Learning To Ride A Bike: The #1 How To Guide For Kids and Adults

Riding a bike is good both for the body and for the mind. Nothing compares to the sensation of liberty and satisfaction given by cycling, the sport being also environmentally-friendly and cheap. There are zero carbon dioxide emissions, zero fuel consumption and zero road taxes to pay. Cycling can successfully replace going to the gym and it will even save you time in traffic. But to take advantage of all these benefits you first have to learn to ride a bike.

On the other hand, you might be a parent who is wondering how to teach a child to ride a bike.

It doesn’t matter in which of the two categories you fall, this article is written for you. The first part will focus on teaching kids to ride a bike, while the second part is dedicated to learning to ride a bike as an adult.

Teaching A Child To Ride A Bike

When it comes to teaching a child to ride a bike, most parents remember how they learned to ride a bike when they were kids. The first thing that comes to mind is a rusty tricycle or a bicycle with training wheels. Writing this words, I remember the emotion felt when I learned how to ride a bike as a kid. Things were different back then, and learning to ride a bike was an awfully long process.

But things have changed over the years. Modern parents can use many new tools when it comes to teaching their children how to ride a bike. Nevertheless, there are also many parents who still believe that the best way is to give the child a bike with training wheels.

For this reason, I decided to write a guide on how to teach a child to ride a bike with training wheels and how to teach a child to ride a bike without training wheels. But before discussing the methods, let’s see how to choose the right bike for a child.

How To Choose The Right Bike For Your Child

On the market, there are hundreds of bikes for children. With so many models, dimensions and accessories to choose from choosing the right one for your child might be confusing. Beginning with the aesthetics, we can distinguish between bikes for girls and bikes for boys, bikes with designs inspired by cartoon characters or in different colors and patterns.

However, leaving the aesthetic aspect apart, there are many other important aspects to consider before deciding which bike to buy.

The first and probably the most important thing to determine is the size of the bike. To determine the right size you don’t have to consider the age of the child, but his height. Ideally, you should choose a bike with an adjustable saddle and handlebar, especially for the young children. Keep in mind that children grow fast, so if you don’t want to fully replace the bike every few months, this aspect is essential.

You should know that the bicycle manufacturers use indicative tables that rapport the height of the child to the dimension of the wheels. For this reason, it is quite easy to choose the right size of the bike for your child. Here are the most common child bike sizes:

Child Height Wheel Size
2’11’’ – 3’7’’12’’
3’7’’- 4’0"16’’
4’0" – 4’5’’20’’

I emphasize once again the importance of choosing a bike with an adjustable saddle and handlebar. The child should be able to touch the ground with the feet in order to maintain the balance and to hold the handlebar while maintaining a correct body posture. While pedaling, the position of the child should be natural and he should be able to cycle without too much effort.

When it comes to the accessories, there is a wide choice and deciding which accessories are truly useful is not always easy. Here are a few accessories you might want to consider.

  • Training wheels: even if nowadays a child can be thought to ride a bike without training wheels, some parents might just feel that they are useful. So, if you believe that your child really needs them, you should choose a bike that allows you to easily attach them.
  • Mudguards: you should choose a model with both front and rear mudguards. The reason is simple: one of the favorite activities of children is that of passing with the bike through puddles. Be honest, you actually enjoy it too.
  • Lights or reflectors: essential accessories if the child likes to cycle in the evenings.
  • Storage basket: this is not an essential accessory, but it is extremely useful. Kids can use it to carry the backpack, toys or other objects they like to carry around.
  • Water bottle: an extremely useful object, as the children usually drink more while performing physical activities.
  • Protective helmet: I believe it is useless to say how important this accessory is. Pay attention to choosing a helmet that is approved.

Lastly, since we talk about bicycles for children, it is also important to choose a bike your child will like. There are many models to choose from, so you can decide between choosing one decorated with his favorite characters or simply a beautifully colored one.

Now, let’s see how to teach a child to ride a bike.

Learning To Ride A Bike With Training Wheels

Girl On Bike With Training Wheels

Learning to ride a bike with training wheels is one of the oldest training methods. Many experts discourage the use of training wheels, claiming that they only slow down the learning process, but you might find that your child will feel safer when using the training wheels, especially if he or she used a tricycle before passing on to a two-wheeler.

