Image: Spring Board Seven
This is a really simple point so it only needs to be a short post…in fact it could almost be done in one sentence;
Do not buy your kids stabilisers, ever!
…OK, so maybe this needs another sentence just to add some meat to the bones;
Buy them a balance bike first!
That really does sum it up. If you want your child to be able to ride a bike then it really is pretty simple. However, there is one factor that must be considered before reading any further: Do they actually like bikes, or care about riding? If the answer is no then it will always be an uphill-struggle, but you can help by making them aware of cycling. Take them to friends’ houses where their kids ride and have fun on bikes, do the same with parks and other places. The odds are kids will see other kids doing it and want a piece of the action, well hopefully.
Assuming they are fairly keen to get on a bike and enjoy mucking about on baby ride-on trucks etc the best way to go is straight to a balance bike, These things have been around for a while now but for many parents they don’t seem to be on the radar. They just buy a “proper” bike and stick stabilisers on there which starts things off all wrong.
The hardest and most important part of cycling is balance, it is not pedalling! So why teach your kid to pedal first? It may seem logical to do the easy bit first but it actually makes no sense. From personal experience get a balance bike on their 2nd birthday and get them moving! Yes it takes a few hours of back breaking work supporting them but they will get it and in no time they will be flying down the pavement with their feet held up off the ground.
They understand hills, bumps, kerbs and how to turn a bike as well. In fact, they pretty much learn it all on a balance bike but with the safety of being able to put their feet down.
Proper Bike – No Stabilisers
The next step is to get them their first proper bike. The amazing thing you will see at this point is they can basically already ride. The work is now based around teaching them to pedal rather than push and this does mean holding them up while they pedal and it is once again a bit hard on the back but it doesn’t take long until they start to get it. By now you should realise just how terrible stabilisers are, they give them a totally unrealistic safety net and they will literally lean on that for as long as you allow them. You then have the whole ordeal of taking them off and convincing the child they will not fall off as a result.
Keep At It
It does take a while but keep physically holding them up and start letting go without them noticing. Get them on the bike every day too. Maybe it’s the morning walk to the shops, or pre-school. Whatever it is get them on two wheels again and again. It really won’t be that long at all until they are riding properly with no tears about removing stabilisers.
The Recipe is Simple
- Balance Bike first
- Lots of support and encouragement along with exposure to other kids riding
- Proper small bike they can handle, not a giant thing they will grow into, and do not use stabilisers
- Keep supporting them and keep them riding every day
- Sit back and enjoy the smug sense of satisfaction that your child is riding a proper bike on their own while others still wobble and wheel spin about on stabilisers
Of course, nothing with kids is this simple all the time but it’s a template that worked for my daughter and I know it also worked for at least four other children of close friends, and they were all riding by 4 years old!