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God forbid cycling should become a mature person’s sport, but the cost of good bikes, the need for car travel in some disciplines and the natural protective instincts of adults make it harder for the young to get involved. Steve Thomas suggests 10 ways for them to get your kids on two wheels.

[part title="SUPER COMMUTER"]

school kids cycle-001

The freedom thing is still very powerful and kids can get a taste for it early by using bikes to get to school or college. For them it just takes a little physical effort and a change of mindset to start with, but for the adults involved it can be tougher.

They have to provide the bike, instil the safe riding habits and means of keeping thieves at bay. They also have to overcome a bit of anxiety. But there it is, unless you live a very long way from their place of education, or in a seriously dangerous environment, there is no reason to stop them riding to and from school or college.

How dangerous? 5/10

Traffic is the issue here. To minimise the risk be sure the bike has lights, and that they wear a helmet and reflective band. A bike friendly route is paramount.

How expensive?

£200 - 300 for the bike. If you have the bike all you need is lights, helmet and reflective bands. You’ll save the cost on a term’s bus fares or fuel alone.

Adult time required?

A few hours, or less. You need to check out the route in the beginning, after that you save time.

• Pro’s – gives young people freedom, a sense of self-responsibility and natural exercise. Plus it saves many parents a stack of time in stressful commuting.

• Con’s – initial worry as you wait for their return. Traffic risks need to be reduced as much as possible by a well thought out route.

[part title="CYCLING CLUBBER"]

kids cycle club

Joining a cycling club will open up a whole new world for kids keen to do a little more cycling, and to explore some more. It’s definitely the best step.

Most clubs cater for the sporting and touring side of things – both road and mountain bike. Through the summer months many clubs have their weekend and weekday rides and races, where kids get to mingle and learn from people of all ages and from all walks of life.

How dangerous? 3/10

Apart from getting to and from meetings/events they will be in good and responsible hands most of the time.

How expensive?

Joining the club costs very little. But once get serious about competing and equipment costs can be high. The initial investment is a bike, helmet and some riding gear.

Adult time required?

The more they get into things the more time will be consumed – as with any sport. Maybe transport to a weekly meet or race on a rota basis.

• Pro’s – a safe and educational environment, and a window to another world.

• Con’s – if they get serious about racing then it can become expensive and time consuming.

[part title="THE BMX ROUTE"]

bmx kids

This is one of the easiest ways for young riders to get into cycling and one of the most manageable too. BMX is cool, and has a kind of clandestine image, which can be very appealing.

The bikes and set up costs are low, and there are numerous BMX tracks in bigger towns, and small towns often have a local council track – all risk evaluated and far away from traffic and outside interruptions.

Kids often get into the whole scene, working on tracks and maintaining them themselves, or with groups of friends – basic social skills and responsibility are learned through necessity.

On top of this it’s a very intense physical sport, which is great for all-round fitness, and it teaches a great deal of balance and concentration.

How dangerous? 6/10

If they push it there will be crashes.

How expensive?

Bikes and gear are simple and inexpensive.

Adult time required?

Low maintenance, especially if you have a local track.

• Pro’s – low set up and maintenance costs, no traffic factor, good exercise, teaches agility, concentration - and it’s cool.

• Con’s – there will be cuts, grazes, at worst a broken bone.

[part title="ON THE TRACK"]

track cycling for kids

Britain is the number one nation in the world when it comes to track racing. Thanks to the overwhelming Olympic success of Sir Chris Hoy and co the sport has become very prominent, and appealing to budding young athletes.

Track is bike racing in a very pure form. The bikes used have no brakes, no gears and no suspension, and with no hills or wind to contend with you don’t need a fantastic bike to get started either.

On the downside there are only a few tracks around the country – but of those many have their own rental bikes and offer very low cost introductory courses. The thrill of riding around a banked track with no brakes is second to none, and often hooks people for life. The physical benefits are of athletic proportions, and the discipline learning curve is as steep as the banking.

How dangerous? 4/10

The occasional crash and burn is inevitable.

How expensive?

If you live near to a track it’s not hugely expensive, and bikes can be cheap for starters.

Adult time required?

They will have to get to and from the track, with bikes, maybe once a week.

• Pro’s – a controlled environment, a level playing field and great for teaching discipline and promoting fitness.

• Con’s – there are not a whole lot of tracks around the country, and to be competitive they will also need to train on the road.

[part title="THE DIRT JUMPER"]


Watching young riders hurtling over your head on a bike can be a little scary at first. But bigger and cleaner air is what dirt jumping is all about, and while you’re young and your natural agility and sense of adventure is at its height is the time to enjoy it. Rest assured, the risk factor is nowhere near as high as the jumps.

Dirt jumping is great fun, and is about pushing the boundaries, discovering yourself, and having fun with your mates. There are legal and ‘rebel’ dirt jump areas in almost every town and they are well away from traffic and trouble. Riders tend to self manage and maintain the places too. They become real communal affairs, and a lot of pride goes into them.

