Learning to ride a bike is a significant milestone in a child's journey towards independence and confidence.
Learning to ride a bike is a significant milestone in a child's journey towards independence and confidence. The experience is treasured by parents and children alike, filled with excitement, wobbles, and finally a moment of triumph.
With the help of this blog, you can make teaching your child how to ride a bike fun, safe, and memorable.
Learning to cycle is an essential life skill, and here’s a great way to get started!
1. Ready - Getting used to the bike
Whether this is your child’s first-ever bike or the next step from a balance bike, a bike with pedals will be a totally new concept. So showing your child how the bike works is the first step.
Ask your child to turn the pedals with their hand so they can see how the pedals power the wheel and keep the bike going. This will help them discover which way they need to turn the pedal to move the wheel.
Now you’ve shown and explained the concept of pedalling to your little one, it’s time to get their helmet on and for them to sit on the bike.
Fitting a child’s helmet
Your child’s helmet should sit on top of their head, not too tight or too loose, with the peak sitting about two fingers' width above their eyebrows, with the chinstrap securely fastened.
Why is the right-sized bike so important?
Having the right-sized bike is crucial at this stage. Trying to learn on a bike that doesn’t fit them properly will make it much harder to get going. Before you set off, take a look at these top tips:
Stand next to the bike – the saddle should be at hip height
Make sure that the top of the handlebar is level with the mid-point of the saddle
The handlebars should be close enough to reach with ease - overstretching will cause wobbles, especially when trying to turn corners
Your child’s legs should only be slightly bent when on the pedal and riding - the straighter the leg, the better
Your child’s seat height should allow them to rest the tips of their toes on the ground or even have flat feet on the ground for less confident riders. This lets them use their feet for control and confidence in the early stages
2. Steady - Finding their balance
It is wise to ensure they can balance on two wheels first before getting them to try and pedal. This may be from progressing straight from a balance bike or by removing the pedals from their pedal bike until they can lift both feet up and hold the bike up, without falling over.
If you decide to take the pedals off it is a good opportunity to teach them how to use their brakes too. If they did not have a balance bike or had one without a brake we would recommend starting with the pedals off. Sometimes this is only necessary for 10 minutes but it makes all the difference in their confidence and enjoyment. Once they are whizzing around and lifting both feet up then it’s time to reach for the pedals.
Introducing the brake levers early on not only ensures your child uses them correctly but also gives them the reassurance that they have control. Learning how to brake and stop will instantly build confidence once those pedals are back on.
Which terrain is best?
We recommend teaching your child to ride on a large expanse of tarmac. If it has a very gentle slope this is even better as it will help them to get comfortable balancing. We often favour grassy areas, after all, it makes for a softer fall! However, if you’ve ever cycled on grass you’ll know it takes a lot more energy and power to do so. So head to a quiet path, tennis court or street to get your child started away from traffic, and leave the grassy park for when they have got the hang of pedalling and balancing.
3. Pedal - It’s time to ride!
Many of us remember learning to ride with Mum or Dad holding onto the bike and feeling very unstable and unsure of the whole thing. We recommend avoiding this technique! Running alongside and holding on to the bike can cause it to wobble, counteracting your child’s ability to balance which is so key at this time. There are a few items you can use such as a balance buddy or balance vest which won’t unsteady the bike as much and will give that sense of security some children need at first. Alternatively, if you must hold on, hold under their arms, not onto the bike itself.
What pedal position is best?
Get your child to set the pedals up in a good position to generate movement. Put the top pedal at 2 pm (10-minute position on the clock) and the bottom at 8 pm (40-minute position on a clock).
They can then place one foot on the top pedal and push off using the foot still on the ground. This allows them to put weight through the top pedal. You can help here with a little push. Tell them to push down as each foot reaches the top. This is more helpful than just telling them to “pedal!” especially with younger children as this is quite a new concept!
Now they are up and running, or pedalling we should say! Remind them to always look up and look ahead. Where the head looks, the body (and bike) will follow, if they look ahead then it will be much easier to keep a straight line and not go whizzing into the curb, dog or you!
Practice makes perfect!
Practice is key! Encourage your child to practice regularly, but keep the sessions short and positive, giving them praise! Over time, their muscles will strengthen and their coordination will improve. Gradually you will find you can increase the practice duration as they progress.
Teaching your child to ride a bike is a rewarding journey filled with shared experiences, laughter and a few wobbles along the way. By providing them with the right tools, a safe environment and loads of encouragement, you are imparting valuable life skills, such as perseverance, balance and confidence, one pedal at a time!