Do you remember how much you loved to ride your bike when you were a kid? It is a fond memory for many people, just as it will be for many generations to come. As well as teaching kids balance and independence, it is a fun way to go super fast, jump off gutters, race their friends and experience the thrill of speeding down a hill or two. Around Canberra, there are a number of good choices if you are looking for flat, concrete paths to take your kids bike-riding - as well as some off-road options if you have a speed-demon BMX rider in your family. Sometimes the best place for kids to ride their bikes is on the street outside their home, however as Canberra has so many hills, this isn't possible for everyone. The following list are places that our family enjoy visiting, however, if you know of any more, please leave a comment at the bottom of this article to share your local tips.
Why not load up the car and hit the track this weekend? The kids will be dressed and in the car waiting for you in record time - and when does that ever happen?
Early morning bike ride at the Criterium Circuit at Stromlo Forest Park
1/ Stromlo Forest Park is located at Weston Creek, 20 minutes south west of Canberra city. It is a popular area for mountain bikers and kids with BMX bikes, with a maze of dirt paths to explore in the Bike Park. As well as the off-road options, there is also a large, concrete riding loop called the Criterium Circuit, which is a 1.2 kilometre loop designed for road cyclists to race and practice - however, the rest of the time it is a popular place for kids to ride their bikes! With wide paths and hills at each end, they can enjoy the thrill of free-wheeling along the track. When the kids have finished, there is also a small playground and bike riding area for pre-schoolers, which is more manageable to ride for little legs.
Before you leave, check the Stromlo Forest Park website to ensure there are no cycling events on the day you wish to go - look at the "confirmed bookings" section on the right hand side.
Fill up at the children's area, next to the Criterium Circuit
2/ Canberra's Lakes are busy each weekend with cyclists, joggers, walkers and families riding their bikes, as the paths are clear and easy to follow. Canberra has three lakes to explore and they all offer more than just a bike ride. In the north of Canberra is Lake Ginninderra which has a 7 kilometre bike path around its perimeter, with John Knight Memorial Playground an ideal place to park the car and have a play at the start or end. In the south, there is Lake Tuggeranong, which has a 6.7 kilometre bike path around the lake and a popular playground at Tuggeranong Town Park to include in your ride.
Lake Burley Griffin is located in the centre of Canberra and has flat bike paths that are ideal for kids bike-riding. If 5 kilometres isn't too far for your kids to ride, the Central Loop in the centre of the lake is the most popular route - which goes over one bridge and back across another, so you don't need to back-track. A popular place to start is near the National Carillon, whose bells chime at the top of the tower every 15 minutes and on the hour. From here it is a scenic ride along the lake, with Boundless playground, a coffee van on weekends and clean toilets nearby.
Shade and flat paths along the Lake Tuggeranong bike path
3/ Learn To Ride Centres are located at both Lake Tuggeranong and Lake Ginninderra, for young children to get confident riding their bikes. As Canberra has a large bike-riding culture, with many people riding their bikes to work and school each day, the ACT Government have built the Learn To Ride Centres to teach young children the rules of the road. There are stop signs, roundabouts, give way signs and over-taking lanes for kids to ride along and use their imagination. For more details, see here. For a full article on the Lake Tuggeranong Learn To Ride Centre, see here.
If you are looking for another off-road option, also check out Sparrow Hill at Kowen Forest, if you have kids who like to go on an adventure. Kids can start on the fire trails and then move up to the 5 kilometre Kids Stuff trail, which gives them the taste of riding over bumps and gullies in single file.
Kids never seem to tire of riding their bikes, so why not spend the entire day out enjoying it together around the Capital. Pack a picnic, take plenty of water and enjoy this outdoor activity together as a family. After a day exploring the region by bike, the kids won't be telling you they're bored - they will be asking you where you will be taking them tomorrow!
Off-road fun at Sparrow Hill! Image: Sparrow Hill website