The trouble with stabilisers

Although balancing on a bike for the first time can be daunting for little ones, the moment they master it is one of those eureka moments when any parent swells with pride. When it comes to teaching their child to ride a bike for the first time, many parents go down the traditional route of stabilisers. That’s understandable, as it appears to be the easiest way to teach children, but is it really?

At Islabikes, we advise against the use of stabilisers as they inhibit the child’s balancing and learning capabilities. If your child has already had a balance bike, then the transition to their first pedal bike will be smoother and quicker as they are taught the act of balancing and steering without the added complication of pedalling.

What is the problem with stabilisers?

We probably all remember the clunky noise and jolty movements stabilisers make when we learnt how to ride a bike. It didn’t create fond memories of riding freely with the wind brushing past your face, rather, it was a mission to try and keep all four wheels firmly on the ground without tipping over.

Stabilisers may be the traditional way to teach your child how to ride a bike, but they are not the most effective way to learn. Stabilisers hold the bike in an upright rigid position and prevent the bike from naturally leaning. This means the child is essentially riding a tricycle, which requires a different weight distribution. If a child tries to turn with stabilisers, they are forced to shift their bodyweight to one side to prevent one of the stabiliser wheels from lifting off the ground.

Whereas, on a bike, the child will naturally lean with the movement of the bike and develop their balancing abilities without being restrained. Therefore, the child learns something completely different with stabilisers that they will have to unlearn later.

How to teach children without stabilisers

It is important you hold your child’s core and not the bike. By holding your child’s core, you allow them to learn how the bike reacts to leaning. Children rely on stabilisers for balance, so you can help them to develop their balancing and steering by guiding them naturally.

We recommend looking for somewhere that allows the child to develop a rolling momentum which will help them work on their balance and allow them to build up some speed. Ideally, you want to find somewhere that is relatively flat with a smooth tarmac surface in a quiet, open area and obviously, away from traffic and obstacles.

Although, at Islabikes, we actively discourage parents from using stabilisers, we want to encourage children to ride to school in whichever way they choose. It is important that your child’s confidence isn’t knocked as it may deter them from wanting to ride a bike full stop. Keep giving them reassurance, lots of encouragement and make sure they’re having fun!

Ready, set, go

Nothing beats the smile on a child’s face once they’ve learnt how to ride a bike!

 

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