So, you’ve done the hard yards and taught your child to ride a bike. What now? Where can you go in Canberra to stretch their skills and show them how fun all the different types of cycling can be? Read on for Pedal Power’s top kid-friendly cycling places in Canberra.
Stromlo Forest Park
The redevelopment of Stromlo after the 2003 bushfires created a mecca for cycling in Canberra. The off-road facilities are world-class but for children learning to ride, you really can’t beat the tracks at the base.
The purpose-built 1.3km criterium track at Stromlo Forest Park is regularly used for club races and cycling events but it’s also a perfect place for kids to practice their road-riding skills on a wide, flat, smooth surface. Check online to see if there are any bookings on the track before heading out there.
Even if you can’t access the criterium track, the kids will love the always-open junior play track, complete with road markings, petrol stations, shops and a playground in the middle. Great for children up to about five, there’s also BBQ facilities. Pack a picnic lunch, let the kids ride around and around and then wander up to the viewing platform for a birds-eye view of whatever event is on.
When introducing children to off-road cycling, it’s best to choose single-track that’s flat and windy rather than wide fire trails that tend to have faster descents. Windy, narrow terrain will force them to control their speed. They’ll probably still come off but the result is likely to be nothing more than scratches and grazes.
Search around suburban Canberra and you’ll find any number of little single dirt tracks that your new cyclist will enjoy but, for something more special, head out to Kowen Forest on the coast side of Queanbeyan. It’s a popular spot for adult mountain bikers but there are some kid-friendly loops starting at 1.5km, all well sign-posted. You’ll have to lift the bikes over a few gates but that just adds to the fun.
Mulligans Flat (part of the Centenary Trail)
This is a great ride for kids with gears on their bikes and a little strength in their legs. Ideal for confident riders of about six and older, start and finish at a café in Ford.
Don’t forget the lakes
Every Canberran lives close to a lake and there are some great cycle paths around all of them. They’re great for teaching kids to ride on the left but try to ride clockwise to avoid mishaps that end with a swim!
Take your pick of three basins around Lake Burley Griffin and combine a day’s cycling with a trip to one of the many attractions along the foreshore. Lake Tuggeranong, Lake Ginninderra and the Ponds at Gungahlin all have excellent bike paths with playgrounds en route. Vary or extend your lake rides as your child’s confidence and strength increases.
Organised kids rides
There aren’t many around but one of note is the new kids social mountain bike ride run by Canberra Off-Road Cyclists at Stromlo Forest Park. It’s on every Friday at 6pm for children with some experience off-road although, if you’re unsure about the skills required, parents can accompany and supervise children.
Children’s cycling courses
Cycle Education runs school holiday programs focusing on road safety, bicycle skills and dirt tours for children aged 5 to 13. It’s a great way to keep kids busy learning better riding techniques and to build safety and confidence.
Amy’s Big Canberra Bike Ride on Sunday 2 March 2014
There are four different route options this year which means it’s a perfect, fun day out for families and young riders. All roads are closed for the first 10km – how cool will it be to ride along Parks Way? After that it’s all bike paths and shared paths for the shorter distances.
Children aged six or older can enter the 20km or the 35km ride, as long as they are accompanied by an adult. Children under six can ride in a bike seat, trailer or tag-a-long on the same routes. From 12 years of age kids can enter the longer routes if they have an adult accompanying them.