How a father in Tameside is encouraging foster families to get out on their bikes

How a father in Tameside is encouraging foster families to get out on their bikes

Outdoor instructor, foster carer, and bike mad Phil Allen explains what the Tame Valley Mountain Bike Association is doing to encourage foster families to cycle.

Phil Allen, a father and foster carer from Stalybridge, helped set up the Cycling UK Community Cycle Club Tame Valley Mountain Bike Association. As well as campaigning to get more off-road riding routes on the map, the group has also been encouraging more people to discover mountain biking, particularly getting foster families out on their bikes. 

“I’m a really keen believer that the younger you get kids into an activity the more likely they’ll take it up and will see the benefits later in life,” said Phil. 

And it’s not just the health and wellbeing benefits that Phil advocates for children and their foster families.

It [cycling] helps build a relationship between the foster carer and child. When you’re out on a bike it creates a relaxing atmosphere, and the foster child is more likely to open up and talk while you’re out on a ride and enjoying yourself

Phil Allen

“Cycling changes the dynamic between adult and child,” Phil said. “In a usual setting like a school or home the child looks at the adult as someone who tells them off, tells them what to do. But when you go out on a bike ride, it’s a level playing field. 

“That boundary disappears, you’re just people out riding bikes.

“It helps build a relationship between the foster carer and child. When you’re out on a bike it creates a relaxing atmosphere, and the foster child is more likely to open up and talk while you’re out on a ride and enjoying yourself. 


“If you both like cycling, it means that you have a shared hobby both can enjoy and bond over."

The benefits of cycling also continue after a child leaves the care system. 

“If a foster child has a bike and can ride the bike, it gives them independence. So when they leave care and move into independent living, it creates more opportunities, especially when looking at colleges and jobs, it means they can travel further.

“If a foster child knows how to ride a bike, and how to maintain a bike, it gives them independence which is massively important.” 

If a foster child knows how to ride a bike, and how to maintain a bike, it gives them independence which is massively important

Phil Allen

While cycling is an activity that many families enjoy, for a child in the care system there are additional barriers that might prevent them from cycling. 

“A lot of kids that go into care have not had that early years’ experience of riding.

Then when a child enters a new foster family there might be barriers for the family too, explains Phil. “A foster family can be a lot larger than a normal family. If you’ve got a family of six children and they want to go on a bike ride, where do they go? If there’s nothing local, how do they get all six of them and all the bikes to the destination where they can ride a bike?”


Before the pandemic, the Tame Valley Mountain Bike Association planned activities to help foster families discover cycling.

An event for foster carers and children had to be cancelled at the end of March, an event which would have offered an opportunity for people to come and give cycling a go. Despite having to cancel events, the team have continued to prepare to help families once things return to normal.

“We’ve got a shipping container that we’re going to convert into a workshop, so once it’s up and running I’ll put it out to foster carers that if there’s any foster children with bikes that need work they can just bring them down and we’ll try and get them working.

“To me, the key to getting foster kids on a bike is to get the foster carers interested in riding a bike. Once the carers are into riding, the children will follow.

“These are the kind of issues the Tameside MTB association want to address and help the foster carers with."

The pandemic hasn’t put a complete stop to activities. Phil and his son spent Bike Week cycling and filming all the family routes in Tameside to help people find routes they could ride as a family.

Gabrielle Sulek from Looked After Children Services at Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council can also see the enormous benefits of getting children cycling with their foster families. “Cycling is something the council are keen to promote, not just for foster children and their families, but the wider community,” said Gabrielle. “It’s a great way of improving fitness levels in a fun and enjoyable way, plus we know there are huge mental health benefits to being outside. It’s an activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

“It’s fantastic to see our Tameside foster families keeping active through cycling during the pandemic. At a time when leisure activities can seem limited, it’s a great way for our foster parents and children to bond with each other while creating lots of fun memories, too.”

If you’re interested in learning more about fostering in the Borough of Tameside, get in touch with the Tameside Council fostering team on 0161 342 2342 to make an enquiry today.

Tame Valley Mountain Bike Association

Is a constituted volunteer group based in Tameside with the aim to -

  • Promote Tameside as a destination for mountain biking and off road cycling
  • To work together with the council, landowners, and other countryside users to protect, preserve and improve current rights of ways for off road riding
  • Improve current cycling facilities in Tameside to encourage children and families to ride
  • Promote off road riding as an activity to improve physical and mental health

Visit the Tame Valley MTB Association webpage

Visit the Tame Valley MTB Association Facebook page

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Cycling UK continues to support the UK to cycle
This remains true during this difficult period with the ongoing threat of coronavirus Covid-19