Teaching Your Child to Cycle


Most of us remember learning to ride a bike. It’s one of those times in a child’s life that is monumental. It’s the start of new-found freedom, the chance to go faster than you’ve ever gone before and all on your own two legs!

I remember the frustration of not being able to pedal and balance at the same time for a while and remember getting really frustrated and ready to give in. Yet, soon it all clicked into place and I whizzed along the street as fast as I dared.

That first time you realise you’re riding solo is pretty special. You think your mum or dad is still helping you and then suddenly you realise they’re not. Both parents and kids appreciate the enormity of the moment.

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Teaching your child to ride

Teaching your child to ride a bike can be pretty frustrating. After all, you can give them all of the instructions in the world but they have to do so many things at once it takes time. It can be frustrating for both parties. Here are some ways in which you can make the process a little easier.

  1. Balance bikes

If your child is still young, you can get the most out of a balance bike. These aren’t faddy items or bikes for lazy parents, they’re a great way to introducing young children to the concept of balancing on two wheels without ever having to rely on stabilizers and without having the added confusion of pedals. You can then go straight from the balance bike to a pedal bike without stabilisers. Trust that your child has learnt to balance and don’t get a bike with stabilisers – it’ll be a backwards step and your child will have to re-learn balancing all over again once they’ve mastered pedalling.

  1. Choosing the right bike

It’s important that your child has a well-fitting bike. Don’t try and save money by getting a bigger bike that they can grow into. It will just be too large and heavy and your child won’t be able to ride it properly, if at all. It is so much easier to learn on a lighter bike with a saddle and handlebars that are the correct height. It will also feel much safer for the child as they will be able to reach the floor without struggling. Make sure the seat isn’t too low though. It is best that the child only has the balls of their feet on the floor. If they’re any flatter than that, their knees will come up too high when they’re pedalling, which makes cycling much more challenging and can cause difficulties with steering.

  1. Choose the right place to learn

It might be tempting to learn to ride in a field where falls won’t hurt but don’t underestimate how hard it is to cycle on the grass. The easiest place to learn to ride a bike is somewhere that is flat and smooth. A tarmac path away from busy roads and traffic is ideal. See if you can find such a path at a country park. Just don’t go too close to open water!

  1. Teach your child how to use the brakes

There are so many concepts to master and your child will probably find understanding the brakes quite challenging. They can be difficult to get your head around and once a child realises they’re going too fast, they have to remember how to use them and might panic and fall off. Teach your child to use the brakes while they’re not actually riding the bike. Show them their effects whilst they’re pushing the bike and, once they’re on the bike, encourage them to always keep their hands positioned well for brake access. Don’t forget to teach your child to put their feet down when they come to a stop too!

  1. Learn the best way to support them

Any parent who has taught their child to ride a bike will remember the low ache in their back as they bent over to support their child’s weight all while jogging along! Some experts say that holding the back of the bike seat isn’t ideal. Instead, you should try supporting your child under their armpits or holding their chest. This will allow them to get used to controlling the bike with very little input. It’s also much easier on your arms and back!

In terms of pedalling, you need to tell your child to push down hard with the leg they feel is the strongest as they set off. Also, watch your child carefully while you’re supporting them. If they stop pedalling, stop your support slowly so that they feel how it feels to stop properly.

Final thoughts

There will probably be a time when your child falls off their bike while learning. When this happens, encourage them to get back on and try again. It’s vital that your child has positive experiences so make sure they end their ride on a high and not a fall!