How to Teach an Older Child to Ride a Bike
Learning how to ride a bike is one of the most important moments for a parent and child. Riding a bike is a lot of fun and great exercise for children. There are better, faster and safer ways to teach your kid how to ride a bike with confidence. Every child learns differently so we are here to share our favorite techniques. The goal with all of them is to teach your child how to balance, steer, brake and pedal with courage.
Gauge if the child is ready
Most children will be ready to learn between three and a half and four and a half years old. If they are not ready, it’s usually pretty obvious right away and they won’t get the hang of moving the pedals in circles fast.
If children see other kids riding, they’ll get some type of idea about turning the pedals. Keep in mind, children are hardwired to learn to walk and run, but not to cycle.
Choose a suitable area
It’s essential to choose a suitable area for their first lesson. It can be tempting to choose soft grass as it’ll give a softer landing, but this is really harder to pedal on.
What you actually need is a smooth and fairly flat tarmac surface that’ll let the child get some rolling momentum, ideally with a lot of space so the child can roam around, and obviously away from traffic.
Choosing and Fitting a Bike Helmet
The bike helmet should sit level over the middle of the forehead, no more than 1″ over the eyebrows. If the helmet sits high on the forehead or moves more than 1″ when you put the helmet from side to side or front to back, you have to adjust the fit or you may need to buy an alternate size.
Preparing the Bike
Our method for teaching a child to ride a bike emphasizes balance first and adds pedaling later. Balance bikes are built for this method, but it’s easy to modify a standard child’s bike also.
Remove the training wheels: Training wheels help children grow accustomed to sitting on a bike and using their legs to pedal, but they won’t help them learn to balance.
Remove the pedals and lower the seat: This allows children to sit upright with their legs straight and their feet flat on the ground. The goal is to help them feel more comfortable and steady as they start learning balance.
Properly inflate the bike tires: The bike will move more easily and your child will have an easier time coasting when bike tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Look for the suggested tire pressure printed on tire sidewalls.
Learning to Coast without Pedals
- Have your child scoot around on the bicycle until they are comfortable with basic balance while moving around with their feet on the ground.
- Next, have them take a few steps to get moving at that point lift their feet off of the ground to coast. You can show them on your own bike by getting the bike moving and extending your own legs out straight to the sides for balance.
- Make sure to keep this fun and make a game of seeing how long they can coast without putting their feet down.
Learn to Turn while Coasting
- Now it’s time to include turning while coasting. You will begin them out with big wide turns.
- Place four flat objects or comes out in a big square around twenty feet from each other.
- Have your child coast towards the circle and make a large wide circle around the four cones. At that point have them try to go around the other direction
- Make a game of it and challenge them to get further and further around without having to touch their feet to the ground.
- Next, set up the cones around 10 feet apart in a straight line. Have your child try to make it from one side to the next while weaving in and out a couple of times.
Learning How to Pedal
- Reinstall the bicycle pedals, but keep the seat in a lowered position.
- Hold your child under their armpits to keep their balance and have them practice bringing their feet forward and backward starting from the ground to the pedals.
- Setup a pedal in the 1 to 3 o’clock point.
- Hold the bicycle seat or your child’s armpits as you have them place one foot on the ground and the other on the pedal. They push down and start pedaling.
- Make games of steering among cones and doing figure 8’s.
Learning How to Brake
- Have your child coast gradually and brake until they can do so without losing any control.
- Place the cone 20 feet in front of your child. Have them coast towards it and brake before hitting it. Repeat until they can stop inches away from the cone easily.
As your child becomes comfortable with braking, you can raise the saddle back to a standing position. To measure the correct height, hold the bike steady and have your child sit on the saddle. At the bottom of the pedal stroke, there should be just a slight curve (around 80–90% straight) in the knee.
Bringing it All Together
- Raise the seat so that when your child is sitting, their leg is slightly bent when the pedal is at the ground(6 o’clock position).
- Get on your own bike and be sure to wear your helmet to set a good example.
- Have them gradually follow you while you make slow and easy turns. Reinforce fun and success.