I want to ride my bicycle.

Teaching your child to ride their bike is right up there with the first time they walk etc. It’s a huge moment for any child learning to ride their bike. Also it is something that single parents express that is especially a proud moment for them as they have done it, often, alone. So we have some tips from Bikeability Wales so that you can tick this off your list of what a super hero parent you are.

BikeAbility Wales is a charity that provides cycling opportunities to people of all ages.

Getting a head start

Balance bikes or 2 wheel scooters are the best way to your child the best start to learning to balance and steer. Using stabilisers aren’t actually recommended as they don’t help your child to balance or ‘lean’ on their bike.

Ready steady go!

Make sure the bike is the right size for your child (more on this below), check that their clothes are appropriate and that their helmet fits correctly. Straps should be around the ears, and once done up there should be room for two fingers only under the chin. The helmet should be placed over the front of the child’s head, again, one or two fingers above their eye brows. Make sure that the dial at the back is done up tightly, this is the most important part. As additional things, cycling gloves are a good idea as children as children’s hands can get sore from holding on really tightly.

Keep a drink and snack close by, as this is thirsty and hungry business learning to ride a bike. It’s also a good idea to have lots of breaks.

Fitting the bike

Check that the seat is positioned so your child can get the balls of their feet on the ground. Don’t fix the seat too low so that their feet can be flat on the ground, as this makes pedalling more difficult, as their knees will come up to high. Test to see if they can reach the brakes, if not adjust them.

Here we go!

Firstly, find a flat area, preferably with a tarmac surface over grass area, and with plenty of space.

Support your child with a hand on their back, so that they have complete control of the bike. This will act as reassurance to your child and be prepared to get your jog on! If they begin to lose balance then grip hold of the back of their clothing. Try not to put your hands on the handle bars as it will take away the control and they may start to lean on you. Give them a push off and tell them to look straight ahead not down at the pedals.

Once they are pedalling and balancing forward without much help, let go, but be ready to grab their clothing at the centre of their back.

The important starting and stopping

Starting the bike themselves is one of the toughest things about riding a bike. Set the pedal to a 2 o’clock position, and get your child to place their foot on the pedal. Remind them to look up and push off with the other leg on the ground. Keep practising this.

Now stopping! The best way is to dismount the bike and teach this. Demonstrate that they have two brakes, front and back. Show them what happens when one or two brakes are pressed. Then show how pulling the brakes slowly together will make the bike stop. Get your child to walk with the bike to get used to using the brakes first. After a few go’s get them to to have a practice on the bike. Like starting the bike, this will take a bit of practice. Remind your child about putting down their feet at the end, and be prepared to catch them for this practice.

Keep calm

Children learn through fun, so give lots of encouragement, praise and stay calm. If you feel that you are getting bad tempered with your child, then call a break. The child might like to go back to their scooter or balance bike. Or they might need a little picnic. Say lots of positive statements like ‘you’re doing so well’ and acknowledge what a tricky thing it is for them to learn, but really grown up. If the child is refusing then it’s best to stop. Or set a time limit to give this a try. ‘How about we have another try for 5 minutes/ to the end of this path.’ Validate what they have done, ‘wow you were so great at starting off/ stopping/ trying/ going x amount of distance/ balancing.’

Your child will pick up if you are getting frustrated, but try and correct any negative language. ‘I can’t do this,’ with ‘I can’t do this yet, and this is really tricky and takes practice.’