Learning to ride a bike is one of those important childhood rites of passage and even now 20 or 30-something years on, many of us still have vivid memories of our parents awkwardly running alongside us, holding on to the bicycle seat for all they’re worth in a bid to ensure that we master this life skill.
Fast forward several years and now it’s our turn as parents to teach our offspring to perfect their pedalling and master their balance on a two wheeler until they’re confident and capable on the saddle and ready to start their independent cycling journey.
As many youngsters will be including a shiny new bicycle in their letter to Santa this year, I had a word with Michelle Jakeway of iconic cycling brand Raleigh www.raleigh.co.uk to pick up some useful tips on how to help our little ones learn to ride their pavement bikes, both with and without stabilisers. If you’re quick, you can even win a Raleigh balance bike in our competition.
Teach your child how to ride a bike
As Michelle observed, learning to ride a bicycle should be viewed as an exciting challenge, that’s a happy, fun thing to do, not a problem that needs to be overcome.
“Some children are by nature more cautious than others so it’s important for you to be positive and confident in your role as teacher, reassuring them that you are there for them. All children are different: for some youngsters learning to ride a bike without stabilisers can take little more than an afternoon or two, whereas for others it’s more of a gradual process.
I have two young boys and whereas my elder son fearlessly took to cycling on a two wheeler completely stabiliser- free , his younger brother is taking a little more time to master his balance and co-ordination skills.
When teaching how to ride a bike, focus on confidence first
The transition from shooting around on a balance bike such as the Raleigh DASH to learning to ride a pavement bike with stabilisers, such as the Raleigh ATOM and then mastering that pavement bike whilst stabilisers-free is largely a matter of building confidence whilst developing balance and co-ordination skills.
We’d suggest that in the first instance you try the techniques I’m outlining below whilst your child still has the stabilisers fitted to the bike, so they can gain confidence using their pedals without having to perfect their balancing skills at the same time.
Once these techniques have been mastered with stabilisers, then you can try again without them. Be prepared that your child may feel a little concerned that they seem to be taking a backwards step as they’ll need a little help at first with the balance, but lots of praise and physical support will help them make good progress.
Learning to ride a bike – the first steps
Choose a good place to teach them. I’d suggest a flat, tarmac surface, somewhere safe and quiet so your child can concentrate with minimal interruptions.
We always advocate helmets for children, so it’s important that you get your little one correctly measured up for a good quality helmet. We love our range of kid’s helmets with their bright colours. They’re super cute and kids love to put them on! So that’s one less battle!
When it comes to starting out, stand behind your child and hold onto them as they sit on the saddle, so they’re off to a good start and are getting a feel for both balancing and steering.
Gently move the child along, beginning to release your hold slightly, letting go very gradually, once you can see that they’re growing in confidence and making progress with balancing and steering.
When teaching your child to ride from a standing start, the pedal needs to be in a position that’s just slightly higher than flat.
Get pedalling – the first bike ride
Place the child’s foot on the pedal and tell them to push their foot to start the forward cycling motion.
Encourage your child to lift their other foot onto the bike’s second pedal so they’re now poised to start pedalling. Do keep hold of your child until you can see they feel confident and at this point, you can very gradually release your hold, but stay close by until they’ve mastered the essentials and can progress safely in the knowledge that you’re there if they need you.
Encourage them to look up and ahead rather than gazing down at their bike (as is often the case when a child’s learning), as this helps them to get the hang of balancing, steering and pedalling at the same time.
Don’t overdo it, little and often is normally the best approach, aim for short bursts of say 20 minutes at a time and always try to end on a positive note.
Before you know it your child will be on that independent cycling journey, creating many happy memories as they discover that cycling is fun – a healthy leisure pursuit that will bring them many hours of enjoyment in years to come.”
Who has taught you how to ride a bike? Have your kids mastered riding a bike yet? What are your top tips?
For further information on children’s bikes call Raleigh on 01773 532 694 or visit www.raleigh.co.uk
*** Copyright of all images: Raleigh ***