More than 12 million Americans learn to ride a bike. It is not only a wonderful way to stay healthy and get some exercise, but is also an eco-friendly form of transportation that allows them to explore the world when they are adults. The average age children start to ride a bike is 5 years old. If they learn in a fun but responsible way, they will quickly gain confidence and improve their sense of balance and stability. It’s not just about being able to maneuver a bicycle; they must also understand road hazards and how to negotiate these safely. It is also a good idea to prepare your child for issues with their bike, such as a flat tire.
Looking after their bike
Before you set off with your child on their first ride, check over their bike with them. Make sure you do this every time they ride—it’s a good habit to get into. Make sure the bike chain is free from dirt so the wheels are able to move freely. Run a clean, dry cloth over the chain to remove any dirt or excess grease. You should also check the tire pressure and show your child how to inflate the tires when necessary. Basic bike maintenance is an essential part of learning, even when you are young. Make sure your child has a bike helmet that fits properly and the seat is the correct height.
Taking the training wheels off
When you first start teaching your child to ride a bike without training wheels, you should choose an area that is very quiet, such as the end of a cul-de-sac. You should also make sure the road surface is very smooth, preferably tarmac. Although you might be tempted to try and help them learn on a grassy surface, even short grass is quite difficult for a small bike. In the early stages, try to avoid inclines, too. When you first set off, make sure you don’t hold onto the handlebars—it may make you feel more secure, but will hinder your child from learning properly if they are fighting against you to turn. Instead, if you feel it is necessary, put your arms beneath their armpits. Your child can then learn quickly how their bike reacts when they steer.
The first rides
On those first few bike rides, you will probably want to run alongside the bike, keeping an eye on the road. This will help your child gain confidence. Mostly you want to make sure they don’t fall off or crash on the first few rides as this could scare them off learning. Only when they are able to maneuver and turn competently should you consider taking them to a new place to continue learning to ride. When they are young, it isn’t advisable to take your child to a busy road environment to ride their bike—stick to parks or very quiet areas. Once your child has the hang of the basics, you can start introducing more in-depth riding techniques, like pulling out at a junction and checking for traffic, or riding around an obstacle in the road safely.
Teaching your child to ride a bike is a fairly simple process and with a little practice they should get the hang of it quickly. While they are learning, help them form good habits like checking their bike over each time they ride; this will help them stay safe on the road.
WORDS BY ISABELLA LOVETT