Most parents are spurred on to buying their child’s’ first bike because their friends children are starting to learn to ride and either they or their children are keen to join in the two wheeled fun.
However, every child reaches milestones at their own pace and learning how to ride a bike comes much more naturally to some children than others. There’s no need to rush teaching your child to ride a bike if you feel they aren’t ready.
If you see your next door neighbours 4 year old zooming off on a pedal bike, whilst your own child is still reluctant to try the balance bike they got for their birthday last year, don’t worry! It can take time for some children to gain confidence to ‘let go’ for fear of falling and others are simply not physically ready to learn.
So when is the right time to teach your child to ride a bike and how do you know if they are ready?
We have a few tips for helping your child learn and deciding when is the right time to start (however old they are!) The most important thing is to remember is that it must be a fun experience for both of you and that you can only go at your child’s own pace.
Watch and Learn!
Starting the process early really helps! Cycle with your child in a child seat or pullalong when they are very young, this will get them used to the normality of two wheels, the fun of family bike rides and it’s also very healthy for all of you. The popular family cycling blog Cyclesprog has some great articles about pullalongs and trailgators, with some useful product reviews if you have very young children.
Size of the Child – Starting Young
Here at The Little Bike Company, we have the Early Rider Pre-bike, bike – the Spherovelo. Perfect for 1.5 year olds up to 2.5 years. The Spherovelo teaches balance & gross motor skills really early on. It helps with co-ordination of the motor system and sensory perception when really young. It has two riding settings the first is stable for the younger children and then you can remove the stabilising balls and it tips. The child can then start using their sense of balance to keep on moving and staying upright. It really is a clever little bike and safe too.
If your child is tall for his or her age you may find that they fit a balance bike much sooner, as early as two and half years old in some cases. Smaller children may have to wait that little bit longer to learn how to ride a bike.
We have a useful ‘inside leg measurement’ guide on each of the bikes and balance bikes available on our website to tell you when your child is physically ready learn to ride their first bike. Click ‘advanced search’ above to search for a bike by your childs inside leg measurement.
Being tall enough doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get the hang of it as quick as a 3 or 4 year old may but starting young with a balance bike from 2 1/2 – 3 will really help them grasp the art of balancing early and in most cases you’ll find they’re very eager to give it a go. (It’s usually trying to stop them that’s the problem!)
The Early Rider ‘Belter’ Lightweight kids Bike Suitable for a child with an inside leg measurement 45 – 56cm. This bike has an innovative carbon belt drive (rather than a traditional chain) this means less weight and low maintenance!
The important things to remember when teaching your child to ride their first bike or balance bike:
- – the bike needs to be lightweight
- – Your child’s feet are flat on the ground when sat on the seat
- – Your child is comfortable lifting and maneuvering the bike around.
A cumbersome, ill fitting bike will put a child off learning to ride very quickly, whereas lightweight kids bikes, adjusted to the right size will help to build their confidence in being able to stop and go as they please (half the battle!).
When they use to how the bike moves they will naturally start scooting along and eventually be happy to take their feet off the ground completely and roll along balancing on two wheels.
The Fun Factor
Cycling is always fun – even if it’s just the commute to work most adults cycle because they love it! Getting together with other parents with similar aged kids and heading to the park en masse can really help your child to feel the fun factor of cycling. Seeing peers whizzing off can be all that is needed to get a child motivated to give it a go! Learning to ride a bike should be a fun experience for both of you – if necessary get your partner, a sporty uncle, aunt or friend to help as it can be quite tiring and sharing the physical work will help keep you from getting exhausted!
Build your Childs Confidence
Getting a comfortable childrens cycling helmet and safety gear like knee pads and gloves, will give the child confidence and save any grazed knees and knuckles that could put the child off. We have a useful guide to buying kids helmets here.
If confident they won’t get hurt, even the most timid child will be happier to have a go. Start teaching your child to ride on short grass, a playground or flat safe path or a wooded track and where possible start with either a balance bike or a pedal bike with the pedals removed so the child gets a feel for balancing before the more complicated task of pedalling and braking. (Avoid stabilisers – read our Balance Bike vs Stabilisers article for more info!)
“Always end on a high, if the child struggles too much they get frustrated and so won’t want to go back on the next time, if they start to get frustrated, end the session, move onto something else and go back to it another time, if they’re not frustrated, it ends on a high, the child will be happy to re-engage with the bike at another time” – Beth Timlett, Owner of The little Bike Company and Mum!
It’s never too late
If your child has reached the age of five, six or older and you feel concerned that all their friends are merrily cycling independently, don’t worry! A child can still learn to cycle it just takes a little time and it needs to be at their own pace (do you remember learning?) You just need to find the right time, space and weather to make it enjoyable and safe for them.
For children who have grown beyond a balance bike and want to learn on a larger pedal bike, we have some really practical tips here on how to teach a child to ride a pedal bike – everything you need to know to make the process as smooth as possible for older children.
Take a look at our range of childrens first bikes and accessories – all lightweight and seriously good fun!