It's the perfect time of year to teach your children one of the most important lessons of their lives - how to ride a bike! Cycling acts as a form of transportation, a form of exercise, a way to unwind, and a way to feel free. Everyone learns at a different speed and can learn at any age, so there is no specific time by which your child should be moving to a new step in the process. We've put together a step-by-step description of the best way to teach your children how to ride, a method that can be used to teach kids of all ages! Some children can learn this way without having to add training wheels at all, and some people have reported children learning to ride by this method in just one day. No matter what, be sure to take it slow and make it fun, and your child will be riding like a pro in no time!
Safety first! Make sure you teach your children about safety right from the start! As soon as they are introduced to a bike, they should be introduced to a helmet, so they always associate the two.
As soon as your child is beginning to walk or even just stand up on their own, you can introduce him or her to balance bikes. These are small, toddler-size bikes without pedals that help children feel comfortable sitting, steering and balancing on two wheels. Children can sit on the bike seat and uses their legs to push off, pulling themselves along and eventually picking up their legs to coast on the bike. These bikes help ease the difficult learning process of balancing before using training wheels. Our employee Slav got his son Maks started on a balance bike at just 16 months old before he was even fully walking on his own. They showed him the bike first and had him explore the different parts of it: "We got him to think of it as a big toy!" He practiced sitting in the saddle and playing with the handlebars, and pretty soon he was comfortable enough to pull himself along with his feet. We carry the Hot Walk Balance Bike from Specialized in bright colors that kids love. If your child is too big for a balance bike when you start the process, simply remove the training wheels and pedals from his or her bike so it can be used as a big balance bike.
Once your child has mastered the balancing part of biking, it is time to learn about steering and braking on a big kid bike with training wheels! It is important for the child to learn the functions of the different mechanisms of the bike having to worry about tipping. The training wheels offer the necessary stability to begin safely practicing pedaling, braking, and steering. A child's first bike will generally have coaster brakes, also known as back brakes, which require pedaling backward to stop the bike. Kids' bikes are measured by the wheel size, not by the frame size, and it's best to go by the height of your child when figuring out what size bike to get. Kids' bike sizes range from 12" to 24". If your child is between 26 and 34 inches tall, a 12-inch bike will usually be the next step. Izzy and Maks both ride the Specialized Hot Rock with 16" wheels. We carry the Hot Rock in all sizes, and we also carry Cannondale bikes from the Trail, Race, and Street Series.
Taking off the Training Wheels
Once your child is comfortable maneuvering the big bike, it's time to take off those training wheels and relearn balance! When you first take off the training wheels, take the pedals off the crank arms as well, and lower the seat so that the bike becomes a big balance bike. The child can practice coasting again, with more confidence on their bigger bike. It's important for children to know that they can always put their feet down to catch themselves. Falling on pavement can be traumatic, so practicing in a smooth field will help cushion the blow. Next you will want to put the pedals back on, and have your child practice coasting with feet on the pedals. When that feels comfortable, he or she can start turning the pedals, and once the momentum of the slope runs out, encourage the child to keep pedaling. At that moment, your child will experience the joy of biking for the first time, and we have a feeling that he or she will never look back! As your child grows, you will need to start looking at larger bikes. The next step up from a 12" bike is 16", then 20" and 24". The larger bikes will have hand brakes and multiple gears for longer distances and bigger hills. Don't forget about all the fun accessories like baskets, bells, and handlebar streamers that allow children to ride with style!