Cycling to school provides more than just a means of transport. Studies such as those carried out by the Riding for Focus program, indicate that cycling to school can lead to academic, health and social success.
In the post-Covid world, students of all ages are discovering the school run is better by bike for themselves and for the planet. Join the cycle school run – check out our list of essentials to get you or your child pedalling to class.
1) Bike Maintenance
You don’t need the latest carbon frame mountain bike to get to school on time but you do need to ensure your bike is safe to ride.
Whether the rider is 4 or 24, have your local bike shop run a service on the bike before term starts. Not only will it help a safe, trouble-free commute but regular servicing of children’s bikes will maintain their value for future riders.
2) Prepare for the first day
As any good student will tell you, practice makes perfect and getting your cycle route nailed is no exception. Do a couple of trial runs before school starts to work out the best route and identify any hazards to be aware of on the way. Building confidence is key to a happy commute.
3) Don’t Forget the Essentials
Helmet and lights are essential whatever and whenever you are cycling. A good lock is also important to ensure your ride home is still there at the end of the school day.
Don’t be tempted to hand helmets down in the family regardless – always check they fit properly. Not only will this ensure your head is protected properly but a comfortable fit will also mean it’s worn in the first place.
A good-fitting helmet should sit level on your head (not tilted back) with the general rule being that the front edge is one inch or less above your eyebrows. Choose a helmet with an adjustable wheel at the back to tighten so it fits snugly on the head. The experts at road.cc have produced a detailed guide to bike helmet fit which is worth referring to for any age rider. Road.cc Helmet Fit Guide >>
You will need a front and rear light on your bike at all times and with most accidents occurring from the side or behind, experts recommend keeping the rear light on while cycling whatever the time of day. When it comes to choosing, brighter is better but also consider ease of turning them on AND OFF (you don’t want to leave the school day to find the bike light battery dead) and choose a design that allows removal from the bike when parked. Dependent on your budget, there are lots of different options but for a good quality set ideal for the commute, a Niterider Combo Pack is a good choice.
When choosing a lock, consider where you are locking the bike as well as its value. A cable lock or Z LOK will provide sufficient protection for most young riders parking in the school grounds or for more security, opt for a steel chain or compact U lock. Locks with combination codes such as Z LOK COMBO or Hiplok SPIN are great for kids so that keys aren’t lost. Just make sure the code is registered for safekeeping (with any Hiplok combination lock, you can use the Hiplok Code Registration service).
Most importantly, make sure the lock is easy to take with you as it’s not going to be much use if it’s sitting at home. For this reason, the wearable SPIN chain lock is a great choice for teenagers and young adults.
Check out our recommended locks for kids bikes >>
4) Dress For the Weather
This can be more difficult for those with uniforms but comfortable footwear and outerwear are key.
Choose a good outer layer which is easy to move in. There are a number of cycling-specific clothing brands available such as Cleverhood, which provides a great waterproof yet stylish loose-fit coat to go over your usual clothing and outerwear. However, any poncho-style coat is a great option so shop around for one that fits correctly and will be worn.
Don’t forget the gloves on cooler days. Although a pair of woollies will provide warmth, a basic pair of cycling gloves which allow you to grip the handlebars properly is a better option. They come in all sizes right down to infants, so visit your local bike store and find a comfortable pair.
And don’t forget a bottle of water, particularly in summer. Even if you only have a short journey, cycling can be a thirsty workout. So, mount a bottle holder to the frame and choose a lightweight sports bottle.
Make yourself as visible to traffic by choosing as much reflection on your clothing and gear as possible. Younger children will love some of the bright bike tape strips and stickers available for attaching to helmets, bike frames and even clothing.
And if neon hi-vis isn’t your style, there are many subtle ways to bring reflectivity into your gear. The understated grey sleeve on the Hiplok SPIN wearable lock provides ultra-reflective visibility when car lights are not shining on it. There are also many helmets available with integrated reflective detailing and even lights.
6) Proper Lock UP
You don’t want to leave class to find your ride home isn’t there. Getting a good lock is just the start, make sure you lock it properly.
If possible, lock your bike on the school grounds or college campus in a dedicated bike parking area with purpose-built bike racks. These areas are more difficult for thieves to access, are typically monitored closely and in some cases, even have CCTV. If your school does not have such an area, look for the most visible place possible to passers-by – thieves are less likely to operate where they can be seen.
Get your child to try out using the lock a few times before they lock their bike for the first time. See our SECURITY GUIDE for tips on locking up.