By Michelle Sharland
Michelle is a local cycle coach for both adults and children and founder of Michelle Rides.
It really is time to make the most of summer and these glorious summer days and long evenings. I have a few tips and routes to get you and your family out on your bikes to enjoy our beautiful countryside. We are lucky to live where we do!
Make sure all your bikes are in good working order!
- Pump the tyres (a foot pump is good for this). If you are going off-road with your children, make sure their tyres are slightly softer to absorb some of the bumps.
- Oil the chains. Just a small amount of oil to lubricate the chain makes a big difference to smooth running of the bike components. A good tip is to oil your chain, turn the pedals a few times and then wipe the chain with a dry cloth. This removes excess oil as you only need it in the links.
- Check the brakes. This includes that they both work when you pull front and back brakes – even them out if they are not the same. Brake pads should be clean, evenly worn and still have some life in them. Also, check they are well aligned to the rim of the wheel so they don’t rub against the tyre.
- Make sure the gears work properly. Kids bikes have less gears than adult bikes so make sure they are able to use them all. There is nothing worse than riding a bike where the gears are stuck or are difficult to change. If you don’t know how to do this, ask a cycling buddy or get the bike serviced. Sometimes the cables need replacing as they have stretched.
The right equipment is important for a successful outing.
- A helmet that fits well!! Need I say anymore?? I often see children with helmets that are too big for them or with very dangly straps and their helmets flopping around on their heads. You want to know that your children’s heads will be protected if they fall or bump their head on a low lying branch.
- Cycling gloves or mitts help protect little (and large) hands should we fall. Most children have grip-shift gear changers and after a while of changing gears, their hands get sore and their enjoyment of riding decreases accordingly.
- Cycling padded shorts are a bonus. You can get inexpensive padded shorts from www.wiggle.co.uk and they make a huge difference to us all. Just remember – no underwear….. (yip! That’s right… it causes chafe. Most unpleasant and please don’t share your shorts with anyone else)
- Snacks – or as we call them in my household…. ‘motivators’… it’s great to see what your small ones can do when they have some incentive. It also helps to keep their energy levels up. Don’t forget lots of water!
- Take some small spares with you. Hand pump, inner tubes that fit your bikes, puncture repair kit and some tyre levers. Make sure you know how to change an inner tube too. Youtube.com has lots of good tips.
- A first aid kit is probably not a bad idea either. It doesn’t have to be your whole kit but a few essentials may come in handy (hopefully not needed….. but best be prepared). Wipes, plasters and perhaps a bandage. Also consider Antisan and sun-cream. The nettles are ripe and stingy now.
- Plan your route and ‘quit while you are ahead’. You ideally want to get home with your little ones asking for more! Start small to gauge their interest and ability. Maybe a little pootle down the railway path to the Barley Mow could be a good start (for young children who are starting out on family cycles). For older children, head to the Queen’s Head, Clandon through Hatchlands Park or try out any of the routes below.
- Remember: Grassy or off-road paths are harder work than smooth tarmac. Uphill is harder work than flat – even small undulations can be energy sapping.
Tried and tested local routes
The routes below have been mapped out on the Strava App. Click on the link and it will take you to the route. If you want it to navigate for you, you will need to download the app and then you can follow the route from your phone. Easy! (Any problems, I can help you…)
The River Wey Tow Path: (Ripley to Guildford)
Start / End: Ripley playground to Guildford
Pros: Away from traffic. Lots of river activity and locks along the way. You can’t get lost. Flat (except for a few bridges). Happy children!
Cons: Not many facilities along the way so be self-sufficient. Can be a bit bumpy. The path at times is close to the water’s edge.
Other: It can get busy but take your time. Give the kids and ice-cream in Guildford and hop on a train back home. They may wish to cycle back too.
Start / End: Hatchlands park (Ripley Lane Entrance)
Pros: Lovely easy trail and suitable for most bikes. Pub in Clandon.
Cons: Crossing the A246 TWICE! (walk please)
Other: You can ride to the entrance from anywhere in Horsley – if your kids have the endurance.