Many of us remember the joys of learning to ride a bike as a child. I know that feeling and I remember it fondly. Cycling gave me my first taste of freedom, allowing me to travel further and faster in my quest to explore the world around me.
I was a keen cyclist from a young age and as I moved into adulthood it remained a big part of my life – and in many ways, I took cycling to its extreme limits. In 2012, I travelled to the South Pole for Sport Relief, going part of the way on an ice bike. Ice bikes are really cool – they have far bigger tyres which help to grip against slippery surfaces.
Before we left, lots of people said travelling by bike in such harsh conditions was impossible, but I wanted to prove people wrong. In the end the bikes were invaluable for our trip, allowing us to travel much quicker than we would have done on foot. Although I do admit we had to get off and push them when the snow got really heavy! It was an incredible experience and one that I will never forget.
I have also been lucky enough to live in some amazing cycling locations. From the South of France to the rolling Yorkshire hills where I live now, wherever I am I always make time to get out exploring on two wheels. I just want to cycle as much as I can, to feel the joy and freedom that it brings.
This is why it saddens me to see so many people lose touch with bike riding as they move through life. It is rare for someone to suddenly and consciously decide to stop cycling. More often than not, it is a gradual process where adulthood simply gets in the way and so many busy parents fall out of a cycling routine.
Parents like me in particular often find it difficult to make time for getting on their bikes. But teaching your own children to cycle is an amazing way to revisit the joys of getting on a bike and rediscover that sense of adventure we all felt as kids. It is a wonderful rite of passage which I hope all parents have a chance to experience.
Beyond the freedom, there are numerous benefits in teaching your children to ride a bike. As a mum to two boys, I believe it keeps them active; it provides an important life skill which they can take into later life and provides them with a great way to socialise and explore the great outdoors. I have really noticed the difference in my eldest child’s confidence since he learnt to ride, and I can’t wait for my youngest to get started on a balance bike.
But riding a bike is not just for children. Going for a bike ride with my family is one of my favourite things to do on the weekend. I have two wonderful cycling spots near where I live in Yorkshire, Harewood estate and Otley, and I try and take my children cycling there as much as I can. The wind in your hair has the power to blow away your worries from the week, and there is no greater feeling than watching the children’s smiling faces as they zoom along.
I know as well as any parent that we have enough on our plates without the added pressure of having to cycle with your children every day. Cycling should not be a chore – and even a short ride with your children at the weekend is great for you and your kids.
Cycling can also seem intimidating for some parents, particularly if they have not cycled in a while. But you do not need to be an athlete or an expert to get out on your bike! Cycling is much more than this – it is for everyone. All you need to enjoy the thrill is a bike.
In July this year, I hosted a Ready Set Ride-along event for British Cycling at Osterley Park, the National Trust property in West London, where I led families through HSBC UK’s Ready Set Ride. It was an amazing experience to see all these families spending time together in the great outdoors and enjoying cycling. When they arrived some of these kids were nervous on a bike and using stabilisers – but by the end of the session they were whizzing around with no trouble. It was great to see.
So what are you waiting for? This year, we are having an incredible run of sunshine. Dust off that old bike you have hidden away and get out exploring on two wheels with your family - you won’t regret it!