Teaching your child how to ride a bike is an incredible milestone! But it can also be stressful for both the parent and the child. At Schwinn we recommend teaching your child to master a few different bike riding skills at a time, so they (and you) aren’t overwhelmed. Of course, there’s going to be a few bumps and bruises along the way, but if you go into teaching confidently your child will feel confident too!
Beginning with Balance Bikes
- Think about starting your child off on a balance bike. A balance bike can teach a child coordination and balance that will lend itself to an easier transition to their “big kids’ bike.” In fact, some parents will take the pedals and training wheels off their child’s “big kids’ bike” and slowly introduce the pedals to avoid training wheels altogether.
- Forgo the tricycle and get your child a balance bike to play around with as a young child of 18-months to 5 years old. This will teach them how to balance on two wheels naturally and make the transition to a “big kids’ bike” much easier.
- Introduce a standard sized bike to your child without training wheels or pedals and a saddle completely lowered so that they can touch the ground easily and use their new bicycle just like a balance bike.
- Safety first. Always, always, always strap on a bike helmet. And make sure all shoelaces are tucked in.
- Add the pedals back on to the bike and watch them go! Many children who learn to ride a bike this way will be able to transition to their pedal bike by taking a few pedals and then coasting just like they had with their balance bike before they are truly comfortable keeping their feet on the pedals at all times.
Beginning with Traditional Kids Bikes
- If you decide to go the more “traditional” route by getting your child a bike with training wheels right away, it is important to teach them how to find their balance before you ask them to start pedaling.
- Don’t make the day you actually bring home the bike the same day you take the training wheels off. Let your little one tool around the block for a few weeks on training wheels, or until he or she feels comfortable enough to remove them.
- When your child is ready remove the training wheels. Then, lower the saddle so it’s low enough for your child to place their feet flat on the ground when sitting atop their bike.
- Find a soft slope of about 30 yards. Ideally, the slope turns into a slight uphill or flattens out to slow things down. We’re also looking for grass that’s long enough to cushion a fall but short enough to keep things moving.
- Safety first. Ensure that all shoelaces are tucked in and that you strap on a bike helmet!
- We’re gonna tackle balance first. Start halfway up the hill and hold the bike while your child climbs on. Now, let go of the bike and have your child lift their feet so they coast down the hill. Again, we’re working on balance, so no pedaling. Avoid holding onto the bike. Instead, tell them to put their foot down when they feel unbalanced.
- Keep working on coasting until they are comfortable–make it a fun game and count the seconds until they put their foot down. And remember, there’s no need to rush to the next step. You might be here for a few days or weeks.
- OK, it’s time to put the pedal to the metal. This time, have your child place their feet on the pedals and coast. Try a few runs, just coasting, and then have them start to pedal.
Once they feel comfortable, raise the saddle seat and go to a flat space to try starting from a stop. A cul-de-sac or a loop in a park is perfect for practicing turning.
A couple extra notes:
Don’t go from two training-wheels to one as an in-between step. One training wheel just makes the bike unstable and the key to teaching a child to ride is balance.
There’s no right age to teach a child to ride a bike. Consider instead their interest in learning, how coordinated they are and their size. Children who are ready can usually skip, hop on one foot, and walk along a brick garden wall, parking-lot block or curb. Size-wise, kids with inseams of at least 17′ means they can balance comfortably on a two-wheeler.