A few weeks ago we brought you a guide to learning to ride a bike in London as an adult. Now, with the school holidays rapidly approaching (whoop to a quieter commute!) we felt it was a good time to bring together some resources for cycling with children in London. It may seem like the sort of place that is inhospitable to children learning to ride, but it needn’t be.
The principles of learning as an adult are taken from advice you get given when teaching children to ride. As with most things in life, it is about patience and preparation. Making sure you have a bike that fits your child correctly is incredibly important, not just for their enjoyment but for their growing bodies.
Types of bike
The most important thing about teaching a child to ride a bike is instilling them with confidence initially. To do this it helps if the child rides a good bike that is going to help them learn, rather than drag them down. For older children it is worth having some gears as it is worth having them learn how to use these early. Having gears will also make it easier to cycle further and over varied terrain – the main point of learning to ride is learning to love cycling after all!
Frog bikes are great for kids as they are lightweight and handle fairly similarly to adult bikes. However they do have some safety features that make them safe to learn on. Therefore they are great for beginners and allow for a quick transition to a larger bike. They are also pretty fun, if only adult bikes came in that range of colours and with matching accessories, the cycle commuting world would be a happier place!
As children grow so quickly, the Frog bikes are great as they don’t lose their resale value as much as other bikes, probably because they are so well made in the first place. This means that buying new and reselling is an option. Also good value, they come with two sets of tyres so the bike can comfortably be ridden on or off road.
If you want to check out the Frog bikes and test ride them, Lunar Cycles in Kentish Town has the balance bike, first pedal bike and hybrid bikes in a full size range. They also have all the accessories you may need to go with them. As an extra bonus, Lunar Cycles is on a quite alley with a very quiet road and a park within walking distance so is a great place to try out some new bikes.
After getting children confident and comfortable on a bike, the next most important thing is the get them safe on one. Even if you don’t really intend for a child to cycle on roads all that often, or at all, proper cycle training is definitely a good idea, especially as it is free for most people living in London.
Bikeability training may be offered in schools to groups but can also be taken as a 1-2-1 course. This is the training that used to be called cycling proficiency in the 90’s. The idea has since been improved to include 3 levels which allow the trainee to work up to be able to cope with complex traffic situations as would be found on many London roads.
Cycle Confident are the providers of bikeability cycling skills training in many London boroughs for children and adults. You can chose to do a 1-2-1 session or something else like a family cycling session if that is you goal. You can also find information about cycle training and the three different levels over on TfL’s website
There are lots of traffic free routes in and around London which would be suitable for family rides. The canals are good, but they can get a little congested at the weekend. As they are narrow as well they are probably a good route for children who are already confident at handling their bikes and knowing what to do around other cyclists and pedestrians. The canals are great for bird watching though!
Parks are the traditional choice for budding cyclists and London has some great ones, Hyde Park and Victoria Park are just two which spring to mind. There are also the marshes in East London and the paths along the Thames. Don’t forget to check out our route planning guide as it can help as well.
There is a pretty awesome Sustrans book which compiles 150 different traffic-free cycle routes around the country, which are great for anyone to ride, but especially families. There are 5 in Greater London and many more within a short train or car ride.
What is your experience cycling with children in London?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.