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Our Favourite Tips to Start Riding a Bike

Learning to ride a bike can be fun and scary, but having the right equipment is half the battle

 

With so much focus on childhood obesity and getting children out and about and active, as well as the success of our cyclists at the Olympics, there is a resurgence of people interested in cycling.

We know from our own past experiences that learning to ride a bike is filled with excitement and trepidation for all involved.

Do you remember your first experience riding a bike?

Learning to ride a bike: finding the right equipment

We asked the experts at British Cycling for some advice on how to start your child on a bike this summer, and their advice centred around getting the right equipment for your child and finding a safe place to practice.

There are many different kinds of bikes that can be used, depending on the age and skill of your child. Make sure you let your child get comfortable with one before moving them on to the next level.Tricyles help build core strength

Tricycles

Tricycles have pedals so your child can learn to get around on their own in a safe manner. They have excellent balance and stability and are suitable for children as young as ten months old.

Balance bikes

Balance bikes can also be an excellent tool to get young children cycling. Balance bikes are like normal bikes but without the pedals.

Your child can learn to balance, steer and gain confidence on two wheels safe in the knowledge that they have their feet on the ground.

Scooters

A scooter can provide an excellent alternative way to learn balance. A scooter separates the steering/balancing function from the pedaling function, so the child can concentrate on learning to balance without the distraction of pedals.

Stabilisers

Stabilisers are another easy way to learn how to ride a bike as they give rear bike support. Children can learn to pedal, steer and brake on their own, without needing to worry about balance. However parents should look to remove these as soon as possible so that children don't develop bad habits on the bike.

Bikes

Make sure the bike fits. When you buy a bike, make sure your child is fully in control of their bike at all times. They should be able to put both feet on the floor when they are starting to learn.

Accessories

A tag-along is a good way of getting a child used to the feeling of cycling without having to do too many things at once. The front half of the child's bike is attached to the back of an adult one, offering the child the chance to ride, without having to worry about keeping up. The child can add some of their own pedal power or just freewheel and enjoy the ride.

Helmets are particularly recommended for young children. If you want to get further information on helmets for children the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust has lots of information.

Learning to ride a bike: practice makes perfect

Don't expect everything to go perfectly from the get go. You'll need to slow down, but as your child develops and finds their feet, or pedals, they will improve and eventually you'll be enjoying a delightful family day out on your bikes.

Where is the best place to learn?

The pavement outside the house is fine and tarmac is a good smooth surface, but if you have a nearby park with short dry grass, this might be better. The wider the area the better, so they are not worried about obstacles. Try to find a gentle slope if you can.

Look ahead

Children can have a tendency to look at the person teaching them to ride, which can lead to falls. Looking at the ground is also a common cause for learner crashes. Ask learners to look at an object in the near distance, and to focus on that instead of looking around.

Choose the right position

If you're on the road with a child, take up a position behind them. If there are two adults in your group, it's a good idea to have one in front of the child and one behind.

One of our team remembers when she learned to ride a bike:

"I remember being so happy when I got a real bike for my birthday one year. I couldn't have been more than 5 or 6 at the time and I was determined to learn to ride without stabilizers. It was time to upgrade from 3 wheels to 2, no way did I want to back track to 4!

My dad and I set out one afternoon to practice on the road in front of the house; we lived on a quiet street so there was little danger of interruption or distraction. Mom was away for the day and I was intent on showing her how well I could ride by the time she came home.

I had successfully completed the last ten attempts when her car pulled into the driveway, I was bursting with excitement. I remember feeling giddy as my dad let go of the back of the bike and I could feel the breeze in my hair, but that all changed the second I tapped the brakes a little bit too hard. The next thing I remember was flying through the air, over the handlebars and landing on the gravel road with a thud.

The day did not turn out the way I had planned it. Instead of celebrating my accomplishment, mum spent the evening picking gravel out of my forehead, yet another reason I appreciate helmets today. Did I give up that day? Absolutely not! I was determined to gain a little bit more independence, and master a new skill."

 
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