The Islabikes guide to learning to ride
Learning to ride a bicycle is one of life’s milestones, a moment of great satisfaction for child and parents alike.
Most children develop sufficient coordination to balance and pedal a two wheeler somewhere between 3½ and 4½ years old. This development happens quite suddenly and until it is reached there is little point in trying to get them to ride but once it is reached they should learn quite quickly. A few children will learn as young as 2½, but this is very rare.
Learning to ride with Isla
In conjunction with Bike Radar we’ve put together a short film demonstrating the best techniques for teaching your child to ride.
The trouble with stabilisers
Here at Islabikes we advise parents not to use stabilisers. Children can typically learn to ride a bike at some point between three and a half and four and a half, providing they are given good instruction. If they have had fun on a balance bike prior to this point, they are very likely to make a quick and smooth transition to riding their first pedal bike.
So why are stabilisers not good? A bicycle steers by leaning and stabilisers prevent this, so the child learns to steer in a way that doesn’t work once the stabilisers are removed – a confusing situation that often leads to them overbalancing and becoming quite frightened, which unfortunately reinforces the fear associated with removing the stabilisers.
We ensure that every Islabike comes with practical advice to assist parents to help their child learn to ride. We can also offer detailed advice over the phone.
A correctly fitted, lightweight, well designed bike will enable your child to ride safely and comfortably. Don’t buy a bike with the intention that your child will eventually "grow into" it, as this can slow down or completely halt the learning process. Before they start riding adjust the height of your child’s saddle so they can get the balls of their feet to the floor.
Where to start?
Find a large, safe, flat, open space to use, ideally tarmac or a fairly firm surface. Long grass is too tricky for new riders to pedal on. We would recommend your child wears a correctly adjusted and fitted helmet.
Put your child on their bike and stand behind them, holding them under their armpits. Don’t hold any part of the bike - we want the new rider to feel how the bike naturally moves underneath them.
Push your child along and let the bike wander in any direction. You can help steer the bike by leaning your child left or right, allowing them to learn that leaning is part of the steering process.
If your child is ready to cycle unaided they should quickly get a feel for balance and you can gradually let go, but stay close by to catch them if anything goes wrong.
For nervous riders, you may need to stay with them a bit longer. That’s fine. Just let them know that you’re there, but that you will very gradually loosen your hold. Eventually they’ll be cycling unaided without even knowing it. The look of delight when they realise they’re cycling all by themselves is a moment to treasure.
For setting off from a stationary position, have your child put one of their pedals just past the top-most part of the pedal circle.
Now ask them to give a good push on this leg. With enough forward momentum they should be able to transfer both feet to the pedals and start pedaling, becoming a completely independent rider.
To introduce the concept of braking get your child to walk alongside the bike and pull the brake levers a number of times. At first they will grab the levers quite hard which will stop the bike quite abruptly. You do not want them to do this when riding the bike so teach them that pulling the levers gently will stop them just as well. Now they can get back on the bike but at first when they come to a stop they may not be adept at putting their feet down. We advise practising stopping and then putting their feet down, this might take a few sessions but once mastered will be invaluable to your young cyclist.
Once they have mastered the above, continuing to practise regularly as this will enable them to become more confident with their riding. Remember though bike riding should always be fun so be aware of overdoing it and do not spend too much time on the bike, shorter more regular sessions at this age are ideal.