You will need:

  • A suitable child bike
  • Training wheels
  • Adequate equipment for the child: helmet, knee and elbow protection pads.
  • Time

Procedure:

  •  Teaching a child to ride a bike begins before the child will actually get on a bike, with appropriate psychological training. You will have to encourage the child to try cycling by showing him how much fun he can have on a bike. To do this, you should show your child how you ride your bike and take him on the bike with you each time you can. You should pay attention to wear a helmet each time your child sees you riding and have him wear a helmet too when you take him on the bike.
  • Once your kid gets curious enough, it is time to buy a suitable bike, a pair of training wheels and to choose an appropriate spot. This can be a quiet street, a park or your backyard. However, make sure that the terrain is fairly flat.
  • Attach the training wheels to the bicycle, following the instructions that come with the product.
  • Equip the child with the safety gear even if you don’t feel that is needed. This step is essential as it will teach your child the importance of using safety equipment.
  • Help the child mount on the bike in the correct way and show them how to seat on the saddle. Pay attention to adjust the height of the saddle in a way that allows the child to touch the ground with the feet while seated.
  • Go behind the bike and place your hand under the saddle. Encourage the child to pedal assuring him that you will maintain the balance. Once the child starts pedaling let go of the saddle and stay close to the bike until the child gets some confidence and starts enjoying the ride.
  • Let the child ride the bike on his own for several days before removing the training wheels.
  • After removing the training wheels, hold the bike upright and invite the child to seat in the saddle. While firmly holding the bike, encourage your child to put the feet on the pedals and start pedaling.
  • As the child starts pedaling, slowly let go the front of the bike and push it from behind the saddle. This will help to increase the speed so the bike can maintain its position without support. Gently let go of the saddle. Don’t forget to tell your child that you are going to let go.
  • Walk alongside the bike so your child can see that you are still there. Encourage the child to keep pedaling.
  • When the child falls pick him up trying to minimize the incident. Check if everything is fine and encourage him to get on the bike again.

One of the most frequent questions when using this learning method is when is the right moment to remove the training wheels.

Well, there is no right moment to do it. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t force the child to ride the bike without training wheels. You should build up his confidence first and encourage him to give up to the training wheels on his own.

If your child’s friends are also learning to ride a bike in the same period it is more likely that he will decide to ride without the training wheels on his own as he will see his friends renouncing at this accessory.

Learning To Ride A Bike Without Training Wheels

Bike Riding Without Training Wheels

To teach a child to ride a bike without the help of the training wheels it is crucial to first teach the child how to maintain balance and make him familiar with the two-wheelers. This training should begin long before buying the kid an actual bike and it can be done with another two-wheeled device called a balance bike.

Balance bikes are actually regular bikes that miss the pedals and that are essential in the bike riding learning process.

Your kid can start riding a balance bike from a really young age and this device will teach him how to steer and maintain balance on two wheels.

When buying a balance bike you should pay attention to choose a lightweight model, ideally with an adjustable saddle and with a handbrake and footrest. Both the handbrake and the footrest are optional, but many kids enjoy them.

Once the kid learned how to maintain the balance on two wheels, you can start the actual bike riding training.

You will need:

  • A suitable child bike.
  • Adequate equipment for the child: helmet, knee and elbow protection pads.
  • Time

Procedure:

  • The actual bike riding learning process will begin after your child has enough confidence on a balance bike and is able to scoot around with his feet up without problems.
  • The first thing to do is to teach your child to pedal. To do this, have your child seat on the saddle with one foot on the ground and with the other foot on a raised pedal. Tell your child to press down the pedal while maintaining the balance in the same way as he would have on the balance bike.
  • Hold the bike by the saddle but don’t maintain the balance. Let the child get used to pedaling in his own rhythm. Also, instruct the kid to put his feet on the ground if he is losing balance, then start all over again.
  • Once the child learns how to maintain the balance while pedaling, teach him how to steer and turn the bike by riding in a circle.
  • If the balance bike didn’t have any handbrakes, it is now time to teach the child to use them. Let your child practice braking until he gets used to it.
  • Once your child becomes confident in using the bike, go with him on short trips to the nearby parks. Don’t forget to use your safety gear to give a good example to the kid.

Tips And Tricks

To make the whole learning process a positive experience, here are a few tips to follow.

