The need to exercise and stay healthy has never been greater than it has been during the pandemic. Cycling continues to be a safe and enjoyable form of exercise for the whole family, providing free fun for all and a great opportunity to spend time together while respecting the latest social distancing guidelines. Riding together as a family can also help you to manage the monotony of a life largely lived indoors over the last several months!
Here are our hints and tips for how you can and your family can get that much-needed exercise while staying safe on your bike during this challenging period.
Plan your route
Riding in a group will always present certain challenges and while the roads are quieter than normal right now, you should be aware of your surroundings any time you head out. Agree on the route that you’re taking before you saddle up and set-off, including any scheduled stops.
Brush up on your road safety
Set out some ground rules before you leave. You’re riding for fun, not racing, so explain the fundamentals of road safety for kids. Regardless of whether there are many cars on the road, you must follow the Highway Code rules for cyclists. The laws and regulations apply to all cyclists of all ages, so even if you’re an experienced cyclist, it pays to refresh your memory.
The basics include not jumping red lights, signalling clearly at all times and riding in a position where you can be seen (more on that below). Bikes should be fitted with bells and reflectors, and you should respect other road users and pedestrians. If you’re sharing the road with other users (on a shared use path for instance), then keep your speed low. Alert others to your presence with your bell and give priority to vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and those on horses.
While many of our family bike ride tips are common sense, some are legal requirements. Fail to follow them and you could find yourself in trouble.
Decide on your road positioning
When riding with children, having the correct road positioning is crucial. You should ensure that all riders are confident on the road, and ride outside of the gutters and away from the pavement. It’s necessary to maintain a two-metre distance from any pedestrians. This may involve you riding in a more central position on the road than you’re used to.
If you’re riding past parked cars, position your bike at least 1.5m away from the cars (this is enough clearance for a swinging door). When approaching junctions, slow down and use your eyes to engage other road users.
As an adult, you must lead by example. Demonstrate safe road cycling techniques and your children will follow you.
One of our expert family bike ride tips is that if there are two adults, have one at the front and one at the rear with any children cycling in the middle between you. A child at the front or back may be more difficult for a driver to spot. If you or your children aren’t confident on the road or clear on the road positioning advice, then don’t take any chances, and find a traffic-free route or walk your bikes to the park instead. Our Discovery Hub has some fabulous bike rides to choose from.
Carry out pre-ride checks
Check everyone’s bike before leaving. Check that all moving components are running smoothly, chains are lubricated and brakes are functioning correctly. Pump up all tyres and fix any punctures. Give all bikes a thorough clean, washing off the dirt, grime (or dust!) before you set off.
If you’re an engineering novice, our simple and clear How-To Guides are packed full of information on how to tackle most cycling maintenance tasks or you can book a Free Bike Health Check at your local Halfords to get an expert opinion.
Pack the essentials
On family rides, pack the essentials. This includes refreshments and any tools, kits and tubes you may need for roadside repairs. Each rider should have a full water bottle, which can be mounted to the frame of most bikes. Even on cold days, children can become dehydrated quickly. A fruit bar, banana or small snack should provide enough fuel for rides of up to an hour. Remember, you might not be able to stop at your favourite local café or pub.
Pack a bike tool to manage any running repairs you might need to do. You should also carry a pump and a puncture repair kit, or selection of spare tubes for each bike. Chuck everything you need in a rucksack and remember to include a fully-charged mobile phone.
Choose your cycling safety equipment
Helmets aren’t a legal requirement on the road, but they will provide protection in the unfortunate event of an accident. Adult bike helmets come in a range of styles and designs, from basic models to modern, Bluetooth-enabled road helmets that enable you to take and make calls on the road.
We believe that all children should wear helmets whenever and wherever they ride. Make it fun and give them the choice of helmet. When they can choose between cool designs like the Black and Grey Lines or Purple Swirl, they won’t need much encouragement to strap it on before they saddle up. Our bike helmet guide will help you to choose the right size kids’ cycle helmet.
A hi-vis jacket or tabard can improve the visibility of any rider on the road. Reflective panels will catch headlights, and the brightly coloured fabric will draw attention from drivers. They’re cheap, lightweight and easy to pack away once you’re in the park, so we advise all riders to consider wearing one.
Lights aren’t just for nighttime, but for the day too. Front and rear daytime cycling lights can improve your visibility to all drivers and are a small price to pay for family cycling safety.
Load up the little ones
If your little ones are just too little to cycle, a child’s bike seat or a child bike trailer will enable them to join in on the fun. High-quality children’s bike seats like the Polisport Groovy RS Plus attach to the back of an adult bike and allow a child to be firmly strapped in. They’re kept secure in an upright position and get to enjoy the great outdoors, seeing everything you see.
Child bike trailers are, as the name suggests, pulled by a bike. A secure mount keeps the trailer locked to your bike, with the child able to enjoy being a real backseat driver. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with large trailers like the Halfords Double Child Bike Trailer suitable for carrying two tiny tearaways.
Children’s bike seats and kids’ cycle trailers are safe to use on the roads, but you must ensure that they’re securely fitted to the bike. Check all fixings are stable and secure, and give everything a thorough going over, particularly if you haven’t use the seat or trailer for a while.
If you’ve never ridden a bike with a seat attached or while towing a trailer, then we advise you to be cautious. The additional weight on your frame or towed at the rear can affect handling and braking distances, so take your time and enjoy the ride, instead of racing ahead.
You’ll find everything that you need for safe and fun family cycling adventures at Halfords. From tubes and tyres to entire bikes, you can search our complete range and buy online. Once you’re got all the kit sorted, it’s time to choose a destination and take to the roads for some quality family time.