Riding a bike is a valuable skill for transportation, play and fitness. Teaching children how to ride is an enriching experience that many parents look forward to, but certain considerations are important to promote safety and proper learning. Here’s a look at how you can teach your child to ride a bike safely and correctly.
Set A Good Example
To encourage your child’s interest in bike riding, you should show him or her how much you enjoy the activity. Ride your bike playfully, wearing a helmet at all times. Show your child how you can glide along, carefree, with your feet pedaling along in smooth coordination.
A helmet, properly worn, is one of the most important features of proper bicycle usage. Get your child a good helmet and a reliable set of elbow and knee pads and explain the importance of wearing these items during each bike ride. The safety habits you instil in your child will potentially last a lifetime.
Use a Tricycle or Stabilisers
Before buying stabilisers, you can teach your child to ride a tricycle, which will simplify learning to pedal and steer without needing to balance. Afterward, stabilisers can make it easier for your child to get used to riding a bike without fear of falling off and getting hurt. At the same time, however, a bike with stabilisers can easily topple over at high speeds, making supervision especially important.
Over time, stabilisers should be raised a little at a time so that your child relies increasingly on balance to ride. Eventually, he or she will have visibly little use for the stabilisers, and they can then be removed. The usage of stabilisers should not last more than a couple of years, at most.
While stabilisers work well on level streets with little traffic, they are not as well-suited to busier areas with hills or lots of turns. For these environments, the traditional technique of running alongside the child is often better. In many cases, this method is also faster at teaching children to ride.
Most importantly, you should be sure to never hold the handlebars while using this method. If you’re controlling the bike’s turning and balance, your child won’t learn to handle the bike independently. It’s crucial for your child to learn to adjust his or her balance while riding.
It’s best for you to hold your child by the shoulders so that changes in balance become easily apparent. Flat, open spaces are best for this. Rather than trying to steer the bike, you should let your child ride where he or she pleases. If running alongside hurts your back, you can purchase long handles designed for these purposes, although using them won’t provide the same level of feedback to your child in terms of balance.
The most important thing to remember is to be patient. Children vary widely in their development of basic balance skills, and pushing them too hard too fast can cause them to reject cycling altogether. With persistence and time, your child will learn to ride proudly and independently.
Neil is a cycling enthusiast and Manager at one of the leading bicycle shops in Hobart, Australia. He says it’s important to remember safety when teaching your child to ride a bike and to make it fun. Neil recommends training wheels if your child is having trouble stabilizing themselves and after a couple of months they can be taken off.