Teaching your child to ride a bike with Isla Rowntree
With the summer finally arriving and the long school holidays on the horizon we asked Isla Rowntree, ex-national
cyclocross champion and founder of Islabikes how to approach teaching you child to ride a bike.
What are your thoughts on stabilisers?
For years children’s bikes have come fitted with stabilisers, but that doesn’t mean they’re the right thing to use. We encourage parents to avoid stabilisers as they prevent children from learning to balance naturally and actually make the process of learning to ride a bike trickier.
Far better is to let your child use a balance bike before starting to learn a pedal bike. A balance bike will teach them the basics of balancing on two wheels and make the transition to first pedal bike much easier.
How old should my child be?
Most children learn to ride their first pedal bike unaided between the ages of 3 1/2 and 4 1/2. But children develop their cycling skills at different times. If it seems that your child isn’t quite get the hang of it, don’t worry, let them keep enjoying their balance bike for a few more weeks and try again later.
How do I teach my child to ride?
Find a large, safe, flat open space to use as your learning zone. Something with tarmac or a fairly firm surface is perfect. Long grass is too tricky for new riders to pedal on.
Now adjust the height of your child’s saddle so they can get the balls of their feet on the floor.
Put your child on their bike and stand behind them, holding them under their armpits. Don’t hold any part of the bike. We want the new rider to feel how their bike naturally moves underneath them.
Push your child along and let the bike wander in any direction. You can help steer the bike by leaning your child right and left. Doing this will let your child learn that leaning is part of the steering process.
If your children have learnt to balance on a balance bike, they may take a little while to grasp the concept of forward pedalling. Encourage them while they practise pedalling forwards.
If your child is ready to cycle unaided they should quickly get a feel for balance and you can gradually let go, but stay close by to catch them if anything goes wrong.
For nervous riders, you may need to stay with them a bit longer. That’s fine. Just let them know that you’re there, but you’re very gradually going to loosen your hold on them. Eventually they’ll be cycling unaided without even knowing it. The look of delight when they realise you’re no longer holding them and they’re cycling all by themselves is a moment to treasure.
The final part of the jigsaw is learning how to set off from stationary unaided. For this, have your child put one of their pedals just past the top most part of the pedal circle. That means around the ‘5 to the hour’ position with the left leg, or ‘5 past the hour’ position with the right leg.
Now ask them to give a good push on this leg. With enough forward momentum they should be able to transfer both feet to the pedals, start pedalling and be a completely independent rider.
Islabikes build quality lightweight bikes that are gender neutral in their aesthetics, CyclingShorts.cc will be reviewing them shortly – so watch this space.
You can find more information at: