IT'S THE WEEKEND: The Great Outdoors - where your youngsters can test out their Christmas bikes
1:08pm Saturday 14th December 2013 in News
MANY children across Gwent will be receiving bikes from Santa. SOPHIE BROWNSON looks at some of the best cycle routes for beginners to test out their pedal power over the festive period.
WITH Christmas just over a week away many children are hoping to receive what may be their first ever bike.
While parents desperately try to think of ways to wrap it up, one must not forget the all important question of where to ride it safely in Gwent.
“The important thing to remember is that however far you go you have to be able to cycle the same distance back so it may not be worth going too far,” Neil Smith of Newport Velo Youth Cycling Club.
“If you ride three miles you have to be able to ride three miles back.
“The biggest thing is down the stamina of the child.
“I think it is better to get them to enjoy cycling rather than pushing them too far.”
For those children just starting off, Neil recommends flat routes away from traffic such as the new cycle path from Newport to Caerleon.
“This is quite a good one as it has all been tarmaced,” he said.
“Another one is the Brecon Canal route, which takes you through Pontypool and then you can go on the cycle path which takes you up to Blaenavon.
“It is a good place to go if you don’t want to cycle straight from Newport as you can park your car at Merchants Hill Pontypool, and from there you can go straight on to a cycle path which is very safe-especially if you are taking young children.”
Neil who runs the Saturday and Sunday rides from the Newport Velodrome takes young riders aged ten plus out on road bikes covering routes across Gwent ranging from Newport to the Moors; Usk and Chepstow.
Mr Smith said that most kids will be getting mountain bikes or BMX bikes this Christmas as road bikes are more specialised, but just as important as the bike itself is having the safety equipment that goes with it.
Advisable additions to any new bike include the all important puncture repair kit as well as the life-saving helmet-and don’t forget provisions such as food.
“Make sure you pack food and drink as well as some spare parts,” Neil advised.
“A small pack of tools for repair work can be stored under your saddle.
“But everybody should have a helmet because there are so many people killed through serious head injuries.”
But even kids with all the gear can lack confidence so Neil suggests that parents bring them along to the various cycle groups across Gwent either independently or through school and council schemes to build up their skills through coaching and practical advice on cycle routes.
One confident cyclist is Welsh National Mountain Bike Champion Aled Trott, ten, who is keen to encourage children his age to take up cycling.
The Llanvihangel Crucorney Primary School pupil, who trains twice a week with the Abergavenny Road Club, recommends cycling around the abbey in Abergavenny.
"I like cycling around Abergavenny, it’s a 15 mile round trip and I go with my dad.
"I had a bike when I was little and I always used to ride it.
"Now I train twice a week and I ride road bikes, mountain bikes and cycle cross country.”
Many cycle routes can also be found via the website Sustrans, such as the relatively easy five mile route from Caerphilly to Machen which has had a number of upgrades over recent years and is now almost completely traffic free.
From the centre of Caerphilly, the route heads east on a quiet residential street before picking up a traffic free path section that runs through a linear park area and past two schools.
Then running alongside a road before picking up an old back-road, the then route joins the riverside path around the large Bedwas industrial estate.
Finally the route crosses the A468 to join up with the Bedwas to Machen cycle path that utilises a section of old railway.
Another pleasant Sustran route is the six mile cycle from Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, and Fourteen Locks to Cwmbran.
The easy, traffic-free route takes you along the wide towpath by the canal up to Pontypool and Fourteen Locks Visitor Centre, finishing in Cwmbran.
Gwyn Smith, South East Wales area manager for Sustrans also recommends the north section of this route were cyclists go north to Risca and Crosskeys from 14 Locks, as well as the three parks route starting at Crosskeys visitors centre along the Taff Trail.
“I think the important thing is not to overdo it,” said Mr Smith.
“Know your limits.
“What you want to do with kids is build up their confidence so that they keep it up for the rest of their lives, so little and often is key.
“With the three parks route you could even just do the Sirhowy Valley Corners park section which is a distance of four miles.”
Mr Smith said the Gwent area is getting better for cycling all the time.
“There are now more routes and more maps and Newport council along with other councils in the area is providing really good maps so it is going to give people more options.”
Gwyn also recommends the cycle path around the Newport Wetlands as a good route away from traffic.
“The cycle path around there covers a distance of around two and a half miles so I would suggest that people go round then back again to make up a distance of three or four miles- but it is best to go on a good day when it is not as windy!”
He added: “Sustrans targets cyclists coming back in to cycling or those who are new to cycling so all of our routes are designed for people to build their confidence without over doing it.”
To find out more, visit www.sustrans.org.uk
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