23 June 2017



by Ben Sherratt

Cycling is an excellent way to keep fit, to get around hassle-free, to have fun as a family and to tire out the kids! As more and more cars descend on our roads in Sussex, cycling can offer a real alternative to the traffic jam. We have all sat in queues of traffic and seen those bikes whizz past on the cycle paths on their way to where we will eventually go (parking permitting). Those cyclists are not superhuman or daring or any braver than anyone else. They are regular everyday people like you and me, who just use a bike to get around. Why is it that we think of cycling in this way? Let's start at the very beginning......

Cycling is an activity that most people learn when they are young, often starting from the age of 2 or 3. This is a part of childhood that is often associated with squeaky bikes, stabiliser wheels that are either set too low and leave the poor rider pedalling furiously, back wheel spinning in space, or are ineffective as they are bent out of the way. Often our introduction into cycling can be quite a harrowing experience it can all seem like hard work. Children's bikes, often fondly remembered as good quality, sturdy, mini-adults bikes are now little more than throw-away plastic and metal toys, built in garish colours with transfers depicting the latest cartoon craze. There are still some great kids bikes out there, but they are few and far between.

Learning to ride...
Many children who do not learn to ride by the age of 6 or 7 for whatever reason, can be put off cycling and then look for ways of avoiding it. There are, surprisingly, a great many adults who never learned to cycle at a young age and who do not now cycle at all as a consequence.

All is not lost; help is at hand in the form of cycle training. There are several organisations that teach people of all ages to cycle, diagnosing where the person needs to brush up on skills, and indeed teaching those skills from scratch if need be. This is usually carried out in the safety of a park or other traffic free space. Once cycling, it is practice and more practice that improves confidence.

Getting out and about....
There are plenty of opportunities to get cycling in a traffic-free space in order to enjoy cycling and to build up those all-important skills in safety. If you or the kids have a bike of your own, great, give it the once over or take it to someone who can, and get out in the sunshine.
If you don't have your own bike, try hiring one and riding round a local park, or on a dedicated cycle path such as the Cuckoo Trail or the Camel Trail. Ask about hiring children's seats, trailers and trailer-bikes to carry children with you. It is a fantastic feeling, cycling along as a family. The great thing about hiring is that you always have a serviced bike to use and you can try out different models and sizes to get a feel for cycling without having to shell out for a family fleet of your own. Another good thing is at the end of the day; the hire company has to find somewhere to store the bikes and not you!

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