Once you can ride a bike, it seems simple. On the other hand, learning and teaching can be a stressful time for both child and parent.
Here's a few tips about how to teach kids to ride a bike, that we experienced with our two kids.
Confidence is key - both parent and child need to feel confident in the process.
Patience - some kids jump on and ride off into the sunset, some kids require practice and all the stars to align at just the right moment. Something as simple as building up the excitement too much, or the colour of the bike can be a deal breaker.
Balance bikes rule!
Once a child is walking and running comfortably, introduce an appropriately sized balance bike. At first they'll just be walking around with an awkward contraption between their legs, but then they'll discover that if you sit and push, it'll be less effort to 'roll' around.
We recommend air tires for comfort and if you have an adventurous tot or want a faster transition to a pedal bike, a hand brake is also recommended. The Yedoo Tootoo is an excellent option for a balance bike.
Pre-balance cars or contraptions with 4 wheels can be a good starting point too.
Having any experience with a tricycle or any other pedalling toy that doesn't require balance is also an asset in learning to pedal.
Check out your child's inseam according to the sizing chart. Usually, you'll be looking at a 12" Gecko or 16" Hedgehog as a first bike.
Have them get comfortable with the bike before you try to 'ride' it. Sit on it at home, even leave the pedals off so that your child can use it as a balance bike first. (If you need to, with Cleary and other top brands, it is simple for a shop to remove the whole crank and bottom bracket assembly to use any bike as a balance bike)
We don't encourage using training wheels. If your child can balance on a balance bike, then why go backwards to something that allows for a leaning/unbalanced ride?
Always start learning to pedal with feet flat on the ground, while seated. This will mean the knees will be high, but confidence overrides optimal power production!
Find a flat, open venue to learn. A concrete outdoor ice rink, parking lot, or gym is optimal. Sidewalks are narrow when you're learning and can be stressful for your child.
This is where mom or dad has to have some patience and good back! Hold the seat with one hand and a handlebar with the other and start rolling around, getting your child to pedal. First let go of the handlebars then the seat. Don't forget to run with them, so that when they stop, you can catch them the first time.
Once they can balance and pedal, then you need to work on starting and stopping. Flat footed will make their life easier!
Start - a freewheel (vs coaster) will be much easier as you can put the pedal in the ready position (45 degrees up and forward) without moving the bike. With one foot flat on the ground, have them push down on the 'ready' pedal and bring their stable foot to the pedal. Start by 'spotting' them, and slowly take away your help.
Dismount - ideally with their hand braking skills from the balance bike, they will know to use the brake to stop. Then it's just a matter of stopping, or drifting to a stop, and putting a foot flat on the ground.
The moment your child rides free on their own is a precious one. The freedom and excitement they experience is contagious and will make you go jump on your bike to join them!
Any other tips you'd like to share? Drop us a note :)
Other Learn to Ride articles:
Hardtail Canada - https://www.hardtail.ca/biking-life/teach-your-child-how-to-bike-expert-advice/