Wheely good times: Biking Auckland's beginner cycle trails

By Danielle Wright

With the sunshine, comes the chance to head outdoors for a bike ride - but what if you're a beginner or parent to one? Danielle Wright goes in search of advice and the best places to learn.

Daniel and Nicholas Jones learn to ride bikes at the learn-to-ride cycle path a the the Onepoto Domain in Northcote. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Daniel and Nicholas Jones learn to ride bikes at the learn-to-ride cycle path a the the Onepoto Domain in Northcote. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Learn-to-ride bike trails for kids

There are some lovely, safe places around the city for young ones to get their balance.

Onepoto Domain
Tarahanga St, Northcote

Kids can learn road rules in the safety of an off-road trail, which includes arrows, a roundabout and even a give way sign. The trail also has some simple obstacles, like humps in the road, and a boardwalk for the chance to experience different terrain, or try the very twisty detour track for a challenge. Two playgrounds and boat racing on the pond nearby offer plenty to do when the kids are sick of pedalling.

Normanton Reserve
Normanton St, Glenfield

Tucked away in suburban Glenfield, Normanton Reserve has a bike trail with plenty of features to develop cycling skills.

There's a ramp for practising going downhill as well as obstacles to snake in and out of, and a playground for a break. It's not the most inspiring view, but it's the perfect place to teach kids to ride and is seldom crowded.

Western Springs
731 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn

For more inspiring lakeside views, visit Western Springs. It has undulating hills for plenty of practice when they're ready to go a bit faster. Stop to watch the eels on the bridge or feed the ducks afterwards. The track is well off the road and winds majestically around the lake.

Little Rangitoto Reserve
Upland Rd, Remuera

With hills straight out of the Teletubbies, its bike trail circles a flying fox, a busy skateboard bowl and reminders of our volcanic heritage. It's an easy place to learn to ride with a playground for afterwards. Pick up coffees at the nearby Benson Road Deli on the way.

Grey Lynn Park
Grosvenor St, Grey Lynn

Long flat stretches of sealed track make this a great park for learning to ride, just don't take the enticing-looking bush track underneath the motorbike sculpture archway - it leads to the road and is too steep for kids. Keep to the track circling the fields and finish with a cool-down at the free paddling pools or visit to the playground. Mid-morning there are always a few colourful characters walking past on the way home from an all-night party.

Parrs Park
Borich Rd, Henderson

A bike track circles the park where families fly kites, teams play soccer and love-struck teenagers loll about. There are plenty of long, flat sections to practise on and some humps and skateboard ramp sections for excitement. If the kids are feeling confident, you could venture on to one of the nearby trails such as the Oratia (1.6km) or Lower Waikumete (600m) cycleways to extend the trip. Afterwards, stop at the swimming pool or visit antique store Rainbows Relics with a "man cave" offering all kinds of "mantiques" for the dads to browse. More tracks can be found here.

Cornwall Park
Green Lane West, Greenlane

The walkways through Cornwall Park are wide enough for you to ride next to your beginner, with plenty of room for parents with prams as well. Twin Oak Drive has a section near the band rotunda where you can let your children practise their skills in beautiful surroundings circling large trees or riding through an archway filled with hanging flowers. Just don't let the kids ride too far in front because quite a few pathways lead to sudden steps.

Beginner trails

If you're ready for more of a challenge, consider these off-road trails for families or beginning cyclists.

Orewa Estuary Cycleway
Hibiscus Coast Highway, Orewa

Try out a tridem, tandem, a bike trailer, or even an adult trike from BikeME in the village and head out around the Orewa Estuary. It's an easy ride, about an hour, with the option of a swim or a play at one of three playgrounds on the beachfront afterwards. An official family open day for the Orewa Cycleway is on Sunday, December 4, 10am-1pm.

Waiatarua Reserve
Grand Drive, Remuera

If you want to include the family dog on your bike rides, Waiatarua Reserve has plenty of off-leash spaces and good rides for kids who have graduated to mountain bike wheels - the track is unsealed.

Kiwi Esplanade & Ambury Park
Kiwi Esplanade, Mangere Bridge

For perfectly flat stretches of off-road trails right next to the water, head to anywhere along Kiwi Esplanade. You can keep going until the kids start to get tired, then double back. If it's a nice day then a picnic and a look at the farm animals at Ambury Park should finish off the trip nicely.

