Teaching your child to cycle is giving them two great gifts in life; an enjoyable form of exercise, and the ability to travel quickly from one point to another on their own steam. Cycling is a great family activity for similar reasons, with the added perks of being environmentally friendly and free once you have the equipment. The Gold Coast offers excellent opportunities for cyclists, with 600km of bikeways crafted through neighbourhoods and parks, as well as along the waterfront.
Bicycle Queensland’s Bike Week, running 16-24 March, may be coming to an end, but if you didn’t have a chance to get involved, why not use it as an excuse to get out there soon?
Cycling options for families with children
Children can learn to ride in some form from around three years old, and there are a variety of options to help get them started. One such option is the balance bike, which is shaped like a normal bicycle without pedals. The child moves the bike by walking it forward, while comfortably sitting on the seat. This helps small children learn how to steer and balance properly before moving onto a larger pushbike.
Another option is the tricycle or trike, which is a small bicycle with three wheels, two of which are at the back to help stop the bike from falling over sideways, giving your child the opportunity to focus on learning to propel themselves forward and to steer, without the added challenge of making the bicycle stay upright. There are also training wheels that can be attached to the rear wheel of a standard bicycle to serve the same purpose. These can then be removed down the track if desired.
Of course there is a period where children are too small to ride a bike on their own steam. In this situation there are options parents can consider if they want to take their children with them, including bicycle child seats and trailers, or even tag-along cycles for slightly older children. A tag-along is a bike with only one wheel, which is attached to an adult's bicycle so that a child can ride along behind you. The concept is quite similar to a tandem bicycle, but can be attached to your existing bike.
Planning a cycling trip
An important factor in planning any family activity is whether everyone will be safe. Several tips to help you confidently plan your outing:
- Everyone on a bicycle must wear a well-fitting helmet that is in good condition.
- Plan your route before departing; while children are learning the basic skills of cycling, stick to quiet bike paths and don't forget to offer tips and encouragement on how they can improve.
- Ensure all bikes are working properly, particularly checking that there is air in the tyres and that the brakes are working.
- All riders should be aware that there are rules on cycle paths, which include keeping left, giving way to pedestrians and ringing your bell to let pedestrians know you're approaching. While their rules are quite similar, both the QLD Government and the NSW Government have useful information on their websites.
- Pack a bag that includes basic tools, a puncture repair kit and a bicycle lock. Also pack additional warm clothing and the usual essentials for outdoor fun: a hat, sunscreen and water, for when you take a break.
- Keep an eye out for other cyclists. It's best to give way to more experienced or faster cyclists.
- Ride in a line, with an adult at each end to help keep track of the children. If there is only one adult, they should ride at the back.
- Keep in mind where your starting point is, and that you may need a bike rack if you have to reach this point by car.
Most of all, don't forget to have fun enjoying the sun, exercise and what the beautiful Gold Coast has to offer.