Balance bikes are a great starting point for kids when they’re learning to ride. They get the hang of balancing while moving without relying on stabilisers, so the transition to a pedal bike is often much quicker.
Our guide to teaching a child to cycle in 30 minutes is a good starting point for a first pedal bike, but if your child has just got a balance bike, or is used to riding one and is ready to move on to a bike with pedals, the followings tips will help.
Let your child stride along aboard the balance bike. Let them enjoy the feeling of movement under their own power.
Pretty soon they understand that with a little more striding they can lift their feet and glide a few feet.
As children get stronger and more confident, the gliding gets longer and faster. Once they reach this point, they’re already past stabilisers.
Once you start to become concerned that they can glide longer and faster than you can run, it’s time to think about a bicycle with pedals. These first two steps can last months or years.
You can get balance bikes for toddlers, so they can start to become familiar with the feeling of striding and gliding from early on. This will help them develop their sense of balance.
Then, when your child (and you!) are ready, you can move on to a bike with pedals…
3. From balance bike to pedal bike
When choosing your child’s first pedal bike, look for something with proper brakes front and rear.
Remove the pedals from the new bike. Take the child, the balance bike and the new pedal version to a park with a shallow grass slope.
Let the child stride and glide down the slope on their balance bike. As experienced gliders, they’ll nail it first time with big smiles.
4. Onto the new bike
Swap them onto the new bike. Tell them to stride and glide this one down the slope in the same way, and to ignore the pedal-less cranks.
Chances are, they’ll achieve this first time, and in a few goes will probably get a little blasé about it.
5. Using pedals
Now explain that you’re going to fit the pedals, but that they’re not going to pedal.
It’s just another stride and glide, only this time as they lift their feet off the grass, instead of holding them in the air, they need place them on the pedals without trying to turn them. Get them to let the glide peter out as usual.
6. First cycling steps
After a few goes gliding with pedals as footrests, tell them that next time they can turn the pedals forward.
It will keep their speed up and let them add power to the glide when the slope stops doing it for them.
7. Keep practicing
Most kids nail this first time. Let them keep practicing these steps: stride a few paces, use the slope to instigate the glide phase, feet to pedals, feel the glide begin to fade, turn the pedals forward.
8. Picture time
Have a camera handy — your child is now cycling without stabilisers. Now all you need to do is facilitate regular sessions so they can continue practicing and build confidence.
Remember to give lots of praise. Stuff will go wrong, kids will fall off, just make sure you’re ready to make them feel better with calmness, patience and love.
And sweets just in case the last three things aren’t enough…