Updated: Nov 2, 2020
Every Dad wants to be a hero to his kid. I thought my dad could do literally anything, he is someone that can build stuff, play any sport, master any subject - he always gave good answers and advice to any question, except where babies come from. Of course, he taught me a lot of things and I remember when I learned to ride a bike, it’s one of life’s truly wonderful moments I can recall as a child. It’s like a right of passage, like when you turn 16 and you’re old enough to drive a car, what a moment that was too, but for now let’s talk about my experience teaching my son how to ride a bike.
My 7 year old is very confident about most things, he is usually very sure about the choices he makes, like choosing what clothes to wear, what to do for his birthday party and so on and we give him a fair amount of freedom to make those simple choices, it may be something small, but it helps to build confidence from a young age. Try and understand, my mum dressed me until I was about 12 years old, eeek! In fact my parents made most of my choices for a very long time, but let’s not dwell on that.
When I saw that my son was ready for lessons on his new bike, I took him to the local park to take his new wheels or a spin. Before we could begin, there were a few things to consider. Here’s a quick checklist of things you may find useful to know, if you are going to teach your child or relative to ride a bike.
Safety first! The last thing you want is to have any accidents, so you want to make sure your child has the appropriate protection, like a helmet and perhaps kneepads if they are a bit younger and maybe some gloves, because it looks cool.
Make sure to have a wide open space. You’re going to want plenty of space for manoeuvring. You don’t want to confine your child to a little car park or a crowded space that has lots of people, kids can sometimes become conscious that they are being watched or judged by others.
Check the saddle height. You want to make sure that when they are seated, that the ball of their feet is touching the ground. Their feet should not be flat on the ground, otherwise it will make pedalling a bit difficult.
Give them the control. It’s important they build confidence so let them steer the bike rather than you holding on to the steering wheel, I see many parents doing this, but you want them to take control instead while you are guiding them by firmly holding on to the back of the seat and helping them to steer by leaning the bike slightly in the direction you want them to go, this will help them to feel how the bike responds to what they are doing.
Let them Pedal. When they first start, it helps to give them a little push to get going, but it’s best to help them make the association between pedalling and forward movement of the bike so encourage them to pedal, the more effort they put into pedalling, the easier they’ll learn to find their balance.
Moment of Magic. Once you see they are able to balance while pedalling and have good spatial awareness, then let go of the hold and naturally allow them to finally ride the bike by themselves. This is a big moment when they realise that they are actually riding a bike and all excitement kicks in, which is amazing. Although, you still want to make sure you are close by as they may not have learned to properly use the brakes yet, that will come very quickly once they’ve found their balance.
Setting off and using the brakes. All that is left is to teach them how to set off on the bike and use the brakes by themselves. Start by getting the pedal into a 9 'O'clock position so that they can put their foot on it while leaning on the other foot resting on the floor. Then once he/she is comfortable, get them to start pedalling by giving a really good push to get some forward momentum, while looking ahead. They may need to try doing this a few times which is what I found before getting it right. Once your child is able to do this without any assistance and is confident then try getting them to do a start-stop a few times by using the brakes to bring the bike to a standstill, so they can get comfortable using the brakes to stop the bike. Again, this takes some practice.
From this moment on, it's happy riding! This is one of those proud moments as a parent that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something with your child so enjoy the experience and pat yourself on the back for doing a great job and for being a hero!