How To: Teaching Your Kid to Ride a Bike

How To

Kids-specific events are another great way to get your child inspired to ride bikes.

There are few moments in a parent’s life more exciting than watching a child pedal a bike on their own for the first time. The feat yields a massive sense of accomplishment, and opens the door to a brave new world of independence, exhilaration, and exploration (for children and their parents). But reaching this point is not always an easy task. Mastering the finer points of pedaling a two-wheeler sometimes involves a steep learning curve that includes lots of scraped knees, frustration and tears. Here are 11 tips to help smooth the road.

1. Trailer Time: Once your child can sit up steadily on their own and you can strap a helmet on their head (typically around 12 months) lay the groundwork for future cycling adventures by introducing them to the joy of cycling by towing then around in a trailer. Most trailers provide enough room for two kids, plus basic kid gear (diapers, food, etc.) Many trailers also convert to strollers by attaching a small wheel to the front. Just remember that bike trailers require a wider turning radius, so practice a little before heading out.

2. Gauge Readiness: There is no perfect or mandatory age for learning to ride a bike. Instead it’s important that parents be on the lookout for signs of readiness, such as asking questions about bikes, expressing a desire to ride with you, or making comments that tricycles are for babies. This can happen as early as 3 years old and as late as 6. The key is to never force the issue. If your kid seems uncomfortable at all, come back another day. You want riding bikes to be fun, and not create a negative psychological block.

Balance bikes area a good way to teach your child the basics without worrying about pedaling.

3. Start With a Balance Bike: These types of bikes utilize a low seat and no pedals. Your child sits on the saddle and pushes with their feet to propel themselves along. Once they gain confidence and a little momentum, they can lift their feet off the ground and start cruising. When they want to stop, just put a foot down. This method greatly eases the transition to a traditional bike, and is often a better option than starting with training wheels.

4. Get The Right Bike: When it’s time to graduate to a bike with pedals, make sure it’s the right size. Sure you could save a few bucks buying a bike that they could grow in to. But when a bike is too large it will be harder for your child to control, increasing the chances of a crash.

5. Find the Right Learning Location: A slightly downhill stretch of low-cut grass is a great place to start. It’s even better if it goes downhill for a while, then flattens out and goes back uphill. It’s also best to find a quiet environment without a lot of other distractions (other kids playing, dogs running around, kites being flown, etc.). That way your child wont to lose focus on the task at hand.

6. Lower the Saddle: When starting out make sure that the seat is low enough that your child can put their feet flat on the ground when seated. That way they can always bail out without crashing. Also make they are wearing a helmet and that it’s strapped on properly so that it rests level on their head. That way it wont drop down in front of their eyes.

7. Roll Down the Hill: Head to the top of the gentle grassy hill, and then hold the bike while your child gets on. Make sure they have both feet on the ground when you release the bike. Next instruct your child to lift their feet about an inch off the ground and coast down the hill, reminding them that they can put their feet down if they get scared.

8. Add Some Pedaling: Once they are comfortable coasting down the hill without putting their feet down, have them practice coasting with both feet on the pedals. Next add in some slow pedaling, and as they continue to progress raise the saddle a little, move to flatter ground, and practice turning, braking, and starting from a standstill. And always remember that no matter what happens, always be supportive and encouraging, and don’t force the issue.

A cycling outfit – be it Pearl Izumi kit or just a fun T-shirt – can make cycling exciting for your child.

9. Play Dress Up: Kids love customs, so pick-up a child-sized jersey, shorts and gloves to help with comfort and safety, and build excitement around bike riding. And of course, never forget the helmet. Wearing on should be mandatory no matter where you’re riding.

10. Choose Safe Routes: As your child’s cycling adventures begin to progress beyond the park grass or cul-de-sac, choose safe routes such as neighborhood bike paths and trails. Also remember that kids bikes usually don’t have multiple gears or top-level brakes, so avoid steep hills. And don’t forget to carry snacks and something to drink. It’s also a good idea to pick a destination. Your child may not want to go for a ride, but it’s a safe bet they’ll be excited to ride bikes to the ice cream shop.

11. Talk Commuting: When the time is right, teach your child about the joys of bike commuting. If they back and forth to the park all summer, pedaling to school in the fall will be a snap — and you’ll lay the groundwork for a lifetime of cycling.

How To: Teaching Your Kid to Ride a Bike Gallery
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Start'em Young

Get your kids interested in self-propulsion early and you’ll lay the ground work for creating lifelong cyclists.
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Safety First

Helmets are non-negotiable and should fit properly.
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Look, No Pedals

Balance bikes area a good way to teach your child the basics without worrying about pedaling.
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Dress Them Up

A cycling outfit – be it Pearl Izumi kit or just a fun T-shirt – can make cycling exciting for your child.
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Keep It Fun

Kids-specific events are another great way to get your child inspired to ride bikes.
how-to-teaching-your-kid-to-ride-a-bike
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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