A recent study has found that over a third of primary-age children cannot ride a bike! A worrying statistic, but with the summer here there’s no better time to grab a bike and get out there.
Before we go into our tips for learning to ride, we know bikes are an expensive purchase, but they don’t have to be. The second-hand bike market is strong and there are lots of places to look. Facebook Marketplace will show you bikes in your area and check out Gumtree and eBay. You can also put a request on your local Freecycle site.
Another great idea is to set up a bike swap shop at your child’s school where you can swap bikes with others for different sizes or simply sell on at reasonable rates between families.
Safety first. Before even sitting on a bike, make sure they have a correctly fitting helmet, this will protect their head should they fall and is essential.
Less essential are knee and elbow pads, but as tumbles are inevitable in the learning stages, they’re probably a good idea. In fact, wearing jeans or joggers and a long sleeved T-shirt will give their legs and arms a bit of protection.
Find your location
Ideally, you’ll want a clear long stretch of wide path, or track. A quiet prom near the beach, a dedicated cycle track or a park are good settings.
Avoid roads where there are cars parked, as you don’t want your wobbling youngster to fall into someone’s car. If you have access to a car park for work that’s empty at weekends and your access is approved, this can also make a great space.
Learning on concrete can be easier than grass, but you’ll need to be closer to stop them falling and hurting themselves.
You have the gear, you have the space, now it’s time to get them pedalling. Some people recommend starting at the top of a gentle slope as the momentum will help them to keep going. However, it’s safer to hold the back of the bike saddle and encourage them to focus on pedalling. If they’re focused on an end point it helps too.
Keep hold of them while they start to pedal and get a feel for their balance. Do short distances at first and each time aim a little further. Then, once they’ve got their balance, let go for a little bit. You’ll have to stay near in case they wobble, but gradually they’ll get their confidence and won’t even realise you’re not holding them.
The hardest part is actually getting started. To help this, make sure the bike is at the right height – their toes should be able to touch the ground safely. Hold the back of the bike again and get them to spin the pedals round to the top of their strongest leg, usually right if right-handed.
Encourage them to push off and keep reminding them to pedal. You’ll find you say this word around a hundred times, but they’re doing so much at once it can be easy for them to forget to keep pedalling!
Just remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and keep at it, ideally, a little bit every day. If you leave it too long in between goes they can become worried or scared, so keep at it every day for a week and they’ll soon be flying.