7 things to do (on a bike) at Half Term
By JRtB, posted 18 October 2017
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Half term just round the corner? Here are 7 things to get you on your bikes.
Half term holidays, or let’s face it, any school holiday can be viewed one of two ways. A thing of dread or a challenge. Either way, the solution to happy time is keeping the children busy and the senior family members happy. In a world where we are increasingly obese and children don’t take enough exercise (or adults come to think of it), riding a bike is the perfect solution to filling time during the break.
Cycling is healthy, family oriented and good for the brain. Yes, we all need a break and cycling is better for you than a dose of winter sun (unless you can combine both of course). It can do everyone good and so, here, is seven things (one for each day obviously) for everyone that involves just riding the bike.
How to get the most from your bike
Find an easy bike ride route for you, the family and maybe friends too that is fun and leads to an entertaining end. Buy a map. Or, go online and find a cycle ride route that suits you. Why not pick a Sustrans route to ride near you? Slide on over to www.sustrans.org and find the interactive map. Use this to piece together a route that suits everyone you want cycle with. Some of them are completely car-free, others are quiet lanes. One big advantage is that you can follow the signs around that route. Almost everyone has a cycle path nearby, or a short drive away (for bikes that can be loaded onto cars) and often leads to a shop, a tourist site to visit or a cafe.
Pack up the mountain bikes, get muddy and ride a new trail centre. The kids will love it and if you’re keen on MTBs you can choose a different venue for your hit of trail buzz. See if you can add an hour to your travel, during the holidays the roads will be quieter (early in the mornings anyway). Early is still best to avoid the crowds – drag the kids out of bed, make the sandwiches the night before and hit those hills. The Great British Mountain Bike Trail Guide, by Clive Forth (Bloomsbury Publishing), is our go-to reference point. More Dirt has some good ideas, but there is no official list of centres, so check out MBSwindons for their map and recommendations. It also includes natural ones, as well as purpose-built. Some of the best are in Wales, like Afan Forest near Port Talbot, or Coed Llandegla, near Wrexham.
Just get a group of friends together and go on a group ride. Some of the best rides on any bike involve a trip to a café. The ingredients are simple. Bike, some friends, a local club, a local shop, British Cycling Groups, Sky ride, local council; there are multiple options for just riding your bike with like-minded people. Why not set up your own group ride just for the sheer half term just ride the bike hell of it. Set up a WhatsApp group ride chat and be the road captain (the man/woman that plans the route, speed, coffee stop and meet point)!
Can’t get the time off during half term? Commute by bike. Why not? Never considered commuting by bike? Now’s the time to try: allowing for the odd hurricane, the weather might still be OK, and the kids aren't around so the lack of a school run makes traffic lighter. Take advantage of a quieter week on the roads and swap the car for the bike. Test out the routes and have some fun. Alternatively, follow JRtB's lead and drive half way; park up, and the ride the final part. Check the weather though, add some mudguards and check where you’re going to stash the bike at the end of the ride. Take it easy, keep warm, stay safe and arrive on time.
Cycle with extra purpose. For many, cycling is an end in itself. So why not ring the changes and use your bikes to achieve something else. Mix it up a bit. Maybe it's just going to the shops (see our article on Belgium cycling for more on this), or maybe it's riding to a local attraction? Enjoying the journey AND the destination? It doesn't get much better than that. Set something up for the end of ride. Dig out the panniers and go shopping, or load up for a picnic. It doesn’t matter.
Buy a new bike. Radical, potentially, but bike reviews are proving that there is an appetite for new bikes, even if there isn't much purse space. Now is the perfect time to bag a bargain. Most shops are clearing out 2017 bikes to make way for 2018 models. It is good to check the offers and yes, there are deals to be done via online retailers such as Wiggle, Evans, JE James, or Tweaks (there's loads of them). But do remember you won't get any aftercare. We strongly recommend not just talking to, but trying and buying from your local independent bicycle shop. The advice is almost always good. There will be a service included, you can try the bike out, they will give you the size best for your physique and they will sell you what you need – not just what you want. We are based in the Cotswolds’ and we recommend Independent Bikeworks in Cirencester; Bikeworks near Nailsworth, Cytek in Stroud and Noah’s Ark, outside of Stroud on the A417. CycleFox can point to dealers in London and the south east, but you’d be surprised how many great local shops will be close to you and worth exploring. The half term will disappear in the twinkling of a gear change.
Give your bike a good old clean up, service and all-round tweak. Use the half term to do the chores that will benefit the bike, not just the house. If the bike runs smoothly, you will be fitter, have more fun and be able to benefit from the sheer joy of just riding the bike. It is easy to ride the bike on the daily commute and forget the grime and love the bike less. Likewise, those weekend warriors amongst us might take our bikes for granted. Why not go on a bike maintenance course like the Just Ride the Bike team did? Or buy that chain cleaning kit, check your wheels for the winter, look out the mud guards at the back of the garage and review your kit for autumn weather coming around the corner.
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