Cycling with Kids: A Parenting Masterclass.


Cycling is pretty much the most virtuous thing you can teach kids to do, I reckon, short of treating leprosy.

It’s environmentally friendly, inexpensive, good exercise, and it’s fun.

So a couple of months back, I made the decision that I’d buy myself a bike, so that Flea and I could go riding together.

My goal was to encourage Flea to ride her bike more regularly, hopefully becoming more confident in the process. And of course, with me by her side, I was able to introduce Flea to riding her bike on the road, and all that comes with it (aside from my heart attacks and regular cries of “STAY LEFT!”)

I have to say, it’s gone pretty well.

It helps that my bike helps me pretend that I’m Miss Marple. All I need is a basket and a casually arranged bunch of flowers. And maybe some knitting.

Anyway, this weekend, we were getting our bikes ready to go for a bike ride, when Flea complained that her bike wouldn’t move.

“Let me have a look,” I scoffed, assuming Flea was just being a bit weedy.

Nope. The rear brake appeared to be locked on, and the bike refused to move.


I turned the bike upside down and using a screwdriver, tried to loosen the brake cable. No dice.

Next, I spent a good 20 minutes hunting down a set of Allen keys so I could try and loosen the brake pad.

I loosened everything that could be loosened, but no effect. I tightened everything back up. Brake still refused to budge.

Flea looked sad.

I suggested she could ride the spare bike in our garden, that used to belong to Flea’s cousin, but apparently it’s “too small” for Flea, which is just my child’s code for “too pink” if you ask me.

Flea looked more sad.

“Okay, well, my bike is due a service, so let’s take both bikes to the repair shop and we’ll get yours sorted at the same time.” 

Flea looked hopeful.

I have to say that getting two bikes into the boot of even a large car is pretty challenging. It involved a fair degree of lifting and panting and, “What do you mean, it’s too heavy? No you CAN’T JUST DROP IT!”

But that’s nothing compared to getting them both out at the other end, when the two bikes’ pedals and chains have mingled in a way that would put 50 Shades characters to shame.

Fifteen minutes and several scraped knuckles later, I managed to manoeuvre two bikes out of the car, and up the stairs at Halfords, where I presented them to the bike guy. I explained the problem with Flea’s bike, and told him all the things I’d tried adjusting, to no avail.

He nodded.

And then he took hold of the handlebars and rotated them through 360 degrees.

Hey presto, working brakes.

I did what any other parent would do in such circumstances of course.

I looked at my small child and said, “Oh honestly, Flea, that’s the FIRST thing I told you to try.” 

I’m pretty sure he bought it.

22 thoughts on “Cycling with Kids: A Parenting Masterclass.”

  1. Sally, I agree with you about the freedom cycling gives. We’ve been loving our daily commute to school and back on our bikes and have missed it miserably since my bike has been in for repair.
    If you are going out more with bikes you may consider getting a towbar bike rack: they are fantastic! We got FIL’s hand-me-down and I love how easy it is to transport our bikes now. No more lifting, maneuvering, taking wheels off, getting greasy from untangling the tangled bikes accompanied by 50 shades of cursing.
    Enjoy your next ride!

    1. Actually, I did try and buy one in Halfords but there were no sales assistants to help me decide which one would fit our car, so I gave up after 20 minutes.

  2. What a great post. I have had the exact problem before. Bike maintenance just isn’t my forte and when you’re a single parent (with bikes) you feel you should at least have a go. Luckily my sister used to be around to help and she was a keen cyclist so she’d always take a look and normally fix it. Failing that our lovely local bike shop would. My son and I were on our bikes yesterday too, for the first time in ages. They had been stored at a friends house so we had to go and collect them in the car (cue your pedal/chain tangle nightmare). Once we had them out I discovered my son’s tyres were not as inflated as they should have been. *sigh*. By this point we were all ready to go and I didn’t want to see the ‘sad face’ so we risked it for a biscuit. Luckily we made it to the local park and back without any disasters! I can’t wait for summer and taking a picnic out along the bike trail. Happy biking! xx

  3. Would it make you feel better that our eldest complained his bike wasn’t right for about 9mths (with us scoffing at him each and every time he whinged) until he took it to a friends house.
    Said friend’s Dad is a bit of a biker. He took one look and asked eldest in mild and polite tones if he just preferred riding his bike with the handlebar attached backwards…


  4. My eldest has finally started riding his bike and is now asking for us to go on a bike ride together! My excuse at the moment is that I have flat tyres and what would we do with the youngest who doesn’t ride a bike yet?….Maybe I should just get it sorted and head to a country park or somewhere for our first time…roads scare me too much!

  5. It is shame to say that I am a bike lover but I don’t know how to teach my son to ride a bike. I am considering to buy him a balance bike this month. Thanks for sharing your tips! Very helpful.

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