, Dorset.
Old railway lines are another excellent place for carefree cycling fun. Tissington Trail in Derbyshire passes through enchanted woodland, while the artwork along the Troll Trail on the Isle of Wight will ignite little ones’ imaginations and The Strawberry Line in Somerset is as pleasant as it sounds. For those that like to be by the water, reservoirs often have adjacent cycling friendly paths like Bewl Water in Kent and Elan Valley in Wales.
Events to inspire
Cycling events are no longer just about competitive types in lycra on expensive bikes. There are plenty out there for the whole family to enjoy. London Revolution involves a big camp and mini-festival at the halfway point at Ascot Racecourse, offering a great place to spend an afternoon with kids as they wait to cheer on Mum or Dad. The whole family will love pedaling past iconic landmarks on a Skyride, which takes over closed roads in the heart of several of the UK’s biggest cities. Edinburgh Family Ride offers the same opportunity in Scotland. And for the ultimate cycling inspiration take the family to Yorkshire this July to see the Tour de France’s ‘Grand Depart’.
Holidays made easy
Nothing does switching off from the distractions and mayhem of modern-day life like a family cycling holiday. Even if it’s just around the corner from where you live, a multi-day cycling trip is guaranteed to feel like a big adventure. Thankfully, dedicated holiday companies now make such adventure a little more stress-free. Kit gets carried, you get picked up and dropped off, accommodation gets booked and maps get printed so all you have to do is get pedaling! Saddle Skedaddle has numerous ‘A to B’ trips suitable for families including Hadrian’s Wall, the North Sea Cycle Route, and Lake District. Other operators worth looking at are Headwater Holidays, Inntravel and the YHA.
Resources & kit
Sustrans are an excellent resource including route information and maps as well as kit lists and buying guides. They also have an excellent online guide to cycling with children and toddlers, and Halfords have some great resources on choosing the safest bike for your child. Most of the UK’s National Parks have centers where you can hire bikes and pick up trail maps, making spontaneity that bit easier. Tourist boards are also worth getting in touch with since eco targets have pushed cycling high up their agenda.
Holly Tuppen is a freelance writer and Editor of The Weekendist writing on behalf of Halfords