Fewer children are now riding to school, according to national cycling training programme Bikeability.
Emily Cherry, the boss of Bikeability, says that even though more kids are following the scheme than ever, there has been no improvement in the amount of children cycling to school.
While parents may be concerned about air pollution and bigger vehicles now present on the road, the fitness experts at Merlin Cycles say this should not stop youngsters from learning how to ride a bike in a safe environment in their free time.
With this in mind, here are some tips on how parents can encourage their little ones to become young cyclists.
Encourage other hobbies
You might think that many of the world’s top cyclists lived and breathed the sport since they took their first steps, but in fact, many had quite a few different hobbies as children.
Bradley Wiggins wasn’t interested in cycling until he was in high school. In fact, he was an avid footballer. Similarly, Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx took part in a whole host of sports as a child; he played basketball, football, table tennis and even took up boxing before he took cycling seriously.
The theme? Nurturing any passion is a good thing. When kids learn that they can explore any hobby freely, they’re far more likely to get a taste for one that’s good for them like cycling.
Let your kids get inspired by professional cyclists
Many of the world’s top cyclists have taken inspiration from what they have seen on the television. For example, Chris Hoy had no interest in taking cycling seriously until he watched coverage of the individual pursuit in the 1992 Olympics.
Watching live events can have a massive impact, too. From The Tour De France races on TV to cycling events up and down the country, seeing cyclists doing what they love can spark inspiration for children to pick up the same thing for themselves. As well as this, these sorts of events present the whole activity of biking as a hugely fun activity.
Make cycling a part of daily life
Yes, cycling is a serious sport – but it’s also a useful way of getting around and staying active and healthy.
Cycling with your kids as their first taste of independent transport allows them to access the enjoyment of cycling without the pressure of a competitive sport.
For Laura Kenny – the most successful female track cyclist in Olympic history – cycling started as a bonding exercise with her mother, who took it up to lose weight. Both her and Jason Kenny took regular cycling holidays with their families in childhood.
Even something as simple as a cycling commute can sow the seed of a bigger passion. Eddy Merckx cycled to and from school with his friends from the age of eight before his interest in cycling as a sport emerged.
Start off with a small bike
It’s natural to want to get your kids the best bike you can straight away, but it’s far better to start them off with something basic while they’re still coming around to cycling as their own hobby.
When we look at how the pros started out, getting an expensive bike was never how it started. Chris Hoy’s first bike, for example, cost just £5. Wiggins rode and even raced on an entry-level bike until he was able to buy his first racer using the settlement money he received following a road accident.
The best time to go and enjoy bike shopping with your offspring is once they’ve expressed an interest in pursuing it as their own hobby. That’s your opportunity to teach them what you know about finding the right bike so that they can pick out their own one day.
Be patient with your child
This is the golden rule. That doesn’t make it easy, of course – it takes a lot of self-restraint to step back and let things take their course.
The world’s top cyclists grew up outside of unhealthy pressure. Despite his father being a professional cyclist, Bradley Wiggins wasn’t pushed to do cycling as a child – he discovered it for himself as an adolescent. Jason Kenny’s parents even went so far as to explain in an interview how they were dead-set on not being pushy parents: “Seeing parents shouting at their children on the football field, for example, always upset me,” said his mother, Lorraine.”