Riding a bike may be as natural as, well, riding a bike, but knowing how to teach that skill to your kid isn’t exactly obvious.
The biggest challenge is trying to remember what it was like to learn to ride a bike yourself — after all, you’ve probably been riding for decades and seldom give thought to the actual mechanics of it. Here’s how to work through the vulnerability and fear kids often feel when learning to ride, and turn it into wide-grinning excitement:
1. Choose Your Location Wisely.
Most people don’t own a big private driveway. That means you’ll have to find another safe spot to get your kid doing their first test runs on their bike.
The first place to rule out is the street. Unless you live on a cul de sac and see almost no vehicular traffic, it’s not a good idea to add cars into the mix. You’ll be so focused on your kid’s progress that watching out for vehicles will be a distraction.
Instead, choose a flat, friendly surface you can have mostly to yourself: an empty parking lot, an outdoor public basketball court, a park, or a nice wide trail.
2. Forget the Training Wheels.
While training wheels will get your kid moving on their bike, they will basically have to re-learn how to ride once the wheels come off. It’s best to start the right way: on a balance bike.
No, you don’t have to return the pedal bike you just bought them. Simply remove the pedals with a skinny wrench, lower the seat until their feet can rest entirely on the ground, and have them practice pushing off the ground and gliding.
Once they’re able to balance for several seconds, throw the pedals back on and have them practice giving them a few cranks.
If your child is between 18 months and 4 years old, you can buy them a dedicated balance bike to get them comfortable with riding. Mike’s Bikes offers a Growth Spurt Guarantee, which means any kids’ bike you buy can be returned within 2 years of purchase for 50% credit toward a new one. Can’t beat that.
3. Make sure their bike fits.
Teaching a kid on a bike that’s too big or too small hurts their balance. It also makes biking seem like a whole lot less fun when your child is uncomfortable and unstable. Make sure you get a bike that fits them so they can feel at home on two wheels.
4. Resist the temptation to help them balance.
Remember that feeling of abandonment when your teacher, shouting rapturous encouragement as they ran alongside you holding your saddle, suddenly vaporized into thin air and left you careening to the asphalt? Yeah, don’t do that.
Running with your kid as you hold their bike causes it to wobble. It also doesn’t help them develop that muscle memory they need to be stable once you let go. Trust the process — let them figure it out themselves.
5. Let them progress at their own pace.
Repeat after me: I shall not force my biking agenda!
If you really want to get your kid to join you for road rides, mountain bike treks, or other bike-related bonding, the best way is to make the experience enjoyable. And nothing spoils fun like overdoing it, putting on too much pressure, or pressuring them to do something that scares them. Keep things light and recognize their accomplishments and when they’re done for the day.
Get it from Mike’s.
Whether you choose Specialized, PUBLIC, or Creme Cycles, when you buy from Mike’s, you know you’re getting a top-quality bike. And when they outgrow it, the value of that bike automatically goes toward the next one. So get your coaching voice ready and psych your kid up for a lifetime of cycling.
Not sure which bike to get for your child? Check out our KIDS' BIKE BUYING GUIDE for tips and pointers on which bike is best for your child.
Looking for accessories and apparel to elevate your child's riding experience? Read up on the best cycling accessories and apparel for kids HERE!
About Mike’s Bikes: Mike’s Bikes is a growing family of local bike shops, all with a singular purpose - to get as many people on bikes as possible. We locally own and operate twelve wildly successful stores in Northern California. In addition to our brick-and-mortar shops, mikesbikes.com is one of the top online bicycle retail sites in the country.