Whether your children are cycling to and from the park or racing friends, riding a bike can be a real rush. Most children have the coordination and strength to ride a bike without stabilisers at around 5 years old, but your child might be ready sooner. Remember that children grow and develop at their own pace, so just as with walking and talking, there’s a bit of variation when it comes to learning this skill.
Learning to ride a bike is an important and exciting milestone, but it can be rocky in the beginning. Some children may be scared when the bike wobbles, while others will cry out of frustration. A little anger is possible, too — it can be tough for your child to watch their friends cycle by while they’re still trying to stay upright. All of these reactions are completely normal.
Here are some tips for teach a child to ride a bike and make that last leap from stabilisers to a big kid bike:
- Use the Right Bike
Make sure your child’s bicycle is the right size, as this will make control much easier for them. They should be able to stand comfortably over the crossbar, and also touch the floor with flat feet when they’re sitting on the seat. You may have to adjust the seat’s height. (Once they’ve learned to cycle, the seat can be moved up a little higher.)
- Put on a Helmet and Pads
Protecting your child’s head with a bicycle helmet is important while they’re learning to ride a bike and once they’ve mastered it. It should sit two finger widths above the eyebrows and not move more than a couple of centimetres in any direction once it’s fastened. Knee and wrist pads are also good idea, as are long trousers and sleeves to protect their limbs from scrapes and bumps.
- Find a Safe Location
A location with a smooth surface, away from cars is the ideal spot when learning to ride a bike. Good options might include a park path, a paved empty car park or your own pavement. The playground, with its softer surface, is also an ideal place to learn to ride a bike.
- Glide Before You Ride
The next step is to remove the pedals and have your child use their feet to push the bike along the ground, with the goal of gliding for a few seconds. Have them try to coast for 10 seconds, then work up to 30 seconds. Once they’re a gliding pro, they can attempt to steer and turn the bike. This exercise should help them balance using the forward momentum of the bike.
- Add the Pedals Back
Reattach the pedals, and have them pedal forward one rotation before stopping. They can then start up again, turning the pedals a couple more times before stopping. As they’re learning to ride the bike, there should be no need to hold them or help them balance — they should already be more or less stable on the bike. Work at it slowly, unless your child is really driven and refuses to give up. Take breaks as needed and even switch gears entirely by heading inside to rest and watch videos on YouTube of other children learning to cycle.
- Learn the Rules of the Road
When you’re ready to cycle around your local area, be mindful of the rules of the road. Cycle in a straight line, don’t swerve between parked cars and watch out for turning vehicles, debris and potholes. Cycling with your child is a good idea at first — you can watch out for each other and teach important skills, like crossing roads and signalling.
- Your Child Is Their Own Person
When they’re ready to cycle on their own, in the local area and in a group depends on how well they listen to the rules. For safe cycling, your child needs to understand just how important it is to follow the rules.