  • Don’t force the child to learn: if you want your kid to learn how to ride a bike, remember that he or she must have a higher interest in the activity than you do. You might love cycling, but this doesn’t mean that your kid wants to learn to ride a bike too. To educate your child towards bike riding you should emphasize how fun it can be and let the kid be the one that asks you to teach him how to do it.
  • Teach the child how to maintain balance on grass: chances are your kid will fall for several times when learning how to master the balance. Teaching him how to do it on grass will be less traumatic.
  • Skip the training wheels: it is better to teach your child how to ride a bike without training wheels as he will learn how to maintain balance faster. If you don’t want to invest in a balance bike, you can remove the pedals of his bike to teach him how to maintain balance before moving on to the next steps.
  • Remove the training wheels instead of having them “loose”: if you prefer to use training wheels for the first lessons, remove them when you believe they are no longer needed. If you “loose” the training wheels your kid will not learn how to maintain balance properly and will have difficulties to ride on a two-wheeler.
  • Teach the kid how to use the brake: actually, you should teach the kid how to use the brake before teaching him how to ride the bike. Explain how the braking system works and how it should be used.
  • Encourage the child: if he falls, help him get up and encourage him to get on the bike again. Tell him that he also fell when he learned how to walk but he got up and tried again. Don’t let fear take the place of curiosity and fun.

What Is The Right Age For Learning To Ride A Bike?

Many parents wonder what is the right age for teaching their kids to ride a bike. While there is no precise rule, you should know that the ideal age is about three-four years old. At this age, most kids are able to learn how to pedal in the right way and how to master balance without too many risks.

What is important, however, is to choose a bike that is suitable for the height of the child and to have him use safety gear each time he gets on a bike.

Learning To Ride A Bike For Adults

Until now we have discussed learning to ride a bike as a child, but what if you are an adult that wants to learn how to ride a bike for health or leisure reasons? You might think that it is impossible to learn how to ride a bike at an advanced age, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

So, let’s see how to learn to ride a bike if you are an adult.

How To Choose The Right Bike

Just as for the children, choosing the right bike is essential if you want to have a positive learning experience. Either you buy or rent, here are a few things to consider:

  • The size of the bike: you should be able to mount on the bike without effort but the bike shouldn’t be too low either. The best thing to do is to try and see if the height of the frame fits your own height.
  • Weight: heavier bikes maintain a better balance but the lightweight ones are easier to handle. Depending on your personal skills, you should choose the one that better fits you.
  • Adjustable saddle and handlebar: this will help you adjust the height of the saddle and your position during the various learning stages.

My advice is to rent the bike during the first attempts and to buy your own when you are sure that cycling is a sport you want to practice on a regular basis.

How To Ride A Bike?

Once you found the right bike, it is time to start learning. The first thing to do is to put on suitable safety equipment that includes an approved helmet, knee and elbow protection pads and comfortable clothing and shoes.

Once you are adequately equipped, it’s time to learn how to ride a bike.

You will need:

  • A bike with low saddle and wheels: you should be able to easily put your feet on the ground while seating.
  • A proper training space. This could be a yard or a quiet park.
  • A friend to support and encourage you.
  • Patience. A lot of patience.

Procedure:

Learning to ride the bike as an adult is similar to teaching a child to ride a bike without using the training wheels. However, you will probably feel more embarrassed and you will get demoralized easier. For this reason, it is essential that you learn how to ride the bike in the presence of a good friend that will have the mission to encourage and keep you motivated.

