Get your kids riding in no time
Passing on the skill and joy of riding a bike is a great gift to your child, it’s something they’ll hopefully never leave, and, as the old adage goes: “You never forget how to ride a bike" Getting them there is another story though, there are going to be some tantrums, some tears and some cut knees, actually even at 33 years old the cut knees never end. There are a few schools of thought on the subject of teaching your child to ride a bike. I’ll discuss below the options and current thoughts on those ideas.
There’s a big movement right now which dispenses with the idea of stabilisers all together, and opts for the balance bike like the Specialized Hotwalk. The idea is that a child learns to balance before they attempt to use the pedals, and they don’t become overly reliant on the artificial stability that training wheels bring, after all, those wheels hopefully won’t be there forever. Once familiarised with the balance bike, they should be encouraged to scoot around using their legs for support, and get used to the motion and balance. Using this method children can start younger, and after a while they can be promoted to a pedal bike.
The other, and slightly more old school option, is to use stabilisers. These stabilisers bolt onto the back of the child’s bike and help prevent the child from tipping over. They are a “quick win” and get the child riding quite quickly, but they don’t master the balance side of things completely until they have learned to ride without the training wheels at all. Bikes with stabilisers pre fitted include the Specialized Riprock Coaster (although the training wheels come off the bike easily when needed, and without tools). It’s worth saying that when using stabilisers its useful to keep speed low, because when they do topple over, it happens suddenly. Josh suggests that with a pedal bike a slight uphill can be used to slow the child down, and ensures that when the inevitable happens, that it isn't too fast.
Whichever option you go for, it’s agreed that if the child’s bike has brakes, you should teach them to get to grips (pun intended) with them first. This means that when they do pick up speed, it’s second nature that they use them. This can be done whilst walking along side of the bike, without any risk of falling off.
Next up is the location. It’s generally believed that flat or even a very slight uphill is best, which ensures the child can’t pick up too much speed. A fairly dry grassy area, relatively free of obstacles is best, for obvious reasons. The best way is often to hold onto the child from behind and support them slightly whilst they move, this can give them confidence, and you can adjust your support dynamically (Sustrans suggest that supporting the child rather than the bike is better).
Location: Look for a park or grass (softer landing) flat or with a slight incline
Preparation: Remove stabilisers and lower the seat so the rider can touch the ground comfortably
Protected: A helmet, pads and gloves are a necessity, they are likely going to take a tumble or two
One step at a time: they need to learn balancing, steering, pedalling and braking. Don’t rush it
Anyway you do it is going to take a bit ( read a lot) of patience, but by keeping speeds low, you can keep any accidents low in energy, and therefore tears. It's a skill for life when mastewred and who knows they may be a star for the future.
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