Is a Bike just for Christmas?
By Andrew Brown, posted 11 January 2018
Contact on twitter @justridethebike
Don’t let the Christmas bicycle your kids received gather dust and rust. Set the bike up, encourage them to ride it and set your children free.
Forget the PlayStations, Amazon Vouchers and electronic gizmos. Despite the marketing and consumerism that drives some people to a frenzy, there will be more than a few lucky children that received a bicycle for Christmas. However, having got the shiny new bike are they going to ride it? After all, as children and as adults, I’d wager we have all had gifts we like, but that we never really used enough.
Faced with the competition of other sports, crowded roads, homework and the weather it's important to encourage your kids to use their bicycle, enjoy it and learn to love it. But it is not easy.
So, we have some top tips to help you to encourage your kids (including the grandchildren and nieces and nephews) to make riding the bike a central part of their lives. Hopefully our ideas will help them be like the kid in the old yellow pages advertisement and maybe rekindle those faded memories of people riding Raleigh Choppers in the 1970s.
1. Make cycling part of a routine
The biggest thing that makes any exercise difficult for adults is fitting it into our daily or weekly lives. So, learn from your mistakes as an adult and try to get your children to see the bicycle as their default method of transport. Going to the shops? Send your budding BMX, MTB or roadie with their bike and a rucksack. Kids have a playdate? Why not ride round to their friends’ house? Too far? Drive them part way?
2. Be positive
Don’t negatively predict danger and difficulties You, a grandparent or a relative has bought your child a bike. Let them use it. The bicycle will set them free. Think about it. Can you and the children ride the bike to school? Could you drive part of the way and then cycle the rest? Could you ride the bike to the shops? Can you let the kids ride on their own to the shops? Why not just test out what works and what you feel happy about? And take listen the naysayers. If you think it’s safe, then it is safe.
3. Don’t be beaten by the weather
Wrap them up warm and let them get on with it. Everyone, not just children, can be put off by wet, windy and frosty weather. But kids are more resistant to the weather than we think. If they’re put off, it is because an adult has put the idea in their head. Give your young aspiring cyclists the right clothing. A decent anorak, gloves and a hat to go under the helmet is going to help. If it’s raining and you know they’re going to search out puddles to ride through either just let them get on with it, or use masking tape to wrap up those leaky trainers or better yet some wax to fend off those cold feet.
4. Make riding a bike fun
Children can be amazingly resilient but like anyone else, they can’t be made to have a good time. Riding a bike shouldn’t be like going to the party. It should not be dreaded or seen as an obligation. It should be an escape from reality, a chance to get muddy, go fast, whizz up and down bumps, slopes, and jumps and drop offs unfettered with an adult insistence to have a great time. Make the chance to ride a bike as natural as, well riding a bike (as opposed to falling off a log). Make it an adventure. Find out where the nearest MTB centre might be. Why not visit the local BMX ramp? Seek out chances to find easy roads with great views and make a picnic stop. And don’t race off ahead. Let the kids set the pace. Do not put them under any pressure to keep up, go fast, be dangerous or enjoy it. Let it all come naturally. Just ride the bike.