Farm Cove Rotary Cycle and Walkway
Kentigern Close, Pakuranga

Enter through a pathway down a suburban street, then head out to a seemingly endless waterfront track with plenty to entertain the kids along the way - volcanic remnants, a long modern wharf and tiny details like seagull footprints sculpted in the concrete next to park benches. A special free family fun day will be held on Saturday, December 10, 10am-2pm at Farm Cove Reserve with cycle skills, safety courses, bike maintenance stations and more.

Sanders Reserve
Sanders Rd, Paremoremo

Turn left, not right to the prison entrance, into Sanders Rd and drive to the end. You'll be rewarded with a modern, architecturally beautiful visitors' centre and a kids' bike loop with enough twists and turns to keep them interested while you take in the views. For older children and adults there are plenty of bike track options suitable for mountain bikes - the tracks are unsealed and bumpy.

Learning to ride

One of the great pleasures of parenthood is teaching your children to ride their bikes, seeing them struggle and master something they will love to do for years to come.

Once they have the hang of it, you can take a scooter or bike for yourself so you can keep up with them.

How do you teach them? The consensus from local bike stores is that children learn to pedal on a tricycle, to balance on a bike without pedals, then combine these skills on a pedal bike with training wheels, which should be taken off as soon as possible. Helmets don't need to be worn with a tricycle or balance bike but are essential for a big kid's bike with pedals.

For children aged 8-12, Bigfoot Adventures runs cycle safety courses. Schools in the Auckland City Council region can receive this programme free, so it's worth requesting it through your child's school. Telephone 0800 244 366 for more information.

Free Beginner Bike Training for Adults courses are run by Auckland Transport and you will learn basic safety information, how to change gears, braking, signalling and bike control. They will be run in November and December across Auckland. For details ph (09) 355 3553.

There are also Bunch Cycling Skills Lessons running regularly. Contact bunchridingskills@gmail.com for more information.

Bikeability is the Cycling Advocates Network's cycle skills training programme.

Once you're an expert on two wheels, don't forget to use your bike to get to the shops, to the library, to school - wherever you need to go.

It's not just for half an hour once in a while, it's a good idea to incorporate bike riding into everyday family life.

Equipment

After ride-ons and tricycles, get serious about bike riding with a balance bike (looks like a real bike, but without pedals), such as Avanti's Lil Ripper ($199.90) in pink or camouflage for ages 2+, then move on to non-geared, then geared bikes.

For under-2s - get them interested in bike riding on a bike seat on your bike (back is best), kids trailer (Avanti $499.99) or small bike attachment on to your bigger bike called a Hang-On (Avanti Hang-On 1 is $329.90 and geared is $499.90).

There's also a Trail-Gator tow bar, which converts an ordinary bike into a towable trailer bike. Search Trade Me for Hang-On, Tag-Along or Trail-Gator brands at much cheaper prices.

For beginning adults wanting to ride around their neighbourhoods, try the Avanti Ubo - a modern take on the retro bike with an elegant frame design, from $999.90.

Auckland Harbour Bridge ride

* TelstraClear Challenge, Sunday, December 11.

Ride over the Auckland Harbour Bridge for the first time ever. With a ride to suit everyone, from elites to trikes, the TelstraClear Challenge is a celebration of cycle culture in the Super City, with a 110km course, a 15km Pedallers' Challenge over the bridge and a chance for kids to get out and "bike the busway" (a 2km ride for kids aged 5 and over) or an 8km family ride (kids aged 8 and over).

Then join the TelstraClear Cycling Carnival (Smales Farm, 9am-1pm) for free learn-to-ride, road safety and bike maintenance workshops, Avanti bikes to trial, smoothies made from the cycle-powered blender and much more.

Pick up a new Northern Cycle Map from any bike shop or library beforehand so you can ride to and from the event. To enter or for more information, check out the link above.

Be in to win

Win a pedaltastic TelstraClear Challenge prize pack worth more than $1000. The prize includes a bike and helmet from Avanti, a family (2 adults, 3 kids) pass to participate in the TelstraClear Challenge and a $300 TelstraClear voucher.

To enter visit nzherald.co.nz/weekend, enter your details and the keywords TelstraClear Challenge by midnight Wednesday, November 23.

- NZ Herald

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