New to Bounty?
According Bike Radar, anyone can teach a child to ride a bike in 30 minutes – all you need is a lot of encouragement. Most experts discourage the use of training wheels because they change the way a child learns and they are counter-productive to teaching kids how to balance.
Ruth Chiat from Sustrans, a charity focussed on the use of cycling, walking and public transport for every day journeys, says it can all be done with a few simple steps.
Here are Ruth’s four steps to teaching children the intuitive act of balancing while moving.
1. Learn to stop before you start
Start by standing the child beside the bike. Get them to hold the bar, walking along and practising pulling on both brakes. It’s an important foundation that helps the child feel that they are in control.
“They just need to get into the habit of using both brakes, and it’s important to really get that into their head,” says Ruth.
2. Drop the saddle and take away the pedals
Now it’s time for the child to get on the bike. Ruth says dropping the saddle and removing the pedals to make the bike handle like a scooter is an important second step. It helps build a greater feeling of control and means they worry less about wobbling.
It also gives them leverage to push off and gain their own momentum. Ruth advises that, as youngsters push along under their own steam, it’s important to encourage them to keep their feet off the ground for as long as possible:
“In most cases kids just realise that the bike will stay up when they’re moving because something – a feeling – just kind of clicks into place.”
3. Add one pedal at a time
Once the child has scooting sussed and can go a good distance without putting down a foot, Ruth recommends refitting a pedal on the youngster’s leading leg – usually the right – and continuing with the scooting. The pedal means the rider has a prompt of where to put their foot. It also means they can also scoot for longer distances as their confidence grows.
Ruth says: “It means they’ll be scooting a bit longer and they get used to where their feet need to be. Once you’ve got both pedals on they need to learn to set off independently.”
4. Ready for launch
With pedals back on the bike, it’s time to get pedalling. To start, Ruth recommends supporting a child by holding their back or shoulder and walking alongside them as they start pedalling. Sometimes the gravity offered by a slight downhill gradient can also help.
And voila, after a little practice, the beginner will be pedalling under their own steam. As they get the knack, Ruth says it’s important to keep asking the child to stop and start so they’re reminded to use their brakes. “Every time you ask them to stop, walk back a little bit so they think they’ve gone a little bit further than they have, just to encourage them,” Ruth explains. “Most importantly it’s just about being really positive.”