How you can help your child to learn to ride a bike
Learning to ride a bike is one of those life skills that can be incredibly useful in older age, but teaching your child to ride a bike can end up being a bit of a learning curve for both parent and child. If you’re searching for a sure-fire path you can follow on the road to teaching your child how to ride a bike, here are some pointers:
1) Start with a balance bike
The key to learning to ride a bike, whether you are a child or an adult, is mastering the balancing act. Because of this, balance bikes are the ideal first step into the world of cycling – they’re essentially just a normal bike with the pedals taken off as can be seen below... but this means your child will be able to become accustomed to the feeling of being on a bike. They can push themselves along with their feet and can actually get up to some surprising speeds. Before you or they even know it, they'll be off like a rocket.
2) Move up to a first bike
Once your child feels comfortable zooming along on their balance bike, it's time to move them up to their first bike. It’ll need to be perfectly sized – if it's at all too big or small they’re liable to have a hard time in learning. According to about.com, the general guidelines of a bike saddle fit are:
“Too much upward tilt can result in pressure points. Too much downward tilt can make you slide forward while riding and put extra pressure on your arms, hands and knees, which can lead to injury.”
Encourage them to sit on the bike to see if it suits them - they should be able to touch their toes to the ground when sitting on the bike. However, when you first sit them on their new bike it can be a good idea to lower their seat so that their feet are closer to the ground – this should make them feel more secure. Online resources such as the Kids Bikes Buyer's Guide in particular should give you useful information on how to pick your child's first bike to best suit their requirements.
3) Attach some stabilisers …
Your child will need to get used to the feel of pedalling on a bike, so using bike stabilisers can be a great help. They will give your child the feeling of riding a tricycle, but it will give them a chance to master the art of pedalling, which feels extremely foreign at first. For the DIY-newbie parents; Youtube user ‘bestkidsbikes’ offers an easy-to-follow guide to affixing stabilisers below...
4) … and then detach them
After a while, you’ll notice that your child feels one hundred per cent comfortable riding a bike with stabilisers attached, which means it's definitely time to move on up to riding a bike sans attachments. Reassure your child that you’ll be on hand throughout the process and be there when they fall – because, let’s face it, it will happen. Encouraging kids to ride in a similar fashion as seen in the video below can help to increase confidence and bike stability. You can use your patio or even your local park for this part of the process, just ensure the area is on level ground and is open.
Begin by holding onto the back of your child's bike while they pedal – again, they will need to get used to the feeling of the bike. Avoid holding onto the handlebars as this will affect the feeling of riding the bike and fully being in control. Then, begin allowing your child to ride on their own for short bursts, slowly increasing the amount of time until they feel confident enough to ride for a long stretch.
There will be hiccups in the learning process and your child may end up with a few bumps and grazes, which is why you should kit them out with a helmet and consider elbow and knee pads as well. If they fall, give them a hug, reassure them, and sit them back on the bike if they want to. In time, your child will be raring to get on their bike and it's sure to be a skill they’ll take into later life.