How to teach your child to change gear

Riding advice  |  May 20, 2019  |  Dave Bowater

Here are our 5 tips for supporting your child to change gear.

Tip 1: How to change gear
For our Beinn models with Grip Shift, your child needs to hold the grip shifter firmly and ideally have a straight forearm and wrist. They will then need to rotate their wrist forward or backwards until they hear one click. The beauty of this shifter is that it allows the child to employ the full strength of their hand without having to remove it from the handlebars. Studies have shown that the range of hand strengths amongst younger children is incredibly wide. This means that your child may not have the hand strength required to change gears initially but with time gear-changing should develop naturally.

For our Creig models your child will be using their thumb to operate the shifter whilst maintaining a grip on the handlebar with the rest of their hand. As they push the chosen shifter paddle away from them they will hear and feel a click to denote a change of gear.

For Luaths your child pushes the brake lever inwards with the fingers of their right hand to shift to a lower gear - this is easiest to perform whilst ‘riding on the hoods’. The smaller inboard paddle lever can be pushed inwards independently and is used to shift to a higher gear.

Tip 2: Practice
When your child is first learning to change gears choose a suitable open, safe place so they can practice. A tarmac or very short, firm, grass surface is ideal. Ask them to change through the different gears whilst riding so they can experience and feel the changing resistance through the pedals.

Tip 3: Remember to pedal
Islabikes use derailleur gear systems which require you to pedal in order to change gear. Avoid using the shifter whilst the bike is stationary; this could cause the chain to jam when setting off.

Tip 4: Which gear is best?
Different gears are better suited to different situations. With more practice and varied cycling experiences your child will become more adept at selecting and changing gear. A fun game you can play with your child is to call out a gear number for them to change to as you ride alongside them.

Tip 5: Maintenance
But don’t forget, parents also play a part in ensuring their child’s bike works as well as possible. Make sure you regularly inspect the gear cables and clean the bike so that it’s free from the mud and muck that will make shifting trickier. Cables should be replaced periodically as part of a routine service to ensure the lightest gear changing performance. If the bike is regularly used in muddy or wet conditions, you will almost certainly need to replace the cables more often.