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We all love a little solace in the saddle, and biking with friends is simply just fun. However family bike rides with the kids in tow can be extremely rewarding for everyone. Bringing children along needn’t mean less pleasure, you just need to do some extra planning.
When you ride with children, it’s a chance to slow down the pace, admire the view and be part of the natural landscape. You’ll experience their wonder, and answer their questions. It’s time together, new experiences, challenges, fostering independence and building confidence.
Introducing kids to an established and easy ride like the Hauraki Rail Trail comes with multiple benefits. The quality surfaces, steady gradients, off road and away from traffic, and with support available for bike hire, accommodation and transport.
Here’s our top tips to help you plan a smooth and fun family adventure.
Have you got the right gear for your kids? They tend to out grow clothes and bikes at quite a pace. Dig out the gear you’ll need well ahead of your adventure. Bike hire is a good option as they come with accessories, and support in case of problems.
Having the right kit makes the whole experience safer, more comfortable and therefore more fun. Until the age of four or five, children are usually non-pedalling passengers. Fortunately they’re pretty portable, with the most popular choices being child seats and trailers.
Trailers have a few advantages over a child seat, including greater carrying capacity. The age range is wider, from about eight weeks up to six years. The recommended minimum age for most is nine months (the sitting up stage).
Child seats are cheaper than trailers. They’re great for outings in better weather, and most suit children from nine months to three or four years. By the time they start school most children are capable of riding a bike of their own, but not too far and off road.
Independent cycling offers a sense of freedom and achievement. Don’t buy a bike your child will grow into. As a rough size guide, a 14 or 16 inch wheel bike for ages 4-6, a 20 inch for ages 5-10, and 24 inch for ages 8 - 12. Choose a mountain bike with a light aluminium frame, simple gears and easy to reach brakes for little hands.
When riding alone it’s easy to wing it or go with the flow. With kids it’s best to plan ahead and work out your daily distances and route. As a rule of thumb, pick what would be a reasonable distance for an adult and halve it.
Riding is fun, but we all need variety in our lives and our holidays. Having a range of activities, sights, and points of interest along the trail makes the Rail Trail an ideal destination and raises the enjoyment of your holiday.
Keep a flexible timetable. Younger children won’t need much entertaining, but they’ll want to stretch their legs. Factor in regular stops for snacks, and if you’re not carrying packed lunches have a cafe destination in mind.
Keep kms low, especially for the first few rides, and take plenty of snacks and drinks. Research the parts of the trail you want to explore. Bridges, tunnels, rivers, and historic relics all help to break up the day into smaller goals.
Family cycling isn’t only about introducing your children to two wheeled fun, it’s can also be a time when a partner starts riding again. It’s a good idea to let them set the pace, and fit bike trailers, seats and luggage with the more experienced rider.
Careful planning should also consider what’s available at the end of each day’s riding. What are the accommodation options, where will you feed everyone, and what interesting things are there to see and do?
It’s worth putting together an itinerary with the details of each day’s riding, en-route activities, and accommodation. You’ll also need to determine transport and any additional support.
If you intend to ride self supported, it’s a good idea to leave the car at the end of your ride and book a shuttle back to the start. Alternatively you might choose to stay centrally in one place, exploring different sections of the trail, and returning each day to the same base.
For those wishing to relax, supported tours have the advantage of providing planning, support, transport, and local knowledge of the Trail and region. Their expert guidance will enrich your experience, so you can make the most of your adventure.
A fully supported tour with luggage transfers allows you to travel from A to B without the kitchen sink. Everything is arranged for you. From bike hire, to routes, meals, and accommodation. With a light load, and your route planned, you can relax and soak up the scenery.
No matter how slowly or far you want to ride, if you’re ready for a family adventure there’s a great option for everyone. With a little research and careful planning, hopefully you’ll be cultivating a lifelong love of cycling in your kids.
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