I don’t know about you, but bike riding is my ultimate therapy! Fitness, fresh air…maybe a few wheelies, what more could you want?

I don’t have children, but I do know that children love to ride bikes! From a developmental perspective, bike riding will benefit their coordination, muscle growth and cardiorespiratory health – all while having fun and exploring the world from a new, two-wheeled perspective. It’s also a great exercise option for adults to increase strength and aerobic capacity, particularly for individuals whose joints are aggravated by higher impact activities like running.

As “Radelaidians”, we are blessed with a generally flat, green, spacious city, that’s perfect for bike riding. Cycling infrastructure is improving all the time encouraging more and more commuters and weekend warriors to hit the streets and bike paths for a pedal. However for some, the prospect of getting out on the road on a bike, with or without your kids, sounds about as safe as Donald Trump getting into the White House. I definitely understand this sentiment, so I’m wondering… have you considered going for a family bike-ride off-road?

What many people don’t know is how lucky we are in Adelaide to have a fantastic collection of mountain bike trail networks within close proximity to the CBD. This is something few cities in the world can boast. Now perhaps the thought of hitting the dirt trails maybe scarier than getting out on the road? My answer to that is the comforting thought that dirt, rocks and trees don’t move, and are far less likely to steer into you when locating a convenient parking spot while sending a text message, furthermore the risk of incident can be reduced by riding the trails that suit you and your kids’ skill level.

As many of our trail networks are now being purpose built for mountain-biking, signage including maps and trail difficulty can be found at many trailheads. Often the rating system employed by the alpine skiing community has been applied; grading trails from easy blue runs through to double-black heart-stoppers. Also, there are often wide, smooth fire-access trails linking the single-tracks together, which the majority of bike riders will feel safe on.

I have some suggestions on some good tracks in Adelaide, why not give them a try? Southside of Adelaide there’s the lately revamped Shepherd’s Hill recreation Park accessed from Alyiffes Road at St Marys, or further over the hill at you could try Craigburn Farm which can be found at the end of Craigburn Road or via other road access points behind Blackwood Park Housing Estate. In the North, try Cobbler Creek Mountain Bike Park accessed from Mews Court at Gulfview Heights. These sites offer tracks to suit varying levels of skill and experience. For more trails around the Adelaide hills check out http://adelaidemtbtrails.com/.

You MUST wear helmets to protect you and your children’s heads, while gloves and pads for elbows and knee protection are recommended. Any bike with working brakes may suffice though a mountain bike with wide, knobby tires will likely make the experience easier, safer and more enjoyable. Obviously carrying water and snacks is also good idea.

My love affair with mountain biking began 20 years ago as a 13 year old kid doing skids with my friends. Unbeknownst to me it began a journey that has included everything from friends and fun, to fitness, elite competition and now a career as a health professional.

For you, at the very least it’s a fun day out with the kids but who knows what else..?

Written by David West

David West is a Physiotherapist and exercise professional with Smart Health Training & Services. As an elite mountain bike racer, David has won multiple state championships and completed successfully at both national and international levels.