Cycling for the first time without stabilisers can be a very powerful memory for you, and for your child. It’s a milestone, a rite of passage and marks an achievement that will help build your child’s confidence and natural sense of adventure. And teaching your child to ride a bike is a wonderful memory-making moment for you too. So, grab that camera and get ready to see a beaming smile (and hopefully not a grazed knee!)
Here’s a guide to helping your child learn to ride a bike without stabilisers from the charity Sustrans that’s making it easier for people to walk and cycle.
The ultimate top tips to riding a bike without stabilisers
Get ready by lowering the seat and removing the pedals
Lowering the seat and removing the pedals enables your child to scoot along on the bike with both feet. Use this opportunity to ‘talk & teach’ them about using the brakes.
When the child is ready, encourage them forwards for about 10 metres using giant steps.
Encourage the child forwards for about 10 metres using the hops.
Put one pedal back on
Either left or right, it doesn’t matter. Make sure the child is comfortable on the bike and feels secure. An easy way of doing this is to get them to do a little ‘wiggle’ with the brakes on.
One pedal scoot
With one foot on the pedal encourage the child to scoot forwards using the other foot. Make sure they are looking up. Stop after about 10 metres.
Both pedals on
Put the other pedal on. Do the ‘wiggle’ (with brakes on) to show that the bike is stable and safe.
Hold the child, not the bike. Explain that you are going to hold their back and their shoulder/upper arm. Get the child to put their feet on the pedals and check that they are ready. Encourage them to look up, let go of their brakes and pedal. Walk forwards (still holding on to them) and slowly release your grip. Stop after three to five metres.
Do the ‘wiggle’ (with brakes on). Holding the child as before, get them to put both feet on the pedals. Encourage them to look up. If all clear, count down from three and encourage the child to let go of the brakes and pedal forwards. Let go after a few steps, then step back to exaggerate the distance they have travelled. Shout ‘stop’ after 5 – 10 metres. Now count out the paces so they can see how far they have gone.
This time, reduce contact with the child by gripping their clothes with one hand and holding the bike handlebars with the other. Repeat steps as before, releasing them after only a few steps and letting them ride for as long as they wish.
“ To help them balance on their bike, encourage the child to look up, not down at the wheel or their feet ”
Things to remember when teaching children to cycle without stabilisers:
Find a quiet, traffic-free area such as a cycle path or somewhere with short grass or smooth tarmac.
A slight downwards slope can often help.
Look out for hazards like pedestrians, dogs, balls and vehicles.
Ensure that pedals are replaced correctly.
Get Active, Get Fit, Have Fun!
The school journey is a perfect opportunity for children to learn about their local area, develop wider social networks and gain independence.
The average primary school journey is just 1.5 miles, and yet one in five cars on the road during the morning peak are doing the school run.
Encouraging children to walk, cycle and scoot will reduce congestion and pollution around the school gates. It will also help your child’s mental and physical health. Teachers find that pupils who walk and cycle arrive at school more relaxed, alert and ready to start the day than those who travel by car.
So, grab your helmet and get out there with your kids cycling !