I love going on bike rides when we’re on holiday, and more importantly, so do my boys. This means we have a guaranteed way of keeping them occupied for a day or two, which is especially useful on days when it’s not quite beach weather! From short little outings when my boys were young, to full day rides now they’re slightly older, we’ve ridden in so many brilliant places around the UK. Sometimes we take our own bikes with us, and other times we hire (and on occasions we’ve just taken the boys bikes so they could entertain themselves in the local park while my husband and I relaxed!)
— Cycle Sprog (@CycleSprog) June 18, 2017
Hiring bikes is an easy way to incorporate family cycling into your holiday – many bike rental companies now have a range of equipment for younger children including trailers, bike seats and tagalongs. Places to rent e-bikes are on the increase too, which can be great if you’re worried about keeping up with older children, or if you’re staying in a hilly location. For more top tips on how to best enjoy family cycling on your holiday, just keep reading!
It can take a short while to get used to riding a different bike, so give your child (and yourself) a chance to practise before setting off on your ride. You may find these hint and tips useful if you’re using a bike seat, trailer or cargo bike for the first time. I’d also advise calling ahead to reserve family cycling equipment or smaller sized kids bikes, removing the risk of disappointed faces or tantrums.
If you’re visiting the UK from overseas, be aware that the brake levers may be set up differently – left hand operating the rear brake and right hand the front. Just remember not to pull on the front brake too hard!
The costs of bike rental can add up if you’re planning on doing a few days cycling, so some people prefer to bring their own bikes on holiday with them. Double check with the cottage owner that there is somewhere safe to store them.
Pick a cycle route that all the family can ride
When visiting a new area you need to work out which are the best places to go cycling. A bit of research in advance can prevent you heading off on a route that is too advanced for your family. Remember there are significant differences in geography throughout the UK. A ride in the Lake District or the Highlands of Scotland could well involve a lot more climbing and descent than one in Norfolk, so check the elevation and terrain as well as distance when considering how far your family can reasonably cycle.
Great traffic free locations for family cycling can include off road sections of the National Cycle Network, Forestry Commission and privately owned trail centres, canals, river banks and seaside promenades.
Having a purpose to your bike ride can really keep children focused, so riding to a castle, playground or beach can be a good option. Don’t forget that coffee and cake are a cyclist’s main food, so take the opportunity to check out local cafés and coffee shops along your route.
Local tourist information websites and Sustrans are good sources of information, however a bit of local knowledge can be invaluable in picking the correct route. Local bike shops and rental locations will be more than happy to provide advice on the best places for your family. They’ll often have pocket maps for the local area that you can buy too.
Be prepared for the British weather
Let’s be honest – you’re holidaying in the UK, so whilst in an ideal world you will be blessed with back to back sunshine you may of course be faced with a variety of weather, including the odd damp or chilly day. Remember that kids can be surprising resilient and don’t dissolve in rainwater. You don’t need to be put off a bike ride just because scattered showers are forecast. However, be mindful of the old saying “There’s no such thing as the wrong weather for cycling, just the wrong clothes”. Quick drying, man-made fabrics are much better than heavy denims, cottons and wools (which will be miserable and potentially painful to ride in). Waterproof jackets can be folded down small and carried until they’re needed.
Children’s body temperature can fluctuate quickly, so wearing lightweight layers means they can add clothes when they stop pedalling, and shed them again quickly when they start to get their blood pumping.
Young children in bike seats and trailers aren’t doing any exercise, so whilst you are puffing away they may be getting chilly. Little fingers can get very cold, so gloves are handy if it’s not a hot day.
It goes without saying that you need to protect the whole family from the sun – even on cloudy days!
You need fuel when cycling
As your child will be pedalling hard they’ll be more hungry and thirsty than usual, so always carry plenty of food and drink with you – particularly in remote areas or on hot days. It’s not unheard of for family bike rides to be spoilt by a café being closed!
Avoid chocolate on hot days, and take some snacks that can be grazed on to keep energy levels up throughout the ride. Malt loaf, flapjacks and jelly sweets are all popular choices in the Cycle Sprog household.
A few final tips
Don’t rely on your phone or GPS device, particularly if you’re heading out into remote areas. Network coverage can be patchy and batteries run out, so always print off or buy a paper map.
You’ll have to carry all your food, drink and clothing. Some hire bikes come with baskets or panniers, but you may need a comfortable rucksack.
Whilst I’d never suggest bribing your child, it’s worth remembering that many children respond well to the thought of an ice cream or hot chocolate at the end of a bike ride. Many a reluctant cyclist has been known to speed up at the promise of a flake on top.
Finally, if you have a great time cycling and find a brilliant family friendly route, don’t forget to write about it in the visitors’ book. That way, future guests at the cottage can try it out too. You can also inspire others (or just make them jealous!) by tagging your Instagram pictures with #CycleSprog.