How to Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike: Easy Steps to Follow
Teaching your child how to ride a bike can be stressful and frustrating if you don’t familiarize yourself with the most effective process.
Cycling is an activity invented by humans, so it doesn’t come naturally to kids. In addition, all children develop and learn at different speeds, so don’t force the issue if you feel like they aren’t grasping it right away.
By knowing how to teach a kid to ride a bike, you will make the process as fast as possible, boost your child’s confidence, and avoid unnecessary incidents.
This article will help you prepare for teaching, provide a step-by-step guide on how to teach riding a bike, and answer some common questions parents ask.
At what age do kids learn to ride a bike?
Kids can learn how to ride a bike at any age, but the younger they start, the easier it is for them. Once a child passes roughly five or six years old, they will be more likely to be cautious and over-think things, making the learning progress longer and more stressful.
This caution is due mainly to having more awareness of danger and the fact that they’re farther from the ground. That’s why learning how to ride a bike as an adult is a lot harder, but still not impossible.
Choosing a Bike, the Size, and Gear
Learning to ride a bike is much easier if you know how to choose the right kids’ bike and get the appropriate bike size. Most kids these days learn to ride a bike by starting on a balance bike and progressing to a pedal bike. Some also use training wheels. But what is the best way to learn?
Balance Bike, Training Wheels, or Both?
By using a balance bicycle, kids can learn how to ride a bike without ever needing training wheels. The ideal way for children to learn how to ride a bike is to use a balance bike and progress directly to a regular pedal bicycle.
Learning to ride with training wheels reinforces the wrong motor patterns, similar to riding a tricycle. For example, riding a standard bike requires you to lean the bike to change direction, and with training wheels, the bike cannot lean; it’s held in an upright position.
Instead of buying a balance bike, you could take the pedals off a 16″ pedal bike, lower the saddle so that your kid’s feet are flat on the ground while sitting, and allow them to practice balancing. However, starting with a 12″ balance bike at a younger age is ideal.
How to Take Pedals off a Bike
Bicycle pedal threads are opposing, meaning it can be confusing to remove them initially.
The drivetrain side pedal follows the standard: turn left to loosen, turn right to tighten; the non-drivetrain side turns left to tighten, right to loosen. If you’re standing over the bike looking forward, the trick to remember is that on both sides, the bolt turns forward to tighten and back to loosen, in the same direction the wheels turn to go forward or backward.
Remove the pedals by taking a 15mm wrench and turning the bolts backward. When reinstalling the pedals, apply a thin layer of workshop grease to the thread to prevent sticking.
How to Pick the Right Size Bike?
Choosing the correct kids’ bike size is an essential step in how to teach a child to ride a bike. For detailed instructions, we’ve put together a complete guide to help you choose the perfect size as your kid grows.
Firstly, you’ll want to have an up-to-date measurement of height and inseam length. With these measurements, you can reference manufacturers’ sizing guidelines. These vary slightly between brands but are broadly similar.
Use the table below for a rough guide, but double-check the brand you’re looking at before purchasing. If the minimum seat height is provided, ensure it isn’t higher than your kid’s inseam length.
Kids Bike Size Chart
|Age||Height (Inch)||Height (cm)||Leg Inseam (Inch)||Leg Inseam (cm)||Bike Tire Size|
|2||2'9" - 3'1"||85-90cm||12" - 14"||85 - 90cm||10"|
|3-4||3'1" - 3'3"||90-100cm||14"-17"||35-42cm||12"|
|4-5||3'3" - 3'7"||100-110cm||16"-20"||40-50cm||14"|
|5-6||3'7" - 3-8"||110-115cm||18"-22"||45-50cm||16"|
|6-8||3'8" - 4'0"||115-120cm||20"-24"||50-60cm||18"|
|7-9||4'0" - 4'5"||120-135cm||22"-25"||55-63cm||20"|
|9-11||4'5" - 4'9"||135-145cm||24"-28"||60-72cm||24"|
What Gear Do They Need?
Very few items are required to learn how to ride, just protective equipment to avoid injury from spills early on.
