“Its like riding a bike!”
Riding a bike is a skill that will last a lifetime, and can lead to fitter and more active children. Once your child is walking then its never to early to start the training, and with modern bikes and tools training can never be easier!
In this article we will look at the basic steps you can do to teach your child to ride. There are two main philosophies for this, the method the more common (training wheel) stabiliser method, or to train with out stabilisers.
A) Training Wheels Method
1. Lead by example:
The training starts before the child can even ride, by demonstrating how much you enjoy cycling then your child will be keen to get involived and will be enthusiastic about learining. At the same time remember to demonstrate good practice (like wearing a helmet!)
This is your chance to show how a bike can be ridden, free wheeling, keeping your feet on the pedals etc.
2. Get the right gear:
You will need to by a bike suitable to the size of your child, 12” wheels for 3-4 year olds for example. Getting a bike that’s too big might appear to be a money saver as they can ‘grow into it’ . But even if they can just about reach the pedals it will be far to heavy for a small child to lift and ride.
Make sure that your child has a helmet, it’s a good idea to take them to a shop and try them out instore and allow them to choose one that they like (and hence more likely to wear).
If you are really worried, you can also consider knee and elbow protection, but this is not really necessary given the speeds that they will go at.
3. The first time in the saddle:
Now its time to hit the road! For this you need to find a good open space, an empty parking lot or quiet road with no cars is good. Avoid grass for now, while it might look soft to land on, the extra friction will make the learning curve harder. I like packed dirt for this part, while it may be a little dusty, it’s a little more forgiving than roads in the case of a fall, and is usually car free!
This is the hard part, get your child to sit on the bike see if they can mount the bike them self by swinging their leg over the crossbar and standing with one foot each side of the bike while holding it up right.
Now stand in front of the bike hold the handlebars firmly and get the child used to sitting on the saddle and finding the pedals brakes etc. while the bike is stationary.
4. It’s time to get moving.
Once your child is happy in the saddle it’s time to set off. I found that the best way (although a little hard on the back) is to walk behind the bike and allow the child to start pedalling while you keep a gentle encoriging hand on their back or shoulder. As confidance grows they will soon start pedalling off on their own.
With a few words of encouragement have the child start to pedal slowly, while you hold onto them for the first couple of times. Start to increase the speed to a slow walk. At this time its start to learn how to brake! Show your child how to slow down using the brakes and come to a halt before setting off for a second time. Again with more words of encouragement!
After a couple of rides you can start letting go. If they do fall off the bike don’t make a fuss, encourage them to get back on the bike and give it another go. Falling off is all part of the process!
5. Removing the Training Wheels.
After a couple of years of riding on their training wheels there will come a time when they will need them taken off.
Unfortunately this means starting from scratch with the balance learning. A couple of tips for this, if your back is up to it you can hold onto the saddle while they learn to ride without the stabilisers. There are some people that recommend either a rope round the saddle post to help you hold the bike upright, or a towel wrapped rolled lengthways and wrapped round the waist of the child to provide support.
The technique is virtually the same, in stead of buying a traditional bike with pedals, look at the strider style bikes that teach balance rather than pedalling. These are pushed along with the feet.
With patience and support anyone can teach their child to ride. Choose a nice sunny day and enjoy giving you child a skill that will last a lifetime!