Bicycle Network: Parents
Teach your child to ride
Get rid of the training wheels, take off the pedals, lower the seat and they'll be riding in no time! This method also works for teenagers and adults.
- Use a bike that is the correct size or a little smaller.
- Remove the training wheels if fitted.
- Remove the pedals. Lower the seat so the child can sit on the seat with both feet flat on the ground. Note: If the bike does not have a handbrake, it has no stopping mechanism when pedals are removed. Close supervision is advised.
Step 1 - developing balance
- On an open area encourage the child to walk while seated on the bike.
- As confidence develops, increase the walking pace.
- Introduce a scooting action – both feet go forward and back at the same time rather than the alternating walking action.
- Build sufficient speed by scooting then raise feet off the ground so the bike can coast.
- When the child is coasting confidently move to the next step.
If the bike is fitted with handbrakes, braking lessons should start here. A gentle slope might be useful, but not essential.
Step 2 - developing steering skills
- On an open area set out a short, straight slalom course with small markers. (Foam blocks about 5cm square make ideal markers as the bike wheels will roll over them easily and not throw the child off course or off the bike.)
- Have the child walk/ride through the slalom, steering left and right,
- Then encourage scooting and coasting through the course.
- When the child can coast and steer with basic skill move to the next step
Step 3 - introducing pedalling
- Replace the pedals on the bike (make sure the left pedal goes to the left side and the right pedal goes to the right side – they have different threads)
- Choose an open area with a good surface.
- Demonstrate pedaling in the ‘power position’ to start (right crank parallel with sloping down tube of the frame or right pedal in about the 2 o’clock position).
- Steady the child with a hand on their shoulder as they start.
- Have the child push down on the right pedal and continue pedalling.
- Given a clear space, firm surface, positive encouragement and practice the child will quickly get the three skills working together.
If the bike is fitted with a coaster brake (back pedal action) now is the time for a braking lesson.
- Allow for plenty of practice before expecting the child to accompany you on a ride.
- Keep to the open space area until good skill and confidence levels are achieved.
- As the skills develop, start riding your bike with your child around the open area to get both of you used to riding together.
(Thanks to Ted Wilson, Proprietor of Wilcare Services which is contracted to the Victorian Department of Education & Training as sole preferred provider of bicycle instructor accreditation for the primary school program Bike Ed and the secondary program Cycle On.)