The phrase, “it’s like riding a bike,” is incredibly popular. The idea is that once you know, you never forget. You could go years without doing it, but the muscle memory kicks in once you’re on the bike. How does a child learn to ride a bike though? What steps do you have to take to teach a child to ride a bike? We’re here to help.
Bicycles can be terrifying for young children. They have never experienced anything like it. Being on your own and using your own body to support yourself, move yourself, and balance yourself are totally new for children. To an adult, it doesn’t seem so scary, because we know it isn’t hard when you know what you’re doing and the falls are rarely bad. But to a child, the thought of falling onto concrete or even grass is intense. Make sure you support your child, and don’t be too hard on them if they just aren’t ready. We all learn things at our own pace.
It’s scary for a child, yes. But it can be even scarier for a parent. You don’t want to see your child hurt or in pain. But, falling is a natural part of the learning process. Get them a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards. They will be okay, but they can sense if you are uneasy. If you panic, they will start to panic.
Training wheels or tricycles are helpful for children just learning how to ride a bike. It gives them the opportunity to learn how to pedal and steer without having to keep balance. They only have two things to focus on rather than three, making it easier to slowly pick up the motion they will need to be a lifelong bike rider.
Try a Tag-a-long
At Unlimited Biking, we offer tag-a-longs. These attach to an adults bike and function like tandems. So, the child pedals while the adult steers, pedals, and maintains balance. Like training wheels, it gives the child the opportunity to practice one aspect of bike riding (pedaling) without having to know all of it. This takes some of the responsibility off of them as they start to get that muscle memory we were talking about.
Teach Proper Use and Safety
Probably the most important component of a bike that a child needs to know is the brakes. Most bicycles have brakes next to the handle bars. Generally, the left-hand brake stops the front tire while the right-hand brake stops the back tire. It is important for the bike rider to hold both brakes down while stopping. If they just clutch the brake that stops the front tire, they risk flipping over their handlebars and potentially really hurting themselves.
Children should always be wearing a helmet. Really, adults should be wearing helmets as well! Each city has different guidelines when it comes to helmet requirements. However, falling from a bike can cause a lot of damage, and it is vital that your child has as much protection as possible. It is also important to teach children to refrain from riding their bikes on busy streets and to always get out of the way of cars. Bike riders should ride with traffic, never against it.
Hold Onto Your Child’s Bike
Once your child has moved past training wheels and tag-a-longs, they are ready for a real, two-wheel bike of their own. The child will, understandably, be nervous about this new independence. They might panic when they first attempt to ride without support. Here is where you come in. Hold onto their bike. Get them used to the sensation of pedaling and steering. While you hold on, they will be learning where they should be situated for proper balance. Just guide them slowly around an empty parking lot or along the sidewalk. This is not about speed. Your child will know you’re right there.
Holding onto your child’s bike is great for beginners. They need to get used to the sensation, but if you are always there holding on, they will never fall, but they will also never learn how to ride independently. With their helmet and pads on, let the child go to ride their bike solo. They might panic and they might fall. That’s part of learning. And if when they do, you get to teach them a valuable lesson about perseverance as you encourage them to get back on the bike.