Family cycling on forest trail

Get the family out for a bike ride

Are you looking to start cycling with your family in the forest? Active Forests Coordinator at Hamsterley Forest, Laura Hull, talked to us about her experience of cycling with her family and shares her top tips for preparing for your first family bike ride in the forest. 

How did you get into cycling with your family?

Family cycling is something that both myself and my partner always dreamt of when our two girls were younger. We bought the clip-on Burleys and lived on a remote hill in Scotland with oodles of right to roam tracks available. We lived the dream whilst the kids were tiny and you could scoop them up and pop them into their ‘princess’ carriage.

Reality kicked in a few years later living in a rural town in England with very few, if any, cycle lanes, an adrenaline-fueled eldest daughter aged 10 who craves challenges (along with her dad) and a younger daughter, aged 7, who fears anything that moves or isn’t flat due to her being hypermobile and dyspraxic, which affects her coordination. For us, the forest forms the perfect traffic-free and calming backdrop for both kids learning to cycle and enjoying carefree days cycling as a family.

Family cycling Jules and Steven 2020

How do you plan when and where to cycle?

We always tend to go cycling when we can avoid the busier times - there is something magical about the trails early in the morning or on a summer's evening. We also prepare by looking at what trail grades are on offer; forest roads, blue, red or black routes, a training loop, plus extreme downhill sections at Hamsterley Forest. For myself and my youngest, Sofia, we choose the forest roads and blue grade trails. For my eldest and my partner, they choose the blue grade, the training loop and look at sections of the red trail.

We would all share the first section of blue trail to do some cycling together then meet up later back at the car. If there’s time, we sometimes have a cycle up to the extreme bike park and watch some of the pro riders shredding the extreme black trails and four-cross, where four bikers race downhill on a prepared, BMX-like track, simply trying to get down first. My eldest has aspirations of shredding some of the trails in Canada after we went on a family road trip including the world-famous Whistler bike park.

How do you prepare for your bike rides?

We always plan our expected time back at the car, especially as we part company for the more advanced trails. We check tyre pressure and that the bikes are set up correctly, making sure helmets are on kids' heads and not being carried over the bars! My partner and I each carry a small rucksack with a bit of food and water, puncture repair kit, spare inner tube and a mobile phone (mainly for snapping photos and emergency calls). With Sofia, distraction always takes her mind off her innate fear of everything and I tend to plan a scavenger hunt, find orienteering posts (if they are on the route) or we listen and look for signs of wildlife.

We always check the forest's website and Facebook pages for updates on diversions, events and so on to ‘know before you go’. If the weather or trail conditions change, or one of us has a mechanical issue, we always check the quickest ways back to base on foot as a plan B before we set off.

Sign up to our newsletter for updates on adventure-filled days out!

What's your final piece of advice for families cycling in the forest?

If your kids are young or just starting out, cheer the heart out of every accomplishment whether that is a more technical feature, completing the training loop, or cycling for one hour straight! Also, I always have a change of clothes in the car and more snacks and drinks to hydrate and energise for the journey home.

In short, prepare your route, check you have all the gear before you set off, check which trails are open and plan a meeting place and time at the end of your ride.

Family cycling through Hamsterley forest, blue mountain bike trail

Forestry England has hundreds of family friendly off-road routes in the forest, perfect for starting your children on their cycling journey. Discover green spaces, dedicated cycling trails, skills areas and beginner mountain bike trails. So, grab your helmet and head out for a beautiful cycle ride with your family.

Stick around...

Women cycling in the forest
Blog
13 August 2020
In this blog post, we hear from Active Forests Ranger and passionate cyclist Clare Curtis, who has lots of handy tips and pointers for new cyclists heading to the forest.
mountain biker enjoying nature
Article
The Forest Cycle Code
Keep yourself safe by following the Forest Cycle Code
Woman doing yoga in the forest
Blog
29 April 2020
Having less time outdoors or limited space indoors doesn’t have to stop you getting or keeping fit. We’ve put together five ideas to help you stay active while you stay home and stay safe.
Family of four walking through the forest on a rocky path
Blog
21 July 2020
A walk in the woods can be a joy. Dappled light, soft trails underfoot, the sounds of wildlife puncturing the hush – these are the things that attract us back to the forest again and again. As wonderful as the woods can be, it pays to be prepared before you head out. Whilst the sun is shining at the moment, unpredictable weather and challenging terrain can always conspire to up the ante on an afternoon ramble. That’s why proper kit is essential to a safe and responsible day beneath the leaves. Our partners at Go Outdoors know a thing or two about prepping for all kinds of outdoors experience. So we asked them for some advice on what to wear - and how to prepare - for a walk in the forest.