It’s been a long time since you learned to ride a bike – the nerves and emotions will seem like a distant memory. We’ve put together some handy tips to help you help your child learn to ride a bike, and hopefully it will make the process a little easier.
1. Be patient
It’s not always going to happen the first time, so be patient with them. There’s a lot for them to process so try not to overload them with too much information in one go. If they feel pressured or intimidated, that could be enough to put them off trying, so go slow. Letting them learn at their own pace is vital for their success and will ease any pressure. Don’t expect them to be able to use the brakes when they’re still mastering how to balance!
2. Safety first
Teach your child how important safety and comfort is when it comes to riding a bike. Talk to them about the importance of wearing a helmet and ensuring it is fitted correctly. Here are some tips on how to fit a helmet correctly. Their clothes must be comfortable and not restrictive or impractical – I know your daughter’s skirt is beautiful, but if it gets caught in the back wheel, you will have a problem! Check that shoes are fastened properly and not going to slip off or get caught in the pedals.
3. Start in an open space
You want your child to feel at ease when learning to ride a bike and teaching them in the street isn’t ideal, unless you live in a quiet cul-de-sac. Try taking them to an empty car park, basketball court or park. I would try to avoid the pavement too if possible, as this can feel too restrictive for them or have too many obstacles to think about. Local school netball or basketball courts are a great place to learn as they are open, flat and smooth.
If your child has never used a balance bike before, you could try taking the pedals off whilst they get used to balancing, or just let their legs hang past the pedals to the floor. It will feel wobbly to begin with but if they practise walking first, then step up the pace a little – they will be running with the bike soon enough! Once they’ve got comfortable with balancing on the bike, it’s time to bring back the pedals.
Steering will be difficult at first, which is why it’s great to practise in an open space, but they will eventually get the hang of it. They must understand that they need to look in the direction that they are going, because their steering usually instinctively follows where they’re looking.
In a way, it’s probably better to teach your child how to stop the bike before they learn how to ride it, because it can be quite scary if you’re going full speed and don’t know how to stop!
There are two types of brake – there’s the foot brake and the hand brake. The foot brake is when you pedal backwards to stop and the handbrake is on the handlebars. The hand brake is more efficient at braking safely, and children will have more control over slowing down and stopping.
A good idea here is to get your child off the bike, walk alongside the bike and practise pulling on the hand brake. This will get them used to how much pressure they need and how the bike feels when it stops. It also eliminates having to think about too many things at once. That way, they can just focus on the braking.
Who is the right teacher? Are you the right teacher? Would your partner be better, or perhaps someone else? Your child needs to trust who is teaching them, but they also need to be on a similar wavelength. If you have high expectations of them then they might be better with someone who has more patience to take it slowly. They might feel more pressure with you. Their older sibling might be a good choice if they look up to them, or a cousin, especially if they want to join in on the fun.
8. Check the seat height
Always check the seat height, as kids are constantly growing. What was a good height for them a month ago, might be too low now. You can have it slightly lower whilst they’re learning, so that they don’t feel up so high. Just remember to move it to where it needs to be for the most comfort and make sure their feet can touch the ground with the balls of their feet.
9. Check the bike before you ride
Always check the bike before they ride. Check that the pedals turn smoothly, the breaks work, the tyres are pumped up and the saddle is secure.
10. Don’t forget that it should be fun!
Riding with your friends and family is fun, so make the teaching fun too! And if they are ready to stop for today or take a break, let them. Don’t force them to keep riding because it will lose the element of fun. Always be positive and encouraging.
Here are some videos that may help with teaching your kid how to ride a bike.
For more tips & tricks, check out the Parenting section on the blog.