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DIY Family Bike Rides: Teaching Children the Joy of Creating Your Own Routes

By Charlotte Murray

We’re living in an age of increasing technology and urbanisation, so it’s important we find new and exciting ways to connect with both our children and nature. A ‘DIY family bike ride’ could be one way of doing just that.

Embark on an adventure with your little ones by heading out on a memorable DIY family bike ride that will instil a lifelong love for forging your own path. Give your children the opportunity to not only enjoy the great outdoors but learn valuable lessons in creativity, exploration and self-reliance – what’s not to love?

What is a DIY family bike ride?

A DIY (Do It Yourself) family bike ride is an outing, as a family, where everyone gets involved in the planning and organising. Together, you will create your own route instead of following an established, marked path or guided tour.

The idea behind a DIY family bike ride is to encourage all members of the family – whether parents or children (OK, maybe don’t include the dog for this one) – to plot a cycling adventure that suits the different interests and skill levels in the family. What are the benefits of this type of ride?

Creativity and planning

Planning and creating your own route is so rewarding, and it’s great for the younger ones to see how rewarding it can be too. Instead of just following waymarkers on the trail, encourage children to be creative by choosing the destinations, deciding on which path to take, and selecting sightseeing stops or picnic points. Involving them in the planning process will give them a sense of responsibility, allowing them to feel empowered and excited by the journey.

Map reading skills

Family Bike Park
Let your kids plan out the route. © Profimedia

Mapping out a decent biking route takes practice. You need to be able to translate what is on the map, to what you might see in front of you. Sometimes you get it wrong but you remember it for next time. Encouraging your children to be creative with their map will set them up for success early on.

Use maps that are best suited to your activity, whether travelling on intricate trails or long sections of a traffic-free path. You might want to use a digital mapping service for ease, and to keep their technological brains engaged. Though, equally, there’s not much that’s more satisfying than opening up a paper map and plotting your route by hand.

Exploration and curiosity

A DIY bike ride will encourage natural exploration of the local area, whether parks, trails or even urban streets. Children will develop a sense of curiosity about their surroundings, discovering where the next best viewpoint is along the journey or where they can pick up ice cream. Encourage them to ask questions about their environment or talk about the history of the area you’re riding through, turning it into an educational experience.

Physical activity

In a world dominated by screens, a family bike ride is an opportunity to get out and move. We all know the benefits of a good bike ride by now: cardiovascular health, muscle strength and improved coordination. Exercising as a family sets a positive example from a young age that will promote a long-term healthy lifestyle.

Bonding and communication

Family bike rides foster stronger family bonds. As you navigate together, you share experiences, conversations, and jokes. It’s a chance to escape the daily distractions and connect in a meaningful way. Yes, it might occasionally end in tears, but the benefits are truly endless.

How to plan a DIY family bike ride

Safety first

A safe ride is a fun ride. Before setting off, ensure everyone has helmets that fit them and that they are fitted correctly. Familiarise yourself with local traffic rules, whether at home or on holiday. Opt for quieter roads or designated bike paths where possible but in case you encounter traffic, you could discuss a plan of action for crossing or riding along busy roads in advance, so that everyone is prepared.

Pack the essentials

Water, snacks, a basic first-aid kit, sun cream, tools for minor bike repairs; encourage children to carry a small backpack with these essentials, making sure they feel prepared for their adventure.

Selecting a route

This is the fun part. Get hold of a local map or use the internet to find areas that have plenty of family-friendly bike paths. When choosing a route, take into consideration the skill level of all family members. Consider the terrain and elevation gain as well as the distance, as these can significantly impact the length and enjoyment of your ride. You could research points of interest or natural landmarks in advance, to keep the children engaged. You could plot the route in advance or let it evolve as the journey unfolds.

Getting out there

Start slow: If this is your first DIY family bike ride, start with a shorter ride to gauge everyone’s comfort, interest and stamina. Gradually increase the distances as your family becomes more experienced.
Take frequent breaks: Encourage your children to ‘DIY’ by pointing out great picnic spots. From parks to viewpoints or historical landmarks.
Encourage teamwork: Assign roles in your family for each ride, like a chief navigator or a ride leader. Rotate the roles around the family to foster a sense of teamwork and shared responsibility.

Ultimately, the end goal of a DIY bike ride is to have fun. If your children come away with a positive experience, it’s a win. There’s no doubt that they’ll also come away with memories and skills that will stay with them for a lifetime.