A couple of weekends ago we took part in a sponsored bike ride, organised by Son Number One’s Scout group. The challenge was to cycle from Hawsker, near Whitby to Ravenscar and back again, a distance of 17 miles. The weather was perfect, sunny but not too hot. Nevertheless, it was still quite a challenge, especially for The Middle Miss with her little bike and me with Babykins on the back.
There was much stopping and starting on the outward leg of the journey as my girl struggled to get to grips with her gears. Let me tell you that stopping and starting when you have an almost three year old on the back of your bike is no fun. While you are stationary it’s hard work holding the bike up and keeping it steady and when you set off again it’s just darn heavy.
1. Aim for as much off road cycling as possible but check the state of the tracks. Too much gravel, mud or rough track makes for accidents.
2. Avoid hilly terrain. Obvious really. Disused railway lines are often great cycle tracks. Steam engines don’t like steep hills any better than small children.
3. Try and cycle where you will have a mobile phone signal. We didn’t have any signal for a lot of the time so we couldn’t let our friends know how far behind we were. As part of an organised ride with regular checkpoints it wasn’t really a safety issue but had we been on our own, it might have caused problems.
4. Encourage children to carry their own drink and snack but be prepared for taking that responsibility from them. It made all the difference to The Middle Miss when we carried her bag.
5. Make sure that non-cycling children who are being towed or carried on a seat are well wrapped up. They are much more likely to get cold than the person transporting them! You can buy cape style covers for children in bike seats. I improvised by wrapping an old rain coat of mine right around Babykins and zipping it up at the front (see the first picture). Gloves are well worth having. Warm shoes or boots are also important.
6. Cycle with friends. I barely saw Son Number One on this ride because he shot off with his friends from his Beaver Scout group. There were three other families doing the ride with us and all the children knew each other. They really kept each other motivated. Having other adults on hand was a blessing and had there been any serious difficulties, we could have split up and still supervised the children.
7. Take a first aid kit, wear a helmet and be prepared for running repairs like punctures.
8. Check the weather – too hot, too cold, too windy or too wet – don’t even bother. It won’t be fun.
9. Know your limits and the limits of your children. Don’t push them too far or everyone will be frustrated. If possible, start small and build up over time.
10. Take plenty of snacks and drinks. Be ready with cash for an ice-cream at the end. Or in our case, fish and chips in Whitby. The perfect way to end the day.