- What is the best age to teach a child to ride a bike?
- How long does it take to learn cycling?
- Before you teach your child to ride a bike
- What is the best way to teach a child to ride a bike?
- How to choose a bike for your child
- How to teach a child to ride a bike without stabilisers
- Where to teach your child to ride a bike
- How to teach your child to ride a bike
- How do you teach a reluctant child to ride a bike?
You’ve seen the moment hundreds of times in cheesy insurance adverts or flashback scenes in films: the well-groomed parent with great hair running along a few steps behind a kid in a giant helmet wobbling unsteadily on their little bike and making comical faces of surprise and delight as the feel-good music swells, the parent’s hand lets go and the child discovers how to ride a bike all on their own!
But how do you get to this point and teach your child to ride a bike as a real-life parent?
What is the best age to teach a child to ride a bike?
Generally, most kids have the coordination and balance to start learning to ride properly at around 4 or 5. It’s good to teach your child to ride a bike at this age as older kids may start to overthink the whole thing and such anxiety can put up mental blocks that will make it more difficult for them to relax and trust their bodies to learn how to cycle.
How long does it take to learn cycling?
Every child is different, you can teach your child to ride a bike in about an hour, but some kids will need a few practice sessions to get the hang of it properly. Try thirty minutes of practice every evening for a week and you should have a little cycling expert ready for the weekend! 🚲
Before you teach your child to ride a bike
First things first, some safety tips:
Make sure you get your child a well-fitted helmet! ⛑
When you put the helmet on their head you should be able to put just two fingers between their eyebrows and the bottom of the helmet. This means it's protecting their forehead properly.
Tighten the straps so the helmet doesn’t move back and forward or side to side on their head very easily if you push it or they shake their head. But don’t make it so tight that it’s uncomfortable for them otherwise they may start taking the helmet off when you’re not looking! You should be able to put just one finger in between their chin and the strap.
Check the helmet still fits properly once a month or so and tighten the straps again if they start becoming loose. You could also consider getting them some padded gloves and elbow and knee pads to protect them from falls.
Make sure the brakes work!
Make sure the seat, handlebars and wheels are all tightly fitted and the tyres fully inflated
What is the best way to teach a child to ride a bike?
Kids learning to ride a “proper bike” may have taken three different paths to get to this point:
- They’ve never ridden a bike before
- They have been riding a bike with stabilisers
- They’ve been riding a balance bike
If your kid is very young and has never ridden before the best way to teach your child to ride a bike is to get them a balance bike. A balance bike is a training bike for kids that has no pedals and no chain. They’re available for kids from as early as 18 months.
They’re the perfect way to teach your child to ride a bike and prepare for real cycling as they allow your kid to learn how to balance and steer on two wheels. With a balance bike, they can sit on the saddle and scoot themselves along with their feet, practise free-wheeling and get used to using brakes.
How to choose a bike for your child
If your child is older or ready to graduate from a balance bike to a big kids’ bike, a good second-hand one is probably a safer bet than a cheap new bike. Cheap bikes tend to be made with heavier materials and can be harder for your child to learn how to balance and make pushing more difficult. A second-hand bike that has been properly serviced is a better investment.
While surprises are always nice, when it comes to getting a bike, it’s better to take your kid with you so you can check if it’ll suit them.
Don’t choose a bike that’s a little big for them, thinking they’ll grow into it. It's better to choose a bike that is the right size or even a bit small. Kids really worry about falling off when they’re learning to ride, so having a bike that they can control means they’ll feel safer and more confident.
A bike can be used for a long time before they really outgrow it. Make sure they can touch the ground with both feet while they’re sitting on the saddle and reach the handlebars without bending too far forwards.
How to teach a child to ride a bike without stabilisers
If your child has already been riding a bike with stabilisers then you have a bit more work to do.
Contrary to traditional belief, riding a bicycle with stabilisers is not actually the best way to learn how to ride a bike for real!
In fact, cycling with stabilisers isn’t that similar to proper riding. The stabilisers do not allow a child to learn how to balance or understand that you turn a bike more with your body than with the handlebars.
