Kids can have fun on wheels from an early age. Basic bike riding skills prepare them for BikeReady cycle education at school.
The early years
Young children can enjoy moving on wheels with trikes, scooters and balance bikes. When your child is ready for an actual bike, get the right size. Ask at your bike shop.
Balance bikes: Children's bikes with no pedals or chain. Your child pushes along with their feet. Good for learning to balance, these can help your child get ready for full bike riding.
Training wheels: Bikes with training wheels help children have fun while learning to pedal. But they are slower for learning to balance. Make sure the training wheels are adjusted to sit a little above the ground — this helps your child lean into turns. Now and then, adjust the training wheels higher as your child learns to balance.
Teaching your child to ride
A park or school on the weekend are ideal places to learn to ride. Keep it fun and watch for the big grin when your kid first rides.
Use the right size bike. Your child should be able to stand over the top tube of the bike. Set the seat height extra low when they learn (both feet flat on the ground when seated). Ensure your child wears a correctly fitted helmet.
To help your child learn to balance, you can remove the pedals. This makes more room to scoot along with their feet. You'll need either an Allen key or a spanner.
Getting on the bike
Get your child to hold the handlebars and squeeze the brakes. They lean the bike towards themselves and then step one leg over.
Using the brakes
Children's bikes may have brake levers or a coaster brake (this works when they push the pedals backwards). Get your child to practice using the brakes with the training wheels on.
Learning to balance and move
Remove the training wheels. And if you have the right tools, remove the pedals.
Ask your child to get on the bike and then scoot along by pushing their feet off the ground one at a time. They will shuffle along at first. Their next challenge is to start scooting and then lift both feet off the ground to glide. Tell them to look ahead. See how far they can glide with both feet in the air. It can be easiest to do this on grass with a very slight downhill slope.
This exercise is the best way to learn to balance on a bike. Keep at it until they are happy gliding several metres.
Steer the bike where you want to go
There's a saying "look where you go and the bike will go where you look". Teach your child to keep their eyes up and look ahead. This helps their body's sense of balance and direction. Practice this when they are scooting and gliding.
After their balance improves, put the pedals back on.
It's easiest to start with one pedal aimed forwards, roughly in line with the downtube of the bike. This is like two on a clock and is called the pedal ready position.
You can hold your child gently at the shoulders or waist, or bend down lower and grasp the seat post.
Your child places one foot on the pedal, pushes forward and goes. They get their other foot on the other pedal and keep turning. A gentle push can help them start off.
Run alongside them and keep a gentle hold while they ride. Gradually let go if they are balanced. This may take a few turns. Things to keep in mind:
- They'll need to move at an adult jogging pace — bike riding at walking pace is harder
- Don't worry if they don't ride in a straight line at first
- Remind them to brake when they want to stop
- Hold them more and more gently as they progress - eventually they'll be able to start off by themselves
Once they can start on their own, ride for about 25 metres, make simple turns and stop, they have learned the basics of bike riding.