- A correctly fit and adjusted kids helmet. Ensure it covers the forehead and is comfortable but doesn’t move around easily.
- Kids’ cycling gloves to stop grazes if they fall
- Elbow and knee pads are another protective option but aren’t necessary
How to Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike: A Step-by-Step Guide
Let’s assume you have a bicycle that fits your child and the appropriate safety equipment for learning; then, you can start teaching.
Choose a Space and Set Up the Bike
Choose a suitable place to teach, a paved open space free from traffic, quiet, and flat. Avoid teaching on grass, as it is more difficult to pedal and balance when riding on grass.
Ensure that you’ve adjusted the saddle to the correct saddle height, so your child can place the ball of each foot on the ground while sitting on it. In addition, pump the tires and adjust the brake levers, if necessary (so they’re easy to pull). Once your child is set up and ready to ride, you can begin the lesson.
If your child is transitioning directly from a balance bike, this will be the first time they have started to pedal in steady, forward motion, which is a tricky thing to do while balancing unsupported. Kids transitioning from training wheels should have this motor pattern well ingrained and will find it easier to pedal but will find balancing more difficult.
During this process, stay by your child’s side, stabilizing them if they lose balance, catching them if they brake too hard, and encouraging them. A fall while learning can significantly impact confidence in the future.
Pedaling and Balancing
As mentioned, this process could be short if your child is progressing from a balance bike. However, children who started on training wheels will likely need to repeat this process multiple times over two or three days while their brain becomes accustomed to the motion. In addition, your child will learn while they sleep, so if they’re struggling, come back to it the next day.
- Have your kid sit on the bike with their tip-toes touching the ground.
- Move around behind and put the rear wheel between your feet, allowing them to sit on the bike with their feet on the pedals, looking up in the direction she will travel.
- Hold them by the torso or armpits initially. Doing this means you don’t interfere with the movement of their arms or their control of the handlebars.
- Have them start pedaling and briskly walk alongside with a loose grip close to the armpits, pushing slightly if necessary. Allow them to experience how the bike responds when their body leans and when the handlebars move.
- When they are moving freely, you can take your hands off and hover them on either side of the shoulders while walking/jogging behind, allowing them to ride completely unsupported.
- Repeat this process a few times, allowing them to get a few minutes of practice pedaling and balancing with you alongside them as a backup. Stay at their side, though, as they still don’t know how to stop.
Stopping and Starting
Once your child has learned to balance and is confidently pedaling, they’re ready to move on. The stopping and starting step is separate as it’s too much information to integrate into the first step outlined above.
- Have your child sit on the bike and rotate the pedal of their dominant leg just above horizontal (two o’clock), placing one foot on the pedal and keeping the other tip-toe on the ground.
- Once set, tell them to look up and ahead and push hard with the foot on the pedal and push off the ground with the other foot. This movement is complex at first and will take a few repetitions to get right.
- Like the exercise above, you can start by giving a slight push for assistance in starting, pushing from the armpit area and allowing them to get going but releasing quickly.
- Help them stop when they are ready, and repeat this exercise until they don’t require the push anymore.
- Next, have them dismount and explain how the brakes work (ideally using a hand brake and not a coaster brake).
- Perform a walking exercise where they walk alongside the bike and repeatedly pull to the brakes to learn how much force is required to brake progressively, not suddenly. Repeat this process until they can bring the bike to a stop in a controlled fashion while walking alongside.
- Keep repeating the starting and stopping while trailing them until you can see proficiency and confidence.
If your child is having a lot of difficulty with coordination and balance, it may be that they aren’t ready to move on from their balance bike yet. The typical age that kids become ready is between three and five years old, but some kids may take longer or be ready earlier. The most important thing is not to force your child if they’re not ready.
Many kids will start to pedal backward periodically, throwing off their momentum and causing a loss of balance. To help feel the difference, stop pushing if they pedal backward, allowing them to feel themselves slow down and realize they need to start pedaling again. If this doesn’t work after a few minutes, the child may not be ready to start learning and may need more time on the balance bike.