Teaching a child to ride a bike is such a great skill for them to learn, and so rewarding as a parent. You may have been taught how to ride a bike when you were younger, but it’s difficult to remember exactly how you learned – so, where do you start?
Although it varies from child to child, it is possible to teach a child to ride a bike in as little as 45 minutes. However, this will depend on your child’s confidence and their coordination, as a child’s first lesson focuses on getting them to balance and used to how sitting on a bike feels.
Children’s bikes begin at different levels; to help get them more confident riding, we would recommend using a balance bike or a pavement bike with stabilisers.
Balance bikes start the simple process of learning how to ride a bike by teaching your child to, put simply, balance. Children get a better idea of how to balance because these type of bikes don’t have pedals. This allows your child to primarily focus on how the bike feels, using their legs and feet to support them whilst walking with it, running and sitting on the bike.
Balance bikes have two wheels, brakes but no pedals, and are smaller and lighter than bikes with stabilisers. They have been designed so your child can pick them up so they can easily sit on and off to practice riding.
From the age of 8-months to two years old, children can ride a balance bike and are suitable for kids up to 5 years old. It really depends on what your child feels more confident with and of course, what they enjoy riding the most.
An alternative to learning to ride on a balance bike is to use one with stabilisers, a common option that has been used for teaching kids for years. If your child isn’t quite ready for a performance bike after their initial training, they can move onto stabilisers. They’re great for any child that still needs to build some confidence and for those that need to get started.
The average age for a child to ride a bike without stabilisers varies. Children can learn to ride a bike without additional support between the ages of 3-8 years old, or as soon as they’re comfortable riding their balance bike on their own.
When you’ve got your bike ready it’s important to find a suitable environment and surface to start riding. Find somewhere that’s far away from traffic so there’s less risk of your child falling or riding into the road and a surface that’s solid, flat and has a large stretch of land. Starting off on grass or smooth gravel helps just in case your child falls off, as it hurts less; however, these surfaces can make balancing and pedaling a little harder. Make sure your child is wearing a helmet in case they hit their head, and if you’d prefer to be extra cautious, buy a pair of knee and arm pads too to help soften the fall and make the child feel safe.
Once your child is ready to get going, ask them to stand over the bike with one leg either side of the pedals and to start slowly walking with it a little, just like a balance bike. Once they have this movement, try getting them to sit down and start pedaling, being sure that you’re nearby so that they feel safe and in control. You may need to give them a little push to set them off, but once they start pedaling they should be able to get momentum without falling off. Let them have a few laps to start building their confidence.
When your child is confident with cycling around for a short period, teach them how to use their brakes; showing them where they are and which brake does what. Braking is an important part of riding: you can start to teach them by doing “emergency stops”.
"Teaching your child to ride early is best, while they’re eager to learn."
To do this, ask your child to cycle towards you. Once they’ve started cycling and have built momentum, ask them to stop, encouraging them to press the brakes and slow down by putting their feet down on the ground. Asking your child to do an emergency stop on their bike will help them get used to the pressure and timings used to apply the brakes.
Once your child has learned the basics, you can leave them to ride solo! Try your best to give them space so they can to practice their cycling, building up their confidence naturally without having to rely on you to help them balance. If they fall off, be as encouraging as possible so they don’t get too scared to get back on again.
Riding a bike is an exciting first step for your child; it should be fun and give them the confidence to try new things. Teaching your child to ride early is best, while their inhibitions are low and they’re eager to learn.
There are four key steps to helping your child learn how to ride a balance bike:
To begin with, balance bikes help children learn how to walk whilst pushing the bike. Once their confidence has increased with the handling, your child can learn how to sit on the bike, walking with their feet placed either side of the frame. This technique will quickly increase their balance and coordination while riding.
Once your child has got used to this, they can then move onto sitting and walking with the bike, followed by balancing and running, whilst sitting on the bike. This may take practice, but their ability will soon increase. The fourth steps involve sitting, running and then gliding with their feet held up as they ride.
Following these four simple steps will help your child to build up their muscles and balance effectively, which is an important skill required to ride a bike. The best thing about balance bikes is since they’re super light, when you know your child is a little fed up of riding, you can give it to them to carry for the rest of the way!
Start your child on a balance bike to help with their coordination
Make sure the bike is set up correctly based on the child’s height
Don’t hold onto the handle as they ride, this will prevent them from balancing by themselves
Support your child by holding them, rather than holding on to the bike
Ride on a flat, solid surface. Grass will slow down the ride and make it harder to pedal
Stay near your child until they are confident with stopping by themselves, and getting on and off the bike again after they fall