Teach your child to ride

Riding advice  |  Jun 03, 2016  |  Dave Bowater
Teaching your child to ride a bike

Learning to ride a bike 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 somewhere between 3 ½ and 4 ½ 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 2 ½, but this is generally rare.

If your child has already ridden a Rothan or similar 2 wheeled balance bike they will already have learnt to balance and will find it much easier to learn to ride a bike with pedals. This is the best way to get them started. If they have ridden a balance bike do not fit stabilisers to their first bike with pedals, as this will undo what they have learnt.

If your child has not ridden a balance bike we still recommend that you don’t use stabilisers. A bike steers by leaning and stabilisers prevent this so they are not a good way to teach children to learn to ride – in reality all they do is put off the point when they have to learn, which is when the stabilisers are removed. In the meantime they have learnt to ride in the ‘wrong way’ and this has to be unlearned. We find it is much easier to teach a child to balance if they have never ridden a bike before than it is to teach a child who has ridden with stabilisers.

Your first lesson

Step 1: Saddle
Adjust the saddle so that they can get the balls of their feet on the ground.

Step 2: Location
Choose a suitable place. A safe large open space that allows your budding cyclist to wobble at will is ideal. Choose tarmac or very short firm grass – avoid soft grass as the bike will not get enough momentum to balance well.

Step 3: Support
Put the child on the bike. Support them by standing behind them and holding on to their body under the armpits. A sturdy jacket or jumper gives you something to grip on.

Step 4: Feel
Do not hold the handlebars as the child needs to feel how these respond to the motion of the bike.

Step 5: Steering
Push the child along and let the bike wander in any direction. You should be able to ‘steer’ the bike by leaning the child towards the left and right. In this way they quickly learn how the bike steers.

Step 6: Balance
If the child is ready they should quickly get a feel for balance and you can gradually let go, but stay with the child to catch them if it goes wrong. It will be apparent if they are not ready and you should not force them, simply put the bike away for a few weeks then try again.

If they have been riding on stabilisers they will take longer to learn as they will try and ‘resist’ the natural lean of the bike. Once you have committed to teaching them to manage without it is important you don’t confuse them by alternating between riding with and without stabilisers. Balance is usually mastered quite quickly. Pedalling, starting and stopping can take longer so don’t leave your child unsupervised – run along with them and be ready to catch them when they want to stop. And when they do manage to cycle for the first time, savour the moment, it’s a precious one! 

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