As parents we believe there is no better way to spend time with our children than outdoors and being active as a family. Claire & I love taking our children out walking, swimming, canoeing and of course cycling! The hours spent watching them develop, learn new life-time skills and enjoying the great outdoors we will treasure forever.
Over the past 11 years, we have also ridden with and helped other families discover the joys of combining a great sport and fun recreational activity with quality/precious time together whilst on our family cycling holidays in Spain. Come on, let’s face it, we all loved to ride our bikes as kids, I remember cycling being a great way of spending my summer holidays visiting friends and going off conker picking with my friends & my brother. Our bikes were our freedom! As a parent I now enjoy the excitment that riding a bike brings to our children Oliver (4 yrs old) and Sophie (8 yrs old).
I have also noticed that there are several distinct phases that families go through on their family cycling journey.
Children as toddlers. Once your child has control/can support their head, around 9-10 months old, the riding can begin. We started both Sophie & Oliver off in a chariot, we’d strap them in, pad them out with cushions to make it comfortable and give them their favourite soft toys and away we’d go, riding for as far as we (the parents) wanted to go. When a little older, 16-18 months, both Sophie & Oliver enjoyed riding on a child seat on the back of my bike. Positioned higher up they could also enjoy the view, feel the wind and sun upon their faces, talk with me but most importantly for them, too kick my bum and tell me to ride faster. As parents we would choose between the chariot and child seat depending on the weather and where we were riding.
Teaching your child to ride. We started our two on balance bikes when they were about 3 yrs old and they both loved it. They could run around, learn to balance and steer whilst playing with their peers & older childern but also, we could start short cycling trips with them on their balance bikes. To start with I would also tow the chariot so they could get in when tired, which again allowed us to ride further. This was the best intro to family cycling as they were to big for the chariot (read as they didn’t want to go in it) but not strong enough for a pedal bike. The perfect compromise, I wished I’d had one as a child! At around 4 1/2yrs old we introduced the pedal bike, for Sophie & Oliver, the transition was easy as they could steer and balance, there was no real need for stabilisers. Once they had grasped the concept of pedalling there was no stopping them.
The tag-a-long. At 5-7 yrs old when Sophie was already used to whizzing around on her own little bike and wanted to come riding with Mum and Dad but wasn’t physically strong enough to ride any substantial distance, we used a tag-a-long. This is essentially a bike without the front forks and wheel which attaches to the parents bike at the seat post. We would ride for a few hours with Sophie happily pedalling along and enjoying being out chatting to Claire & I as we rode. I could really feel the difference when Sophie was pedalling it was like have a tailwind but when she’d stop pedalling half way up a hill I’d really notice the difference. Sophie was always succepable to Blackmail and the mention of an Ice Cream would soon have her pedalling again! When we started riding the tag-a-long together I would worry about getting home and Sophie not being on the bike, luckily for me Sophie likes to talk & sing so I always knew she hadn’t fallen off.
Sophie is now 8 yrs old and has her own MTB and road bike & Oliver has his own bike too. We go out for rides when they ask. Sophie likes to play ‘Cycling guides’ as this is what Mum and Dad do for work (and she likes to boss us around) but it makes it fun and therefore she rides further. It’s always important to ride as a family, leaving your partner and children miles behind (I’ve seen this happen loads of times) is a sure way to put them off riding. Remember it’s not a training session for you, it’s a family activity! If you encourage & ride with them your children & you can enjoy riding together for many years, creating and sharing many wonderful memories. The time we spend outdoors doing an activity together is precious, enjoy it whilst it lasts it won’t be long before they are stealing all your Strava KOM’s!!
As capable cyclists your family can enjoy riding together whenever and where ever you want. Family Cycling Holidays in Spain are a great way to discover new places, cultures and cuisine. Hopefully, one day our children will pass on their love of cycling to our grandchildren, keeping the wheels turn and the adventure going!
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