Mike has guided his three children through learning how to ride their bike, and offers these top tips to help you and your loved one get to grips with being on two wheels.
Time it right
Plan your visit to the park with the bike at a time when you have time and feel relatively stress free, and when your child has the energy and enthusiasm to give it a go. If you’re both tired and cranky it could end in tears for both of you! Practise needs to be fun, so keep it lighthearted, sooth any grazes and bruises and if you’re getting tired and frustrated, come back another day. Sometimes learning to ride their bike with a friend can be good fun, so if a friend is at a similar stage, visit the local park together.
Pick a good spot
Decide where you are going to test out the wheels before you set out. You both need to feel safe and in control, so pick a quiet, smooth pathway, or firm grass away from the crowds so that steering is one less thing to worry about, at least in the early days. They’ll be so busy concentrating on just moving, that they won’t have chance to consider what’s going on around them!
Give them a little reassurance
A gentle hand on their shoulder or under their armpits in the early days gives your child reassurance you are there. Try and avoid holding the handlebars as this influences their steering and balance – which is what they are learning to master themselves!
Balance from the start
The trend to learn how to ride a bike with a balance bike is growing for good reason. Learning how to ride without stabilisers from the very beginning allows your child to grow their confidence at their rate. Start by letting the child use their feet to move – from walking to scooting, at their own pace. Then they feel in control and naturally build up their balance. If your child is a little older, then simply remove the pedals, lower the saddle and encourage your child to use their feet to scoot along and gradually build up their balance.
If you do start off with stabilisers, whilst you start off feeling slightly more reassured, once the stabilisers are removed, confidence can take a dip so try to remove them before your child starts to rely on them.
Adjust the bike
Riding a bike comfortably relies on ensuring the bike fits the child. Ensure the saddle and handlebars are adjusted so that your child can rest the balls of their feet on the ground and comfortably reach the handlebars. Buying the right size bike means they should be able to get on and off easily and you’re only making minor adjustments for your little one. After Christmas has passed, you can bring your child’s bike back to the store and we’ll do a six week bike check and double check the bike is adjusted correctly for your child.
Be a good role model and wear a cycle helmet whenever you’re on a bike and insist your child always wears a helmet. Ensure your child’s helmet is fitted properly by adjusting the straps and adjustment dial. Look for a MIPS helmet (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) for enhanced protection. If you’ve ever caught your little one’s chin in a strap buckle, consider a Specialized helmet with a magnetic buckle, and encourage your child to buckle themselves in!
Give them some tips
Gradually give your child a few hints and tips. Remember things like starting pedalling with the pedal at the top position so that you get more traction as you set off. Guide them into gently practising braking on different inclines so they get a feel for what happens when you apply the brakes gently. When they do start practising using the brakes be close by so that you can help if needed. Once they’re more confident in motion and you’re in busier locations, encourage them to be aware of what’s going on around them.
Let your child set the pace
Your child may crack it in one afternoon or after several weeks or months, whichever it is, make each trip out fun, let them grow in confidence and let them learn from the falls. As attractive as it might seem, try not to set deadlines (“by half term you’ll be well away”), it will come soon enough and you’ll be looking back fondly at the memories of spending some quality time outside with your little one.