Monday, April 7, 2014

What you need to know to start your child’s cycling journey

  Tackling the Tour is one thing, but teaching youngsters how to cycle can be a challenge in itself.

So what do you need to know before starting your child’s own cycling journey ahead of the world’s greatest bike ride? They say that you never forget how to ride a bike.
The thrill of travelling under your own steam at speed is one of the most exciting and liberating things you can do as a child.
And most youngsters don’t want to miss out on that thrill and be left in the wake of their friends, so learning to balance on a bicycle and ditch those stabilizers is an early must.
For parents however, the task of teaching little loved ones how to cycle safely can be a bit of a daunting feat, with the prospect of tantrums and injury about as appealing as donning a lycra bodysuit faced with a ride up Holme Moss yourself.
But setting children out on their own cycling adventure need not be so scary and what better time to get them started than in the year the world-famous Tour de France rolls into our region.
From the age of around three, there are plenty of ways for your child to gain confidence before going solo on two wheels but before sitting them in the saddle, you first should make sure tots have an appropriate helmet and long-sleeved tops and trousers to cushion any falls.
Fitting a bike with stabilizers is the traditional choice for parents but these should be fitted so that the bike can lean at least slightly because otherwise, if the rear wheel is off the ground, the brakes won’t work properly.
More recently however experts have claimed that stabilizers can delay the learning process, as riding is 90 per cent about balance.
One solution to this is investing in a balance bike. Without a chain or pedals, children learn to balance, steer, coast and build up their confidence on two wheels while being able to keep their feet on the ground.
John Stainthorpe is sales director at Cyclesense, in Thorp Arch, Wetherby, which was among the UK’s first LIKEaBIKE balance bike distributors when it ordered them in back in 1999.
He said: “Quite often the age you can get a child on a balance bike is as young as 18months when a child wouldn’t even be able to use a bike with stabilizers until they were three or four.
“The reason they can’t ride with stabilizers is because of the weight of the cycle and them not having the strength and coordination to pedal. Balance bikes are simply the best way to start them off.”
Alternatively don’t discount tag-along bikes that clip on the back of an adult bicycle to help little ones get used to the sensation of riding without having to master keeping upright, while trikes can help youngsters get used to pedaling.
It’s all about giving your child an early chance to learn the physical basics of riding and acting as a supportive arm during the thrills and spills along the way.
Offering plenty of praise and perseverance can be key to helping your young adventurer take early tumbles in their stride.
Location is the key to early lessons in riding. Find a smooth, flat area that’s free of obstacles and traffic and ask them to toddle and steer towards you on their balance bike from a distance of five to 10metres while looking at you and not the ground.
At this point it’s likely your child will push along all the way but getting them to repeat the exercise, encouraging them to coast more rather than solely relying on their feet, will help them start to understand how to balance.
Dave Stevens, Yorkshire volunteer coordinator at sustainable transport charity Sustrans, added: “We see all the time that kids that have been using balance bikes quickly roll off downhill and then you send them off on pedals, give them a push and they can do it.
“Kids learn to get used to the stabilizers. Running behind and giving them confidence and practicing down a slight downhill can make a big difference.”
When showing children how to brake, ensuring that they use their back brake first so they don’t go head over heels, is also a useful tip.
As your child progresses try to introduce them to pedaling after they have mastered steering, braking and coasting. Try to encourage them to rest their feet on the pedals as they coast and when it feels natural, push them to pedal.
Avoid holding the handlebars as they get going, because this can stop your child balancing on their own, so instead try lightly placing your hand on their shoulder as a guide and when they’re happy, let go.
Like all things, practice makes perfect. It may take a few hours or a few days but as long as you keep a cool head and guide them patiently, you will get there in the end.
And as our region focuses its efforts on encouraging people to learn to ride or simply get back on their bikes, it appears there is no better time than the present to get youngsters cycling.
Roger Harrington, Leeds City Council’s cycling champion, said: “It’s absolutely vital to see how we can maximize the opportunities for schools to be involved in the Tour in one way or another and an extensive program is being organized.”
He said as part of the council’s own cycling push a mini Tour de France event for school children across Leeds at Temple Newsam Park is being set up, while educational packages being sent to schools are aimed at inspiring the next generation of riders.
The final step is graduating to road cycling. When your child starts school they will probably want to cycle and at that point riding on the pavement is the best option, as long as they pay attention to walkers and cars coming out of driveways.
From around age seven they may want to cycle with you on the roads, at which point it’s a good idea to sign them up to modern day cycling proficiency training, now known as Bikeability, where they can be taught control, road sense and confidence.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kids Winter Cycling Gear

