How to Teach Your Child To Ride a Bike

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Lesson 1: You can’t

Lesson 2: Only they can teach themselves.

Lesson 3: Forget the training wheels.

Who can forget the heady times, in the never-ending summer of our childhoods? Dad has removed the training wheels and is running alongside, shouting encouragement, gripping the back of your saddle. You are flying along, flying. Bliss it was to be alive, but to be zooming on your bike was very heaven. Then Dad lets go and – freedom! You are on your own! Exhilarating speed under your own steam! It is the greatest and most exciting moment of your young life. It is a shame it ends precisely 0.4 seconds later with you hitting the ground hard. Or a hedge, if you are lucky.

This system may well have worked for us all, but there is another less painful method to assist the little ones in their auto-didactic quest for two-wheeled independence.

 “Who only by moving can balance, Only by balancing move”  -Michael Donaghy, Machines

The Three Skills: Think about what you do when you are riding a bike. We balance, we steer and we pedal. The big headline, and the tricky bit, is balancing. There is no substitute for balancing but balancing.

Training wheels (“stabilisers”) may turn the bike into a nice little thing to pedal around on, but they won’t teach you to balance. Ever. Banish them! Four wheels good – two wheels better!

It’s quite a daunting trio, isn’t it? Let’s make it easy on the nippers by doing them one at a time. And to find a secret weapon to aid us we must delve deep in the bicycle’s history. The Laufmaschine. The Velocipide. The Draisine. The Dandy Horse. The Balance Bike. Call it what you will but the principal is the same. A pedal-less two-wheeler which the young rider stands astride and walks along. And if you don’t have one then simply remove the pedals from a “normal” bike.

As propulsion is by foot (and because they need to feel completely secure) make sure the seat is low enough for them to have both their feet firmly flat on the floor. Then defend against scrapes from tumbles by dressing them in long trousers and long sleeves, and find a gentle safe slope. A grass slope makes a soft landing but also makes falling off more likely.

At the beginning children will steer where they are looking, so don’t stand beside or behind them. Get a few metres in front and call them to come to you. Initially they will simply walk down to you, this is fine. We are learning steering. Repeat this activity until they are confident, and as it goes on they will begin to “coast” from time to time, lifting their feet. This remarkable feat of balancing is such fun they will be keen to do it more and more, and for longer and longer. Now they can pop to the shop or for little walks with you and in no time the first two skills of three are mastered. How long “should” this take? Anything from one hour to a few weeks should cover it!

Finally, once they are very confident with the balance bike (and with the brake!) you can refit the pedals. Make sure the saddle is still very low at this stage, however. Perhaps use the gentle slope again, but in fact once you can steer and balance the skill of pedaling is the easiest to master. They will continue to steer where they are looking for some time, though, so make sure they look where they want to go.

So there you are (mostly) pain-free cycling. As the confidence and the child grow all the essential parts of safe cycling must be taught, looking, signalling, anticipating etc, but for now you take care of these whilst your child enjoys that first taste of freedom.

In addition:

LVI offer classes for children which take place at the special mini-road layout – complete with traffic lights – which is found in Mamer/Capellen next to the Tennis club (Rannerwee, Mamer 8310). This layout is open and free to use when there are no classes, and is quite fun

Any kind of two-wheeled balancing helps them; including the two wheeled scooter.

Cycling UK have an excellent Guide to Family Cycling available Family-

Cycling/dp/0954817648/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497990952&sr=81&keywords=ctc+guide+to+family+cycling covering all areas from riding with babies to family tours.

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David Thomas

David spent a lot of time writing and talking about football (and thinking, and dreaming, and reading, and watching, and playing …), especially in the far flung dark corners. Happily he is cured now. Having bounced around various locations, David is settled in Luxembourg and aimlessly searching gainful employment. In the meantime he blogs about cycling and life as Dead Deer. Dead Deer Blog


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