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How to: Cycle with Children

“I only started cycling at the beginning of the first lockdown with more time and quieter roads and can’t believe how much fun and freedom it gave me.

Needing to transport children from A to B can feel like a barrier to cycling but more and more families can be spotted in Brighton and Hove doing just that. These parents share their experiences of cycling with children of all ages to help you give it a go too.

Scroll down for information on cycling with children of all different ages and stages – how, why and some top tips to get you started.

Contributions from local parents Anne, Ben, Brennan, Celine, Daren, Helen, Joanna, Jojo, Nick and Pascale

Babies (from 9 months) – front seat

How

Our son loved the front seat when he was young and I think it established that biking was fun. It was so nice to have my arms around him and for him to have a front view rather than my back. 

Why

We use our bikes as our main transport. It’s a quick way to get to local activities and we enjoy riding for pleasure too. The main motivation is easily getting exercise within a busy day and helping us to reduce our carbon footprint. Also it is really fun. You feel better on a bike and it lifts your mood.

Top tip

Take the plunge! You’ll get used to having the right kit to hand really quickly.

Toddlers/preschoolers (up to 22kg) – rear-mounted child seat

How

I have a Raleigh Pioneer bike and a rear-mounted child seat from BoBike. The bike is a hybrid which means it’s good for road cycling and a little off-road if needs be.  The child seat was one with good ratings and my son is comfortable and happy in it.

Why

I enjoy cycling with my son for the sheer pleasure and freedom of being able to head anywhere in town quickly. We can talk on the way and stop if we spot anything interesting. Plans can change in a heartbeat and it helps with my fitness and wellbeing.

Top tip

Plan your routes ahead so that you can ride with confidence. The seafront is a good protected route running from West Hove into central Brighton, all the way to the Marina and beyond to Saltdean. Bear in mind that the wind is usually blowing in one direction so make sure you have enough energy to get home if the wind is against you.

Multiple childrentrailer

How

We use a Hamax trailer for our 2 children aged 4 and 8. It was more expensive than some models but the seats are easy to pick up second hand. This model can still take both of our kids pretty comfortably and it hooks easily to mine or my partner’s bike.

Why

We cycle to and from school every day and basically anywhere else we go. We love cycling as a family. We feel free, happy and healthy. I also want my kids to believe that they don’t need a car to go places.

Top tip

Going on rides with other families is a great way to build confidence and discover new routes.

Multiple children – Cargo ‘box’ bike

How

I have a box bike, a type of e-cargo bike with a ‘box’ at the front where the children sit. I picked an Urban Arrow 3 years ago to carry the 3 kids on the school run instead of a car. Now 2 of them are riding their own bikes but I cannot let go of my cargo bike. I love it too much! It’s great to run errands and when we go to the beach I can throw the paddle board and a picnic in the box. I still don’t have a car…

Why

I never thought I would get into cycling with the kids so much. It used to be my husband cycling with them on his bike. I only started at the beginning of the first lockdown with more time and quieter roads and can’t believe how much fun and freedom it gave me.

Top tip

Cycling is a great way to bond as a family while keeping healthy. Rent first and find your ideal set up. What’s right for one family won’t be for another. If you’re new to cycling on the road then start on a Sunday morning. The roads are much less busy then. It’s more relaxing and helps you get confident.

Multiple children – Cargo ‘longtail’ bike

How

I use a Chinese import e-cargo bike modelled very closely on the Tern GSD. It’s a longtail bike. Like a normal bike but just that bit longer with space for the children to sit behind me. I can fit both children (aged 5 and 8) in their own child seats.

I went for an e-cargo bike to reduce car usage for the school run. It gives me the flexibility to take both of them the 4km to school and then cycle to my work place another 6km away. It is very stable and tackles some of the challenging hills near where I live and work. I don’t end up sweaty before starting work or tiring myself out after a long day.

Why

My eldest always has such a big grin on his face and always tells me how much he likes being out on the bike. I love going on little adventures on the bikes together and hope that once they are both more competent we will be able to go further and on even more amazing adventures.

Top tip

Don’t be afraid to talk to someone who has a set-up which interests you. That’s what I did when I switched from a normal bike with a trailer to the cargo bike. 

Learning to ride independently

How

I chose a good balance bike when my son was very little which seemed expensive at the time but was really worth it. You can transition to pedals once they’ve got the hang of the balance and brakes. It’s good to steer clear of stabilisers if you can. 

I bought my children much better bikes than I had. I wanted good light bikes made especially for kids but brands like Frog or Isla are expensive. Instead I bought them second hand or rented from the Bike Club for a monthly fee.

Why

I enjoy the feeling of being outside and it gives us independence to just get up and go. We love commuting in the morning along the seafront, experiencing the day whatever the weather, breathing lungfuls of fresh air and seeing the sun rise. It keeps me fit. As a working mum I often don’t have loads of time to exercise additionally.  

Top tip

My 9 year old can cycle good distances now and likes to set the pace. Our daily commute is a 10 mile round trip and I sometimes struggle to keep up, especially on the hills! 

Safety on the road is often about road positioning. Stay central in the lane when approaching turns and signal clearly. If the road narrows, come out into the centre of the road to avoid close overtakers. Cycle two abreast if it’s safer, taking single file again once the road is wide enough for cars to overtake safely. We go out and practice on quiet roads and our confidence is growing by the day. 

Riding with older kids

How

My children aged 11 and 13 ride bog standard mountain bikes.

Why

We love the freedom, exercise, fresh air and sunshine. I think cycling is great for kids and adults alike. It’s free to do, it gives kids more freedom to be independent, keeps us healthy in mind and body and reduces reliance on cars. 

Top tip

Just do it!

More to explore

Meet Ben Kelly

I joined the organisation as recently as last year after I got involved in some local cycling campaigning very close to home.

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