How to teach your child to ride a bike in 45 minutes
Does your child not yet know how to ride a bike? Find out how you can teach them in just 45 minutes.
In 2018, a YouGov study found that a fifth of UK children were unable to ride a bike. This statistic increased in urban areas. Almost a quarter of children in London, for example, had never been taught to ride a bike.
This statistic, which represents a sharp decline in the use of bikes in younger age groups, is worrying but not altogether surprising. Many parents, particularly those living in cities, cited busier traffic and limited access to a bike as contributing factors. Others lacked the time to teach their children to cycle.
There are many benefits toy cycling. Riding a bike regularly improves balance, motor skills, muscular strength and coordination. Studies also indicate that bike riding is beneficial for mental health. Aerobic exercise, such as cycling, releases endorphins, boosting happiness and reducing anxiety inducing hormones such as cortisol. Riding a bike can also improve your sleep.
British single speed bike brand Quella are passionate about helping kids learn how to cycle, and they have put together their top tricks and techniques in this article.
Can you teach a child to ride a bike in only 45 minutes?
Patience is crucial when teaching children to cycle. Some children, particularly with a good grasp of motor skills, will be able to learn how to ride a bike very quickly. It is recommend to wait until your child has developed the coordination to begin the teaching process. This normally happens around age four to six.
Some children may find cycling more difficult than others. Diagnosed and undiagnosed developmental disorders, such as dyspraxia, may make the learning process slightly longer. Dyspraxia, which is a developmental coordination disorder, affects fine and gross motor skills, coordination and motor planning.
Children with dyspraxia may struggle to balance on a bike or pedalling. Teaching should be tailored to the individual child, as opposed to taking a “one size fits all” approach. If your child is struggling to balance, try removing the pedals and allowing them to push the bike along with their feet. Encourage them to lift their feet off the ground for short periods. Stabilisers may be needed.
According to Cycling Weekly, it takes a child around 45 minutes to learn to ride a bike. But you don’t need to teach them in one go. You can break lessons into five to 10-minute periods to keep their minds’ focused. Finish each lesson on a high so they can feel good about their progress and look forward to getting back on their bike again.
Choosing the right location is crucial
Choosing a suitable location to teach your child to cycle can be difficult, particularly in urban areas. Try to find a quiet park or garden. Pavements may be suitable in areas with very little traffic.
A soft surface, such as grass, is great for softening early falls but may be difficult to ride on, as children may be unable to pedal and lose grip. Tarmac is preferable as it aids balance. We also recommend starting on a slight downhill slope, as this makes moving easier. Make sure the slope isn’t too steep, as this may result in loss of control
If you don’t have access to a car, try choosing a location easy to reach by public transport. In London, folding bicycles can be taken on the tube network free of charge at any time. Non-folding bicycles can be taken free of charge on some sections of the network outside of peak times. Folding bikes can also be taken on Manchester’s Metrolink system, which can be used to reach grassy spaces such as Heaton Park.
Strip back to the essentials
Before beginning to teach your child to ride a bike, remove the pedals and lower the seat. This allows children to push themselves along using their feet. This is a great way to improve balance.
Familiarise your child with brakes and handlebars, and encourage them to lift their feet from the ground at regular intervals. This prevents falls and builds confidence. When your child is comfortable, reattach one pedal at a time. Make sure that your child is looking up while riding rather than fixing their gaze on the ground.
When both pedals are reattached, ask your child to pedal and gently squeeze the brakes to ensure control over the bicycle. Walk forwards while lightly holding onto your child. Do this as often as needed until your child is confident. Slowly reduce your grip, eventually letting go.
Encouragement is key
Encouragement and praise are crucial when teaching your child how to cycle. Practice regularly and often, but only for short periods of time. Realise that learning to ride a bike can take time, particularly for children who have underdeveloped coordination. Avoid comparing children to their peers. A balance bike may be a better starting point, particularly for younger children.
Make use of cycle schemes
Finding time to teach your child to cycle may be difficult. In February 2020, the government announced that every child in England would be offered cycling lessons in a significant expansion of the Bikeability training programme.
The scheme, which aims to provide children with practical road riding skills, caters to children of all experience levels. Tuition, which is provided by qualified, expert instructors is available all year round at schools across the country.
There are three levels to Bikeability. Level one takes place away from the road, usually on a school playground. It is best for beginners. Levels two is slightly more advanced, with tuition taking place on quiet roads. This is a great way to build confidence.
Level three is best suited to proficient cyclists and aids the development of advanced cycling skills. This course incorporates busier and more complex roads. Visit the Bikeability website to find out whether training is available in your area.
Photo by Davyn Ben