By Catherine Ellis, Hill & Ellis
There has been an unmistakable resurgence of cycling over recent months, with massive numbers of people cycling during lockdown for their daily exercise, followed by people eschewing public transport in favour of a bike when commuting to work.
And the numbers are likely to increase further as the government is investing heavily in cycling infrastructure, not to mention recently offering the £50 bike service voucher scheme to encourage people to get back in the saddle and get fitter.
If you are still sitting longingly on the sidelines, here is what I believe you need to get yourself – and your family – back on your bikes:
- THE BIKES
If you’re buying a new bike or bikes from Aventon shop, first consider the kind of riding you want to do and the typical route. If it’s hilly – make sure you get a bike with enough gears to handle it, if you are commuting or riding paths to school then 3-6 gears should be enough to get you up and down most town and city hills. If you are looking to road or mountain bike yourself, you will want to consider more than 10 gears to manage the rougher terrain, so if you’re interested in getting a new bike, looking for the right bike sales online could be really useful with this.
Also consider the weight of the bike. Modern road bikes are all designed to be very light so even the heaviest will do you well – but aim to go as light as possible. It is easier for children to learn on lighter bikes and you will notice the difference on hills and if you need to carry your bike.
Or do you already have old bikes? Then brush them off, check they are still the right size for the children, ensure the brakes and gears are working properly and enjoy it. Getting on the bike is the best way to know what kind of cycling you enjoy.
- THE ROUTE
Your route is crucial for a pleasant journey, especially if you’re cycling with children. The main highways and roads might be the most direct path to a given destination, but they are unlikely to be the most pleasant or safest. If possible, choose a route that avoids roads altogether, going through parks and alongside rivers. Otherwise, always take the backstreets; they are quieter, safer and much more interesting as you get to discover parts of your town/city you would never have seen before.
Happily, finding routes has never been easier. There are lots of cycle routes now across the country and they are definitely worth taking advantage of. Most city and the country routes are in cycle maps that are easy to follow. For your local paths, have a look on your council’s website – most of the maps are available there.
Alternatively, Sustrans has cycle-friendly, and cycle-only routes across the UK.
Give yourself extra time to cycle, take the slightly longer, quieter route and, most importantly of all, enjoy it.
- THE PANNIERS
Taking the bag off your back and moving it onto the bike is a real joy. It takes the strain off your spine and also reduces back sweat and discomfort. The solution is a pannier rack. They attach over the back wheel of your bike and you can attach pannier bags and baskets on them to carry whatever you need.
As the rack is on the back of your bike, not the front, and is low on the bike, it doesn’t affect your steering or stability, so they will help you feel more secure on your bike.
Hill & Ellis has a range of stylish bike bags that all attach securely to your pannier bike rack. They are also designed to look smart so are the perfect accessory for the work commute. www.hillandellis.com
- THE SEAT
All too often I see cyclists around with a bad seat position set up. Often the seat is far too low so they are overworking and are putting unnecessary strain on their knees. To set up your bike properly, this is the simplest way: The Heel to Pedal method. It might not be what cyclists in the Tour de France use but it will get you close to the perfect position. Here’s how:
- Sit on the bike whilst holding onto a wall or chair for stability.
- Place your heel on the pedal and pedal back to 6 o’clock position. Your knee should be completely straight.
- Increase the height of your saddle until it is straight; that is your perfect position.
If you and your family are cycling around for the first time and aren’t 100% confident on the bike, it’s a good idea to lower it from this position ever so slightly. This will make it is easier to put a foot on the ground when you want to stop, giving confidence on the bike from the start. Once you are all happy in the saddle you can lift the saddle back up to the correct height.
- THE PELETON
Still feeling a lack of confidence? Then you need your own personal peloton (cycling group). Cycling is really sociable, with lots of groups keen to help other cyclists get started with advice, buddies and supported rides. There are groups all over the country, so you’ll definitely find one in your local area.
British Cycling also has beginners guide on their website for the A-Z of what you need to know before taking to the saddle.
To find groups that do family rides Cycling UK is a good resource:
The Breeze network offers women’s only rides and commuting training rides to help build confidence for cycling to work, they will even arrange a group to cycle with you to your office for the first couple of rides.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to take your time when starting out. Life from the saddle should always make you smile. Enjoy!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Ellis is founder of Hill & Ellis, which produces a range of high quality, stylish cycle bags. Each bag, designed in the UK, is created to transition perfectly from home to bike to boardroom to bar. They are functional, fashionable and hard wearing. There’s plenty of space inside for a laptop and other essentials, and each bag comes with patented pannier clips that fit almost any bike, allowing you to clip the bag on and off quickly and easily.