One of the many reasons that we all fell in love with cycling at a young age was because we would go out on family bike rides in the summer or at weekends, taking in the local countryside and getting to ride around off road without the worries about traffic. Now, as we raise our own families, it’s time to pass that enjoyment down to our own children and to reminisce by taking our kids on similar rides to those we used to go on with our parents.
Getting the kids out in the fresh air and way from the games consoles has always been a challenge, but cycling represents the opportunity that we need. They’re active, they’re having fun and they get to control where they go and at what speed (to an extent!!)
A lot of children, to their credit, will ask to go everywhere on their bikes – which is fantastic from our perspective as cycling enthusiasts – and means we can instill a love of cycling from a young age, through their teenage years and into adulthood; and it all starts with a family bike ride.
Where should we go on a family bike ride in the UK?
Lots of families go on family bike rides on their holidays, whether they’re staycations like trips to the coast or somewhere like Center Parcs; or even overseas holidays where they can ride around the local area in search of things to see and do.
Here in the UK there are a number of great places to go riding, ranging from quiet countryside routes to off-road trails around beautiful woodland and reservoirs.
One of the best places to go for a ride in the UK is the Monsal Trail in the Peak District. It’s a former railway line that has been transformed into a traffic-free, family-friendly bike route that makes its way through tunnels and along tracks making it a great route for the whole family to enjoy.
Up in Scotland there are countless great mountain bike and off-road trails that you can try, taking in lochs and castles plus a whole host of mountains. The Loch Lomond Cycle Path, as the name suggests, runs parallel to one of Scotland’s most famous lochs just outside Glasgow and even gives you a view of the beautiful Dumbarton Castle – as if the peaceful scenery of Loch Lomond wasn’t enough! It’s a tiring ride, but certainly one for the family cycling bucket list!
Our final recommendation, for the time being – because we could go on all day – is the fabulous Kielder Forest in Northumberland. With specially designed mountain bike trails for all abilities it’s the ideal place to develop everyone’s skills with the aim of going back again in the future to take on a new route. Here you’ll have lakeside trails and a number of road trails, too, for when you’re ready to cope with the passing traffic. If you’ve got young children, it’s definitely best to stick close to the lake.
Can you go cycling in a National Park?
Absolutely – in fact, it’s encouraged! Cycling holidays are growing in popularity in the UK and National Parks have invested heavily in their woodland tracks, mountain bike trails and quiet, quaint country roads to encourage families to visit and ride through the scenery.
National Parks represent fantastic opportunities not only to get kids out on their bikes, but to take in some wonderful scenery, too. If you don’t mind a bit of a challenge – and it’s probably more for older children than little ones – then there are a variety of different mountain bike trails around National Parks such as the Peak District and Lake District where you can get plenty of fresh air and exercise.
In fact, these National Parks in particular, and places like the Brecon Beacons in Wales, Yorkshire Dales and Loch Lomond offer the opportunity to ride a mountain bike on actual mountains with steep inclines, sharp descents and plenty of places to stop and catch your breath!
How do I fit a bike rack to my car?
Of course, one of the biggest challenges associated with family bike rides is around how you get to somewhere to ride. If you live in the city then there are a very few options for you unless they’re officially organised events such as the popular Sky Ride events each year where the city streets are transformed into miniature velodromes, and the only option is, therefore, to pack up the car and drive to somewhere safe to ride as a family away from the traffic.
National Park and woodland trails are fantastic for this, but getting there either involves removing the wheels from your bike and cramming them into the boot of the car – which isn’t always possible – or, more likely, fitting a bike rack to your car.
Depending on the style of bike rack (or cycle carrier) that you choose, fitting is fairly straightforward. Boot and tow ball mounted carriers can easily be removed when not in use, while roof-mounted racks are a great fit and forget option; they can be left on all through summer, so you can get out in the wilds at a moment’s notice!
Each bike rack comes with its own set of instructions, and once you’ve fixed your bikes into place by lifting them onto the carriers and securing them into place, you’re good go and adventure awaits!
If you’ve got any top tips for family-friendly bike rides then we’d love to hear from you, especially if there’s a particular trail, park or route that we’ve not featured – or if you have any advice for getting kids out on their bikes as much as possible.