It's cold outside, but you still want to ride. We know the feeling! You can be comfortable and warm during cold weather and still get out on the bike without looking like Randy from "A Christmas Story".
You just need the right winter riding gear. We suggest the following items to make your ride comfortable and easy.

  1. A stretch cycling thermal skull cap for under your helmet. You want one that covers your ears and is thin enough so you don't have to readjust your helmet straps. 
  2. The next item is a good pair of long finger cycling gloves that have a wind blocker fabric on top and a soft fleece on the bottom with gripper strips for holding on to the bars. 
  3. Now you want a good wind jacket with velcro wrist closure and a high neck. This piece is especially important since you can adjust your temperature with the jacket zipper and sleeves.
  4. Full length stretch pants will fit over your padded bike shorts or you can use leg warmers.
  5. Base layers should include poly socks, t-shirt and jersey. No cotton!
Now you are set up with good winter riding gear. So get out there and ride!
Polaris Kids Wind/Rain Jacket
Polaris Kids Winter Glove

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Kid's Safety: Cycling to School

Recently, parents shared some of their concerns with us. Namely, traffic and parking near schools. We thought it might be worthwhile to open up a dialog ...

Traffic flow and people parking irresponsibly around schools often pose a major barrier when it comes to persuading children to cycle to school.
Addressing that problem would be a major step in making streets around schools safer for young bike riders.

Excessive speeds, poor traffic flow and parking on bike lanes make streets dangerous for young cyclists. Riding a bike promotes independence and engages kids in outdoor activities.

One parent commented: “Every morning the roads are jammed with cars rushing to make the morning commute. This makes for a very dangerous situation for children riding their bikes to school. Let’s make the streets around schools more cycling friendly for the kids”

There will always be vehicles dropping children off at school, so let’s give the little cyclists their own dedicated path into the school, an area where vehicles are prohibited so that children can pedal to classes in safety.

Getting children into cycling is a good idea. Schools can help by re-enforcing appropriate traffic flow and giving kids direction for safe entry and exit into the school area.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Kids Bike Shorts Get Real

Kids bike shorts are starting to get real. It's only been recently that kids bike shorts are being manufactured with good materials and decent seat padding. Most kids don't use or probably don't need a pair of real functional bike shorts if they don't ride for extended periods of time.  But for those kids that can keep up with their parents or are on organized rides of longer than 10 miles in a forward position, good bike shorts are essential. The same design and materials in adult shorts for comfort and function will provide the same protections in kids shorts. It's best to look for a medium weight material and to inspect the seat pad for  thickness and durability. You don't want a thick pad that won't breathe and release heat and moisture. The construction is also important so that there are no areas that will cause chaffing or irritation. Look for shorts from a reputable company that offers more than just a few items for kids and the shorts should be child specific and not scaled down adult shorts. You can find padded shorts for road, mountain and BMX/Downhill applications. The baggy shorts that offer a padded liner or removable padded liner are an excellent choice to get your kids started with wearing a padded short.
Spin2 Kids padded Lycra short from Polaris-Apparel UK
Spin2 Kids Baggy Short with removable padded liner from Polaris-Apparel UK

Spin2 Kids padded baggy short from Polaris-Apparel UK

Monday, August 13, 2012

What to bring to a cycling event?

We've been to a lot of cycling events over the years and we started off bringing an entire carload of stuff. Now, we're down to just the essentials. Water, money, sunscreen, cowbells, hats and good walking shoes. On occasion we'll bring a few light-weight, folding seats that you would use for camping or hunting. You can find them at Sportsman's Warehouse for $15 and they have storage underneath for your water and sunscreen.They even have straps to wear it like a backpack.