How dangerous? 7.5/10

There will be accidents, mostly not serious, but the occasional bone may be broken.

How expensive?

Dirt jump bikes are fairly basic, so not too expensive. Pads and a good helmet are a must, after that it’s pretty low maintenance.

Adult time required?

Almost none. Some help petitioning the council to build more jumps perhaps.

• Pro’s – away from the traffic, building camaraderie and learning about themselves and responsibility while having fun.

• Con’s – accidents are inevitable. There could well be an occasional broken bone.

[part title="TRICKS & TRIALS"]

tricks kids

Just take a look at the likes of Danny Makaskill on You Tube and you’ll be left speechless as he hops on and off railings and jumps from shop roofs. But that is the very extreme end of the tricks and stunts scale!

Trials riding can be done just about anywhere, and can start with a simple wheelie in the back garden or bunny hopping a log. This portability is the real beauty of trials. You can progress and learn without having to go far from home – and it teaches great concentration and balance skills too – and really impresses your mates when they see your latest work of art on the web.

How dangerous? 5/10

A few scrapes are likely, but nothing too serious.

How expensive?

Trials bikes are fairly low cost. And running costs are almost zero after that.

Adult time required?

Just about zero.

• Pro’s – can be done anywhere and is progressive. Low cost and, and pretty safe.

• Con’s – the day will come when they try to ride over your car.

[part title="FAMILY BIKE HOLIDAY"]

family cycling

The destination and type of riding will decide whether the kids want to go for a family cycling holiday – after all, it’s not always cool to go riding with your parents. But it’s a great way to bond and do things together.

Depending on your taste there’s everything from Alpine mountain holidays available, where you can separate when required, through to epic self-sufficient family touring holidays through Asia.

If you can get the thumbs up on an idea which works for everyone it could spark off interest in travel, culture, even cycling...

How dangerous? 2/10

Your sanity is most at risk.

How expensive?

A hostelling trip around Wales is as cheap as chips, but a luxury holiday in Moab could melt your card.

Adult time required?

100 per cent for the duration.

• Pro’s – potentially a great bonding experience, where you can learn a lot about each other. Also could open up a whole new world.

• Con’s – if you pick the wrong holiday for everyone it could spell disaster. Try a weekend first.

[part title="CROSS-COUNTRY MTB"]

xc mtb kids

There’s nothing quite like hurtling down some wild mountain or forest singletrack, dust trail behind you, adrenaline pumping and teeth chattering. This is cross-country mountain biking

A decent ‘do it all’ mountain bike and a helmet will be most of what’s needed. There are trails of some kind in most places, and great wild adventures waiting a little further a field. It’s great for physical fitness and gives a real sense of freedom, as well as being extremely healthy, and great fun – especially with a small group.

How dangerous? 4/10

How expensive?

The more you do the better equipment you will want – but in reality simple and functional are adequate.

Adult time required?

If you have trails locally then time is minimal – but if they need to travel to far-flung trail centres then it could be considerable. Best if you love it too.

• Pro’s – healthy and a great way to be at one with nature. It can be done in most places and is traffic free.

• Con’s – can get expensive if you’re not strict. Visits to other trail areas will mean time commitment.

[part title="DOWNHILL MTB"]

dh mtb for kids-001

Downhill racing was for a long time the coolest thing you could do on two wheels – and Britain still has the best riders in the world, so it has a great appeal to young riders.

The sport is really about having fun, and pushing yourself and your bike to the limit. It can be dangerous, especially if you don’t know when to ease off the gas. But it’s also drop dead glamorous.

There are many short downhill tracks around the country, but for longer runs you need to travel, and in most cases some kind of “up lift" is needed to get to the top, which means organised events and expense.

How dangerous? 7.5/10

It’s about pushing it, so accidents will happen.

How expensive?

Decent bikes and equipment don’t come cheap (from £1500) and neither does travel.

Adult time required?

Once the travel starts it can become a major weekend commitment.

• Pro’s – great fun with mates!

• Cons – limited venues mean travel, and also very cash heavy.

[part title="MASS RIDES"]

Sky Ride header

Rising to the challenge is something we all like to do, especially when we’re young. With the on-going promotion of cycling in the UK more and more mass bike rides are emerging – events like the Skyride series, which attracts 10,000 cyclists at a time.

These events are great for goal setting: finishing the London-Brighton, riding 100 kilometres and so on. Riding along with thousands of other people is a great social thing – and competing against your friends, or simply the clock makes it all the more rewarding.

How dangerous? 4/10

The odd spill is possible.

How expensive?

Events like the Skyride are free to enter; others have a small entry fee.

Adult time required?

Travelling on the day of the event may be required but then you’ll probably join in.

• Pro’s – goal setting necessitates training and discipline. Good fun, and gives a sense of achievement afterwards.

• Con’s – there are a limited number of events on offer – but they are growing.

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