A mum of two young boys, Michelle is currently in the process of teaching her younger son to ride a bike as he’s keen to catch up with his elder brother who has now been cycling for just over a year!
Q: I see lots of tots on balance bikes these days, where do they fit in with the learning process?
A: Without a doubt balance bikes are fun, little ones just love the freedom they bring as they dart around and their confidence grows. However they also have an important role in the learning process as they help to develop balance & co-ordination skills, whilst strengthening leg muscles at the same time. Balance bikes also introduce little ones to the sheer enjoyment that cycling brings.
The new Raleigh Dash Balance bike (above) is proving very popular in the run up to Christmas
Q: Do you take the balance bike route OR stabilisers route, or is there a place for both types of bikes?
A: I’d definitely say that it’s not an either/ or choice as both approaches present benefits at different stages in your child’s cycling journey.
Q: Why is it important to teach your child to ride a bike?
If we encourage an enjoyment of cycling at such a young age, then we’re playing an important part in teaching them to enjoy the outdoors and keep active, with all the associated health benefits that brings.
Q: At what age is best to teach a child to ride a bike?
A:It depends upon the child in question but as a general rule, it’s usually somewhere around 4, 4 ½ once they have sufficient co-ordination and strength.
Q:What sort of height does my child need to be to learn how to ride a ‘proper’ two wheeler?
A: It’s more a case of mastering balance and co-ordination skills. rather than reaching a certain height threshold. If they can put their feet flat on the floor whilst sitting on the saddle, this gives the child confidence that they will be able to stop themselves should they struggle to apply the brakes.
Q: How do you spot when it’s time to time to move on from a balance bike to a pavement bike?
A: There are several signs to look out for, such as if they have outgrown their balance bike or if they’re now moving so fast that their balance bike gets left behind, or if they’re starting to get a little restless and are expressing an interest in learning to ride a 'proper' bike.
Q: What sort of location would be best to teach my child to ride her bike?
A: Ideally we’d recommend a flat tarmac surface in a large open space that’s safe and hazard – free, although. a flat area of freshly cut grass would be Ok too.
Q: How do we actually get started on the two wheeler pavement bike? The balance bike was so easy but this stage seems more daunting.
A: Each child/parent is different and your child’s confidence will dictate how you progress.
We’d recommend that you try these techniques, first of all with stabilisers, so they can gain their confidence with their new pedals without having to worry about balance issues!
My friend’s son Noah is at this stage now on his new Raleigh ATOM pavement bike.raleigh.co.uk
Hold onto the child wherever feels natural as they sit on the saddle to get a feel for balancing/steering. Standing behind them, gently ‘move’ the child along, very gradually letting go of them as they begin to get a feel for balancing/steering. Do keep close at hand, just in case.
To teach your child to ride from a stationary position the pedal shouldn’t be flat, it should be in a position that’s just slightly higher than flat. Gently place the child’s foot on the pedal and tell them to push this foot in order to start the forward cycling motion. Then, encourage your child to lift their other foot onto the other pedal so they’re now in position to start pedalling.
Remember to keep hold of your child at this point until both they and you feel confident . At this point you can gradually release your hold, but stay close by until they’ve mastered the basics, so you’re there if they need you. It’s often worthwhile reminding them to look up in front of them, rather than down at their bike (like many new starters do) as this helps them get the hang of balancing, steering and pedalling all at once!
Q: How long does it take to teach a child to ride a bike and do you recommend a concentrated session or short bursts?
A: The learning period largely depends on the child’s confidence, co-ordination and balance. We tend to find this process happens a little quicker if a child has previously ridden a balance bike. The length of time that you spend depends on how receptive your child is and whether or not they are enjoying the experience. Don’t push them into it – just encourage them to keep practicing so they build their confidence. I’d suggest little and often is the best approach in short bursts of 20 min blocks. Always try to end on a positive note, so they are keen to go out again and build on their new -found confidence.
Q: How do I help my child to overcome their fear of falling off their bike?
A: By being confident in your role as parent/teacher and re-assuring them that you’re there to hold them and support them as necessary. And remember, kids love praise, so don’t forget to remind them of how well they are doing.
For further information on Balance Bikes & pavement bikes, call Raleigh on 01773 532 694 or visit www.raleigh.co.uk