Ah the school holidays, and the endless shouts of "What are we doing today?" followed by that old favourite "I'm bored".
Cycling with kids is a great way of filling some of that time before school is back in session, so we're going to share some of our favourite tips and pieces of kit to make family bike trips a little less daunting.
For the littlest ones a child seat or trailer are the best way forward. Suitable from 9 months onwards both are great ways of getting from A to B. Each have their advantages; trailers offer more protection from the elements and some models will take more than one child, but can restrict where you cycle, making bike seats a more versatile option. Cycling with kids is the same as doing any sort of outing with kids, it's all about the preparation!
We know there's often a discussion about front mounted vs rear mounted seats. For us there is only one choice, the rear mounted seat wins every time. In the event of an accident or fall, a child in a front mounted seat acts as your airbag and for that reason you won't find any of these seats in our shop.
Our top tips on riding with a child seat?
"Run your tyres at a lower pressure (around 20% lower) to absorb some of the
bumps and make for a more comfortable ride all round. And remember that
the added weight will mean you need more time to brake and pull away."
When the exciting time comes for their first bike of their own, we always recommend starting with a balance bike (basically a bike without pedals). When starting cycling with kids, balance bikes are a great alternative to stabilisers. Children push themselves along and as they get more confident, spend more time with their feet off the floor, teaching them the balancing skills they need. When a pedal bike is introduced, they have the confidence already to take their feet off the floor and pedal!
Frog Bikes are our supplier of choice for children's bikes. Their lightweight bikes are fun and easy to ride which ultimately makes them easier to learn on! All components are manufactured specifically for kids. Things like brake leavers are difficult for little hands to reach if they've been designed with a fully grown adult in mind.
We are also part of Frog's Leapfrog scheme, a part exchange system to trade in an outgrown bike and use the value to move up to the next size. Brilliant for those non-stop growers!
Cycling with kids away from home almost inevitably involves riding on a road. Riding behind your young cyclist not only gives you the ability to watch and instruct them, but by positioning yourself slightly further in to the lane, you'll guide the traffic around your child. If you encounter a situation either of you aren't comfortable with (eg a complicated junction, or a steep hill), just get off and walk. It's always better to have positive experiences of cycling, rather than getting unnecessarily stressed out!
Before leaving for your ride make sure your child has a little traffic and bike awareness. Encourage them to look behind and signal appropriately, as well as being aware of their position on the road. As for the bike, can they check their brakes are working and identify that their tyre pressures are correct?
When the weather's bright and sunny there's not a lot better than getting out on your bikes as a family. So pack a picnic and plan some routes, because cycling with kids is a fun and easy way to fill many an hour!
We're always happy to come along to local scout & guide groups (or similar) to talk to the children about riding their bikes and basic maintenance. If you know of a group that would be interested then please get in touch.
As most of you probably know, we're a relatively new bike shop, so it seems only right that we use this first blog post to introduce ourselves and give a quick insight as to how The Marlborough Bike Company came to be.
John & Laura are the faces behind The Marlborough Bike Company. John is probably the one you'd recognise the most, as the shop is his baby. Laura can normally be found running around after the family's other two babies (Oscar & Tilly), or working for a telecommunications company.
John has been working in the cycle industry for over 15 years. Starting as a Saturday boy all those years ago, a hobby quickly turned into a passion. Working in various roles in retail, as well as mountain biking in his spare time, I think cycling could now be classed as a lifestyle.
After managing a local bike shop for a number of years, the next logical step for John was to go it alone. A couple of months of loitering on estate agent's websites led to us seeing the Kingsbury Street property advertised. First impressions were that it could be a great bike shop.
With the lease being drawn up, next on the list was to come up with a name. We wanted something that made it clear what we are about; an independent, local bike shop, integrated in to the local community, catering for all cycling needs. The Marlborough Bike Company.
Why Marlborough? We moved to West Berkshire in 2010 and have always loved visiting Marlborough. We like the way the town operates. It has that feeling of community that so many other towns have lost over the years. It's no coincidence that Marlborough still supports so many independent businesses, whilst others are closing their doors. A bike shop seemed to be missing from the town, and we were confident that the market was there to support one.
We received the keys at the beginning of January, and a few weeks of painting, shop fitting, merchandising and bike building ensued, but soon a bike shop emerged out of all the dust and boxes. We opened the doors for the first time at 09:00 on Saturday 10 February. We used the first few weeks to settle in to the community, learn some more about what our customers wanted and make sure that all was working as expected.
Our official opening was marked with a launch party in the middle of March. Goody bags, group rides, freebies and of course, plenty of cake was the order of the day. Despite the snow coming down we were overwhelmed by the amount of people that came and supported us.
The opening of the Marlborough Bike Company marks a new stage in our lives, both professionally and as a family. It's so much more than just a bike shop. It's a long term venture. It's our way of supporting our family. It's something for our kids to inherit. We want it to become the hub of Marlborough's cycling community.
We'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us so far. To our friends and family for all of their help in getting the bike shop up and running in the first place. And to our customers, who have already made us feel a part of this great community. We love that people come in to the shop just to see how it's going, and to say hello. (As you can probably tell by the length of this blog, we love to chat!). Please continue to help spread the word, mention us to your friends, family and colleagues. We look forward to welcoming you in to the shop soon.