Small Space Skills Sessions
20 March 2020 - Learning to Ride
Keeping Your Children Active During The Coronavirus
At the moment we are being encouraged to visit our local parks to ensure we get outside for some fresh air and exercise. The National Trust has announced that many of its gardens and coastal locations will be free to access during this difficult time. There are even Frog Bikes for rent in a selected number of National Trust locations so do check if this facility is still available.
However, with many of us choosing not to use public transport during this period it is not always possible to access these areas. With Schools closing and public gatherings limited it may be easier to enjoy your bike closer to home. With this in mind, we have picked the brains of UK ramp manufacturer Sender Ramps and Cycling Instructor, Emily Groves for their advice on how to keep your kids active, excited about cycling and more importantly having fun, in a smaller space.
Backyard Skills Session
Setting up your Skills Area
Emily often leads cycle training and teaches cycling skills courses in playgrounds and smaller areas so she is perfectly placed to help you organise a brilliant course in your garden. Practising specific bike handling skills will increase a child’s concentration, their balance and motor functions. Whilst they think they are just having fun there’s really a lot more going on!
Emily’s top tips for creating the ultimate garden, bicycle skills course is to get some basic equipment if you can. A set of marker cones can be relatively inexpensive and can be used for a variety of sports and games. There is also a weighted option when it comes to cones, they are slightly more expensive but if your little one has a habit of riding over things, for a purchase with a longer lifespan, they may be worth considering!
Emily also recommends Mini bike/scooter/skateboard ramps, they can be a great investment, around £20 each or cheaper from local second-hand sites. We will go into these in more detail later in the blog with the help of Sender Ramps.
Ultimately you can use anything you have around the garden: plant pots, bins, rocks, paving slabs etc. as well as natural features such as small walls and steps.
Once you have your course set up the next step is knowing what to do with it.
Skills to Practice
According to Emily, to improve your cycling skills the best things to practice in your new arena are:
- 🚴 Steering, in and out cones or 'gates' trying not to touch the cones
- 🚴 Trying to lift up your front wheel on to small steps
- 🚴 Riding down small steps
- 🚴 Riding on thin paths, paving slabs etc
- 🚴 Standing up
- 🚴 Riding one-handed
Repeating drills to practice these simple little skills will help to keep your child physically active, exercising without even realising and motivated. Every time they master a new skill the sense of achievement will keep them excited about riding their bike even if it is confined to a smaller space.
Disclaimer: Frog Bikes Ltd will take no responsibility for the damage or injury to any plant pots, plants or saucepans during these skills sessions.
Bike Ramps for Kids
There are a few companies in the UK specialising in ramps for young riders to practise their bike handling and learn new skills. We spoke to Andy at Sender Ramps who design and manufacture world-leading bike features and coaching equipment for all abilities. He had some great ideas for using their ramps in a small space.
At Sender Ramps, their entire range has been designed for use in both large and small spaces. An example of this is their large 500 table top set. Predominately this setup is for a more competent rider who’s after a safer jumping experience and has an area where they can get a run-up to approach the ramp.
However, put into a small enclosed space this ramp can be used to build confidence or have fun with less experienced riders. The idea being, approach the ascent slowly with the correct gear choice and you now have an obstacle in front of you to climb and descend with a transfer of weight as you hit the top, followed by transferring your weight back for the descent.
To increase the difficulty or set new challenges, you can even look at their Pro range where you can add additional rumble strips or rocks and change as the rider develops.
With the right vision, even our biggest ramp set can be used in a smaller space.
Andy @ Sender Ramps
When teaching kids the Grom set/beginners range is a great range to start with, it includes some ideal obstacles catering for balance bikes and beyond.
Having a few of these items set up in the back garden can create a fun, confidence-inspiring, kids cycling skills course where siblings can use them at the same time (under supervision of course)!
Advanced Skills to Practice
Andy recommends the following skills to practice away from the ramps!
- 🚴 Bunny hops - These are a great skill but not always easy to pick up with younger riders. However, practising just lifting the front wheel over a stick is a great start.
- 🚴 Balance - For a junior cyclist this is a key skill. Place a water bottle on a small box or on the ground depending on how difficult you want to make it, the rider then rides up and with one hand picks up the bottle whilst riding and places it back down a few bike lengths in front onto another box.
- 🚴 Track stands Level 1 - Track stands are a very easy skill to practice, this can be varied from just doing it on the spot in the garden or riding up to a designated point and stopping; getting the rider to balance for a period of time and riding off again.
- 🚴 Track Stands Level 2 - Increase the difficulty by doing this at height, riding onto a balance beam and stopping in the centre.
- 🚴 Track Stands Level 3 - If you wanted to increase the difficulty again our see-saw can and does provide hours of fun on one single training aid. Riding up, stopping at its most central point to hold a steady position in the air (350mm High), before rolling forward to tip the see-saw and riding away. This is a very good confidence builder it teaches the rider to choose the right gear, controlling speed with the right braking point whilst having good balance and control.
- 🚴 Cornering- Practice tight cornering requiring you to lean the bike over, place out 4 or 5 cones spaced about 8 feet apart if there is a lack of space then try with just a couple, weave in and out increasing speed as confidence and skills increase. To increase difficulty offset the cones, work on flat corners with the inside pedal up and weight on the outside.
- 🚴 For younger riders place 2 cones out; riding in a figure of 8 motion to work on balance and speed or set a lane out in a zigzag varying distance between cones. As the rider becomes more competent bringing the cones closer will make it tight and more challenging, requiring better balance and control of the bike.
We hope that after reading these fantastic tips from Emily and Andy you will feel excited to get outside in your garden and design a course of your own for your family.
Although it looks a lot of fun, we would not always recommend going to the lengths of Sam Hanson and his little helper in the video below!
If you would like to take your course to the next level and include ramps from Sender Ramps then keep an eye out for our next blog post. In this, we will be discussing the different types of ramps and what skills you can practice with Andy. Don’t forget to share your fun with us. Tag us in your Instagram posts with #backyardskillspark where we will be watching your creations closely over the next 6 weeks. We will even be awarding a prize to the most inventive setup!!