  • The first thing to do is to get used to the bike. For this reason, the first lesson is to get on and off the bike without actually moving it, test the pedals with your feet without getting on the bike and controlling the steering. This will build up your confidence.
  • The second lesson is dedicated to learning how to maintain the balance. To do this, adjust the saddle to its lower position. If possible, remove the pedals of the bike. Now, just as a toddler on his balance bike, move the bike by walking while you are seated on the saddle. Try to achieve a speed high enough that will allow you to raise your feet and try to maintain the balance of the bike. If you feel like falling, simply put your feet back on the ground and start again.
  • Once you gained enough experience in maintaining the balance, go to the next step: steering and turning. While using the bike as a balance bike, try to turn the front wheel to change direction. To get used to changing the direction, you could walk your bike in a circle or draw “eights” on the ground.
  • Once you have enough confidence, it is time to get your feet up and on the pedals. The first thing to do is to attach the pedals to the bike if you removed them. With the saddle in the same position walk the bike to achieve enough speed that will let you maintain the balance while you place your feet on the pedals. Once your feet are on the pedals try and pedal to continue riding. If you lose balance, simply put your feet on the ground to avoid falling and then start all over again.
  • After you learn the pedaling technique, it is time to work on position. In fact, you will not be able to cycle with a low saddle for the rest of your life. Therefore, it is time to adjust the height of the saddle to match your own height. The right height is achieved when you will be able to sit on the saddle and put your feet on the ground with the legs fully stretched.
  • You will notice that maintaining balance and pedaling in this position is a whole different story, therefore you should learn again how to maintain balance without putting your feet on the ground. The best thing to do this is to ask a friend to help you maintain the balance of the bike until you gain enough speed to maintain the balance on your own.
  • Once you figured out how to maintain the balance in this position, it is time to leave your safety zone and try new paths. Ideally, you should look for a place that goes slightly downhill, as this will help you gain enough speed to maintain the balance. If you can do this on a grassy hill slope it would be even better, as you will not suffer major injuries if you fall.
  • When you are ready to start riding, put one foot on a pedal and with the other foot push yourself ahead. In this phase, confidence is the key. Remember that you already know how to pedal and how to maintain balance, so keep your moral up. With all the confidence you have, put the other foot on the pedal as well and start pedaling. If you feel like falling, just put your feet on the ground. Pay attention to maintaining a low speed or you could get injured.
  • After you are with both your feet on the pedals, look forward and continue pedaling while riding in a straight line.
  • The most important part: if you fall don’t lose courage. Get yourself together and hop on that bike again. Ask your friend to encourage your progress and if you notice people throwing weird looks at you just ignore them.
  • After a few weeks of practice in parks and roads with little traffic, you can start using the bike on a daily basis, for leisure or commuting.

Riding In Traffic Tips And Tricks

Once you have learned how to ride a bike, chances are you will ride it in traffic too. As a beginner, riding a bike in traffic might seem terrifying. Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Pedal inside the lane: many beginners believe that they should stay as close as possible to the sidewalks, especially when using lanes that are shared with buses or cars. However, keep in mind that you should leave a space of at least one foot between the bike and the sidewalk. You will be able to use this space if you need to avoid vehicles that pass by you.
  • Ride with a friend: it is advisable that the first times you ride your bike in traffic you go with a friend. This will build up your confidence and you will be less likely to commit errors.
  • Maintain a constant speed: this doesn’t mean that you should ride at a speed you’re not comfortable with, but maintaining a constant speed will make it less likely for you to lose balance.
  • Avoid rush hours: at least in the first weeks, try to avoid riding in traffic during rush hours. If you’re not confident enough, you might lose control and end up in a horrible accident.
  • Use alternative routes: before riding into the traffic, study the routes and see which streets and roads are preferred by the other traffic participants. Then choose a route that is quieter.
  • Wear proper equipment: when riding in traffic for the first time, pay attention to use proper reflecting equipment that will make you visible on the roads. A helmet will not do wonders if a car driver can’t see you.
  • Don’t become obsessed with the idea of danger: riding in traffic can be dangerous, especially if you’re not an expert and tend to lose control. However, keep in mind that the other traffic participants will probably not drive over you if you make yourself noticed. And if you want to build your confidence before riding your bike for commuting purposes, ride first on crowded bike lanes or paths, learn how to properly avoid obstacles and how to maintain your calm in unfriendly conditions.

Following these tips, you should be able to safely ride your bike in traffic.

Conclusion

As you can see, whether you want to teach your child to ride a bike or you just decided that you want to start cycling, learning to ride a bike is not a complicated process. All you need is determination and proper encouragement. Following the methods described above, you will probably be able to hit the road in no time.

Did you learn to ride a bike as a kid or after you grew up? Do you have any tips for those who are struggling with maintaining balance or teaching a scared child to properly ride a bike? What difficulties did you face when you learned to ride the bike? Share your thoughts and opinions with us by leaving a comment below.

Do you have a friend that wants to learn how to ride a bike? Do you know a mommy or daddy who wants to learn the kid how to ride the bike but has no idea how to get started? Share this article with them too.

  • December 16, 2016
  • Blog
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