So, if you feel it’s time for your kid to start cycling for real, the first thing you have to do is to take off the stabilisers and then you have to take off the pedals.
Yep, that’s right, take off the pedals! This is an easy way to turn a regular bike into a balance bike and let your child get ready for real cycling.
Use a spanner to remove the pedals yourself or ask the local bike shop to do it for you, it shouldn’t take longer than a few minutes. You should also adjust the height of the seat so your child can sit and place both feet flat on the ground with straight legs.
Where to teach your child to ride a bike
Now your child has a balance bike either bought or customised, find a safe, fairly flat area away from traffic, people and breakables with plenty of room. A park or other child-friendly outdoor area should work. Try to avoid anywhere with too much of a slope as it may look much more intimidating to your child than you might think. 🏞
How to teach your child to ride a bike
Kids can worry about getting their feet caught in the bike's frame so to start off, encourage them to practise getting on and off the bike until they feel comfortable.
Next, let them get a feel for what happens when they walk forwards with the bike then pull the brakes gently and then let them try pulling them more firmly.
Once they understand the brakes they can start getting used to pushing themselves around on their bike. Encourage them to look up and ahead towards where they want to go rather than looking down at their feet or the wheels, this will help avoid crashes.
As they gain more confidence they can start pushing off hard and freewheeling for some time with their feet off the ground.
Zooming around on a balance bike will get your kid used to how the bike can be steered by shifting their body weight in the direction they want to go and how bikes become more stable and easier to handle the faster they move.
If your kid is happy with their balance bike set up you can let them use it like this for weeks or months. Chances are they’ll soon get the urge to try out the real thing and ask you to let them graduate to pedals sooner rather than later.
At this point screw the pedals back on and make sure they’re tightly fitted.
Once the pedals are on, pop the centre of the bike up on some old books or bricks so that the front wheel is on the ground and the back wheel can freely rotate in the air.
Get your child to sit on the bike and, with you supporting the bike by holding under the seat, let them practise pedalling in the right direction to make the back wheel revolve. Kids often have a bit of a problem coordinating the right way to pedal forward so this dry run lets them get a feel for how to pedal properly to make the bike move forwards.
Now take them out to your practice area and tell them to get ready for some real cycling!
With them sitting on the bike, put your hands under their armpits or in the centre of their back around the neck.
You want to support the child, not the bike. Putting your hands on the handlebars or any other part of the bike at this stage will stop your kid from being able to balance the bike properly themselves.
Next, encourage them to start pedalling forward and run along behind them keeping your hands in place to support them and ready to catch them if they lose their balance.
Start them off slowly and get them to test the brakes and practise stopping and putting their feet back on the ground to build their confidence. Tell them to try turning left or right to see how the bike will turn as they move the handlebars and as they shift their balance. Remind them to look up and ahead instead of down at their feet or the wheels.
After a few practice runs with you supporting them from behind you’ll reach a point where they're already slipping out of your hands and powering ahead. When it happens, let them go but continue running behind them until you think they’ve got the hang of it. Congratulations, you’ve made a little cyclist and reached a memorable milestone for you and your kid to treasure!
If they lose their balance and fall off, don’t make a big fuss of the tumble, check they’re not really hurt but compliment them on how well they're doing and encourage them to get straight back on and try again!
How do you teach a reluctant child to ride a bike?
Be patient! If your kid isn’t interested or is afraid of learning to ride you need to give them some space and time to get used to the idea. If they’re not confident and you push them to learn too quickly and they fall off, it could be harder to get them to try again and they may not trust you to help them with other things in the future.
A good way to inspire them is to take them somewhere like the park or a bike track to see other kids riding bikes and having lots of fun. They’ll soon get the urge to be able to join in!
Teaching your child to ride a bike is a wonderful moment that you and your kid can bond over. As they grow, you might find that you can’t help them as much as you’d like with every learning experience.
Here at GoStudent we have expert tutors ready and waiting to help and support you and your child with all their educational needs. Check out this link to see how you can enjoy a free trial lesson today!