Parents routinely ask us what is the best way to get their child started on their bike. Like a young chick who’s learning how to fly from the nest, some kids will take to a balance bike straight away, whilst others may need more help and encouragement. Here’s our top ten tips that will get your little one started in no time:
An open area free from distraction will ensure your child is focused on the task at hand and provides a safe learning environment. Obviously, we recommend avoiding high car traffic areas, parked cars, steps, steep inclines/hills, open water, and other potentially dangerous obstacles. A tarmac, neighborhood park, school playground or short dry grass field will ensure your child can get enough momentum to balance safely.
They say a bad workman will always blames his tools, but really a bad bike can make it much harder to cycle and may put your child off. A decent lightweight bike will give your child the tools they need to start cycling in earnest. Check the tires are pumped up, wheels are spinning freely, handlebars turn easily, brakes (if the bike has them) are working correctly, and seat is adjusted to the proper height.
Whether an adult or child, riding an ill-fitting bike is awkward and frustrating (see our sizing guide). While sitting on the saddle your child should be able to touch the ground with the balls of their feet, with a slight bend in the knee. The handlebars should be within comfortable reach without being cramped so your child can steer easily.
If your child has ridden a balance bike, do not fit stabilizers (also called training wheels) when they’re ready to pedal as this will un-do all their good work in learning to balance. It’s like giving a crutch to a child who’s learning to walk, it will actually counter their development and would be a huge set-back.
Practice! Even a few minutes every day can see dramatic improvements and the better your child gets, the more they’ll want to go out and ride their bike.
To ensure that a gentle fall doesn’t knock your child’s confidence, it’s best to be kitted up properly. A well fitted helmet is strongly recommended along with sturdy shoes and robust clothing, like jeans and a soft padded jacket. Avoid loose clothing or shoe laces that may get caught in the wheels.
In order to get your child coasting along easily, it’s best to find a very gentle incline which will help in picking up speed, just make sure there’s a good run-off at the bottom.
Most kids will intuitively use their feet to stop while using the balance bike, at least while they’re getting started. Once your little one gets faster they’ll need to start using their brakes. It’s best to teach them to use the rear brake first, then also using the front brake as they get more confident. You may wish to run alongside them with your hand on their back in case they need to stop.
Balance is normally mastered quite quickly but the nuances of pedalling and braking can take longer. If your child is reluctant to start riding it’s best to put the bike back in the garage for a few days and try again when they’re ready. Adding some jazzy accessories like colored bells or stickers could help entice your child to get on their bike.
Your child will try and copy whatever you do so try to let them see you riding bike as much as possible. If they have a brother or sister who rides a bike then all the better as you can then go out and ride as a family, and that’s what it’s all about!