This month, accredited AustCycle Teachers and Providers Gay Chandler and Ian Watson give their top tips on how to get a child riding safely and confidently.
Invest in a balance bike. Balance bikes are low to the ground bicycles that don’t have any pedals or training wheels. Instead of pedals, children use their feet to scoot along the ground, developing a natural ability to stay balanced. Balance bikes also help teach the fundamental skills of bike control.
Practice. A balance bike can be used in any situation, indoor or out, so encourage your child to scoot along beside you when you walk the dog or go to the park. Typically a child will move from walking with the bike underneath them, perhaps not even in the saddle, to walking while seated, to a little bit of rolling forward, to a one foot shuffle, to a two-foot run/walk/shuffle, and then on to balanced coasting with two-foot propulsion. The more they practice, the faster they will learn.
Take the pedals off a regular bike. Convert a pedal bike into a balance bike by removing the pedals and dropping the saddle so your child can place their feet flat on the ground. This is a great way to get kids used to the feel of the bike they will be progressing to and also allows them to learn about braking and steering.
Add in pedals. Once the child has mastered balancing and is comfortable on their bike try adding the pedals back on and advancing them to riding a proper bicycle. Play games with the child to encourage them to make circles with their legs, teaching them the pedalling movement. Once you have the pedals on, Gay suggests you position your hand gently on the back on the child to help them feel at ease. But she warns parents off touching the handlebar, explaining that children need to build balance and muscle.
Use gentle hills. Start at the top and let the child roll down, but first ensure they know how to brake and stop.
Get rid of the parent. Gay and Ian are quite firm about sending the parent away and getting someone in who knows what they’re doing, saying that often parents get nervous and uptight. Kids also play to their parent’s emotions and the whole experience can be quite taxing on both parent and child, yet surprisingly, kids often try a lot harder and work a lot better for an impartial party.
Be a role model. Remember to be a good example. If you want your child to ride, ride with them and be a good role model.
Finally, be patient. Each child is different so remember to be patient. Once a child gets tired, stop, because if they get really tired they are going to have more spills. Gay also stresses that it is important to end on a really positive note so the child will want to come back and try again.