Learning to ride a bike

Family Health Diary

Summer is here (she says optimistically) and time to get ‘on yer bike’.

Note to self parents – remember to teach your kids! Life gets busy and before you know it you’ll look at them and realise they look pretty big…big enough to be able to zoom round on a bike, if only they knew how. The earlier you get them on a bike, the more confidence they will have to keep progressing through the stages I reckon and the less distance it is to fall when they get the wobbles. (I hold the same theory for skiing).

Teaching them though might require a bit of patience so from one who has been there…don’t try and squeeze it into a ten minute job between other things you’re focused on. Our kids back in the day (now 18 and 21) needed a dedicated stint for a good hour or two to get on their wobbly way. And they have to want to do it and be able enough. I recall finding the perfect stretch of flat ground and grass with my husband and hoping we all still had a sense of humour at the end of it. Nice warm weather was also rather helpful. The youngest one though some years later would ably fit into the ten mins here and there thing – she would only last a few minutes, then flounce off in utter frustration that she could not make it all come together in a short amount of time.

The reality is though, there’s quite a lot that needs to come together. You’ve got to be able pedal to start with – that’s a bit of co-ordination and technique needed right there for a small person. Then you’ve got to balance and that’s quite a skill in itself. Definitely only try that in a straight line and in little stints when things are looking suitably upright with some forward motion in play. Then when you’ve got the balance thing looking semi acceptable, you need to add turning to the mix. That’s pedalling, balancing, turning…and (remember!!) smiling all at once. Little wonder there’s a few falls.

And on that? That is simply what happens. Set up the expectation I say, and say ‘without falls, one cannot learn’. Period. In fact learning to ride a bike is probably a very good life lesson to template from. You need time, support, a good attitude, the desire to learn balance and some new skills, but have an expectation things might just fail sometimes along the way. But, that’s ok because that’s how you learn and become resilient enough to keep trying, knowing you will get there if you keep at it.

So… get those kids on a bike this summer. My Raising Children site has a clip on the process http://www.raisingchildren.org.nz/stories/learning-to-ride-a-bike/

You just need to subscribe to the site for free to unlock the 100+ vids for parents. I’ll leave you with my top tips:

  1. Second-hand bikes are fine but it’s good to buy a new helmet if possible and have it fitted properly at a bike shop.
  2. A good way for children to progress is from a trike to a balance bike to a pedal bike.
  3. You can make a balance bike for older children by taking the pedals off a normal bike. (Put them back on once your child has mastered balance.)
  4. Hold onto the back of the seat rather than the handlebars when your child is learning to ride a bike. That way they are in control and you’re merely helping with stability.
  5. Make it fun but remember that falling off (and getting back up) is part of life and teaches children resilience.
  6. Ride with them until they are confident with traffic. It’s not recommended they ride alone till age 10.
  7. Make sure they look visible – brightly coloured clothing or even a high vis vest.
  8. Closed in shoes are best.
  9. Make sure they understand road rules and road signs.
  10. Go to a cycle skills course.


Written by Jude Dobson

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