A bike is a fun way to get some fresh air and burn off a few calories. It’s a great hobby, but it’s even better when you can share it with your family.
Riding with your kids can also help set them up for a healthier life, but only if they start with somewhere safe to ride. Here are a few ideas.
If you live in a town or city, a local park should be your first port of call. A nearby park might save you having to load the whole family and its bikes into the car, while the chances are there’ll be plenty of paths or trails you can follow – and a cafe for when kids’ legs get weary.
But while nobody will object to a couple of children wobbling along the path, if you’re heading out as a family it’s best to find a dedicated cycling route. At the very least, check a park’s rules on riding before you set out.
The UK is blessed with almost limitless trails, bridlepaths and byways open to cyclists, many of which are in some of its most beautiful spots. That’s great news for a seasoned biker, but steep hills and muddy trails aren’t ideal for introducing kids or casual bikers to the great outdoors.
But while the mass closures of branch lines under Dr Beeching was bad news for the railways, it’s left cyclists with a wealth of flat, accessible and traffic-free routes that have been given over to leisure.
Many of these – resurfaced and repurposed by charities such as Sustrans – make perfect family rides. But remember not to go too far: just because you can pack the miles in, you won’t be thanked if you turn a family ride into a junior chain gang. Plan regular stops and squeeze in treats like ice creams or hot chocolate and you’ll be everyone’s favourite.
The National Cycle Network comprises 12,000 miles of traffic-free and quiet road routes – you can download a map from Sustrans here. We’ve picked out eight of our favourites to give you some ideas – but stick to traffic-free sections if you have young kids:
- Tissington Trail, Derbyshire – Following the route of the Buxton to Ashbourne railway, this 13-mile route is mostly flat and well-surfaced.
- The Camel Trail, Cornwall – One of the most popular traffic-free routes in the country, with plenty of cafes. Parking at Wadebridge and Poley’s Bridge means you can ride a shorter section of this 17-mile route.
- Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire – The 11-mile family cycle trail at Cannop Cycle Centre is a great ‘first proper bike ride’ for slightly older kids. Slightly rough in places, it’s best-suited to mountain bikes and sturdy hybrids.
- Meon Valley Railway Line, Hampshire – The nine-mile section from West Meon to Wickham is level, but gets very muddy in winter. Less busy than some routes here, which should increase your chance of seeing wildlife.
- Crab and Winkle Way, Kent – The world’s first passenger railway in 1830, this 7.5 mile route runs to the coast at Whistable. There is some traffic and a few climbs, so it’s best for older kids who are a bit more confident.
- Bristol and Bath Railway Path, Somerset – A 14-mile, fully-tarmaced route following the old Midland Railway. Popular, with plenty to see including steam engines and a 300-metre tunnel.
- The Wirral Way, Merseyside – This 12-mile path runs through the Wirral Country Park from Hooton to the beautiful beaches of West Kirby. The visitor centre at Thurstaston has cycle hire and a cafe.
- Hillend Loch, Lanarkshire – Following the Airdrie to Bathgate railway, this 14-mile route is almost entirely traffic-free. Sculptures along the way reflect the area’s rich industrial heritage.
Finally, kids aged 16 and under ride free at all Evans’ Ride It! Events – where the ‘fun’ road loop is always a good family option.
Sizing top tips
Kids’ bikes are sized by wheel diameter, rather than frame size. Here’s a rough guide to age and size:
|Wheel size (inches)||Age (years)|
Frame size only becomes important for children big enough to ride with 26-inch wheels. You can get more detailed bike sizing information on our website, but we’d also recommend the expert sizing advice available in your nearest Evans store.