I have some fantastic memories of cycling with my family as a child. Biking was a bit part of family life for us – especially as we rarely drove anywhere in the 1980s. As I got older biking became a fun activity that we could do together and I received a brand new mountain bike aged 12 that was my pride and joy. I used to ride it every day, and we’d go on longer rides together on weekends. Mountain biking is something that the whole family can get involved in, no matter what your age or experience level. Whether you’re cycling with young children who might need extra help to gain confidence, or whether you’re feeling out of shape and unbalanced after not being in the saddle for years, one of the great things about biking is simply how accessible it is. Cycling is one of my favourite family activities – it keeps everyone fit, active and healthy and gives great opportunities for connecting with nature.
You can start with a gentle cycle on paved paths alongside a river, listening to the birds and taking it easy and build up to something more adrenaline fueled, with forest trails and mountain paths. With so many different bikes and accessories out there, you might be worried about buying the right equipment and how on earth you get started, but don’t panic, this extensive Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Biking will answer all your initial questions and help you make the right decisions for each individual in the family. It’ll also introduce you to some of the great beginner friendly trails around the country.
As a teenager I cycled the 55 mile long Taff Trail from Cardiff to Brecon (although we cheated, met my mum there in the car and drove back as I wouldn’t have been allowed to stay overnight alone!). For my local readers in South Wales, the Taff Trail is really good for families as it’s mostly paved or gentle trails, allowing your little ones to cycle safely, with plenty of opportunities for picturesque picnics and stopping at amenities for a much needed break – not to mention a majestic castle or two. It might have been twenty years ago but I have such strong memories of it and it’s something that I hope to do with my own son when he’s a little older. We’ve done partial rides since with our dog – four legged family can get involved too!
How to get started with mountain biking?
Choose a Bike
The first step is to choose a Mountain Bike and I personally recommend you doing this in store where you can see the bike, talk to an experienced person about your needs, and test the size and frame. Prices for bikes range from £80 to £1000+ depending on your needs, with different frame types, frame sizes, suspension types, brakes, weight and more. Junior bikes are relatively inexpensive and mountain bikes in the 16″ – 18″ frame size tend to be suitable for around 6 to 8 years and won’t need to be replaced until they’re around 12 or so and ready for a full size mountain bike. I think this is an ideal age to start going on longer rides and start cycling on trails rather than sticking to paving. There are of course still many bikes for younger, starting with balance bikes available for toddlers! My son received his very first push along bike from his grandma for his first birthday – so we started him young here. A bike makes a really special main birthday or Christmas present.
Get your Gear
You’ll need to equip yourself with a few essentials such as:
- safety helmet
- cycling gloves
- a hydration pack or water bottle
- lightweight backpack
For family cycling you’ll want to pack some food and snacks (parenting rule number one, always have snacks!) and reflective safety gear if you’ll be cycling on any roads. Teenagers who are feeling a bit reticent about getting out and about instead of sitting in front of the TV or playing video games on the PC might be tempted with a bit of tech. There are a really wide range of action cameras that can be mounted to bikes or helmets for some great footage that can be shared with friends on Facebook or even with the public on YouTube. Who knows, your teenager might be the next Danny MacAskill.
Find a Trail
You’ll find a lot of trails listed in the Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Biking, and for my Welsh readers you’ll be pleased to see four green (beginner) graded cycle trails listed. There are lots of cycling resources available online and it shouldn’t take too much research to find yourself a local trail that’s suitable for your family’s fitness and experience levels. Mountain bikers are really friendly and trail centres will be well equipped to offer you help and advice, so don’t be afraid to ask if you have any questions.
Get Ready, Get Set, Go!
Pick a nice day when you have plenty of time – beginner biking in the spring and summer is ideal, fill your water bottle, get a packed lunch ready and get going! It can be daunting going on the first family outing, especially if you’re starting off trail but it’s a really exciting journey and something that you’ll gain experience and confidence with quite quickly.
I’d love to hear about your mountain biking experiences, so feel free to chat to me in the comments.
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Halfords who asked me to share my experiences with Mountain Bikes.