If your child is old enough to start cycling with you, you’ll need to get them started! In this article you’ll learn how to teach a kid to ride a bike using a balance bike, which is the best approach for younger children.
My husband and I are both passionate cyclists. When we learned that we were going to become parents, we couldn’t help but think about the type of bike we would get for our little one, instead of obsessing over whether to buy a stroller or a carrier like most normal parents.
“Aren’t you a bit ahead of yourselves? She or he first needs to learn how to walk and all and then ride a bicycle?” many of our friends told us. But we didn’t care. “Oh, don’t worry, our kids will learn how to pedal before they learn how to walk!” we used to say.
Of course, we knew that we would need to wait for years to ride bicycles altogether, but we wanted to be prepared and get the best bicycle there is. However, things weren’t as simple as we thought they would be.
Since our baby was born, we were showing him photographs and videos of cycling. He rode with us on short tours in the city and nature, sitting in his seat. However, despite doing everything that we thought needs to be done when the time arrived for him to ride his first bicycle, it was clear that he had no clue what to do.
We have to say that we were a bit disappointed, although what we thought would naturally happen was a bit of a fantasy. Naturally, though, we didn’t want to give up on the dream to be a family of bike riders, so we decided to try teaching him by getting him used to balance bikes first.
We consulted a pediatrician and a professional cyclist on how to teach a kid to ride a bike. We followed all the steps, and the result was that our little one began to ride his first bike within one week!
Since the advice we received was so helpful, I’d love to also explain how to teach a kid to ride a bike using a balance bike and why they are so beneficial.
What is a Balance Bike?
A balance bike is a type of bicycle without pedals. It also doesn’t have the chain, gears, and many other things a regular bicycle has.
One of the main balance bike benefits, and essentially its sole purpose, is to teach a kid to maintain balance when they are seated in motion. In general, this is the hardest thing about learning to ride a bicycle.
Before the invention of the balance bike, kids used training wheels to learn how to ride a bike. However, these wheels prevent children from getting used to actually balancing.
They end up relying on the sturdiness of riding a bike with 4 wheels which makes it much more difficult to ride a bike when the training wheels get taken off. Also, when a kid rides with training wheels, she or he gets used to riding on tilt which is off balance.
What is the Right Age for a Balance Bike?
A lot of parents wonder what the right age is to teach a kid to ride a bike. Well, on average, kids start to ride a bike with pedals at around four years of age. However, it can be even younger for using a balance bike.
If you want to teach a kid to ride a balance bike, you can start when they are as young as 18 months to 2 or 3 years old.
You can even start teaching them inside with a balance bike if the weather is inclement or you’re worried about them falling. You can lay a baby activity mat so the surface will be softer if they fall.
What are the Benefits of a Balance Bike?
It’s best to use to balance first before trying to pedal unaided. Your child will have more control over their bike and will learn to steer and slow down properly after using a balance bike first.
Small boys and girls can easily handle the bike, travel further distances, and you won’t be left carrying it as your child won’t want to put it down.
How to Teach a Kid to Ride a Balance Bike
Once you have the balance bike for your child, you are ready to teach them how to ride a bike using a balance bike. Here are the following steps:
1. Prepare the Kids
Before you go out to start practicing, spend some time watching videos about balance bikes with your kids. Videos that show other kids on balance bikes or teaching them what to do with their feet.
This will not only help them realize that balance bikes are fun, but they will be able to watch the demonstration and mimic the actions of the other kids.
Use this time to emphasize some facts about the balance bike. You should also explain to them why it is essential that they always wear a helmet. This a great helmet that will fit toddlers and preschoolers perfectly.
When they get hooked, they will not stop bugging you to take them to ride.
2. Get the Right Bike
It is critical to get the right bike because if not, your kid will have a bad experience. Then it will probably take them a long time to reconcile with cycling again.
To prevent this, make sure to get the right type of balance bike, including the proper size, safety requirements, and specifications.
The Banana Bike is a highly rated balance bike in it’s class, perfect for kids from 2 to 5 years old. The original bicycle frame design, with a low centre of gravity and an easy step-through frame design is the ideal training bike for to have fun on their outdoor adventures.
With an ultra-comfy seat, extra safe grips with wide cushioned ends, easy seat adjustment, ultra-lightweight puncture-proof EVA wheels with improved traction, faster spinning durable bearings, and a safe child-proof handlebar locking mechanism, it’s the perfect balance bike for your child.
It has an easy, quick release mechanism. The seat height of the Banana Bike can be adjusted on the go from just 12.2” up to 15.7”, a great range that will see most kids from their first biking experience, through to their transition onto their first proper pedal bike.
Apart from that, try to explain to them as much as possible about different bike parts and safety gear. Also, make sure that they understand that they need to face forward when they are sitting and that their hands need to be always on the handles.
3. Get them on the bike!
Now your child is ready to begin their balance bike adventure! Get them on it and have them go through the following steps to get acclimated to balancing and riding the bike.
If you’re consistent with it, your toddler or preschooler should be able to master the skills of riding a balance bike in a couple of weeks.
Beginner Level: Standing and Walking on the Bike
Advise your child to stand over the bike and adjust the seat so they sit comfortably with feet flat on the ground. The child should then take some steps while standing over the bike.
Let them enjoy the feeling of movement under their own power but still just walking.
Usually, from 18 months old and older, they can master this quickly and want to go even further than you instructed them. If this happens, let them be. If they feel insecure, walk behind them to assure them that everything is okay.
Young children typically want to stand over the bike frame and walk the bike as their first step. They don’t even try to sit on the bike and often resist the suggestion to do so. Some kids will walk the bike around the whole block without trying to master any sliding or gliding.
Kids are usually very excited about this, and they master it quickly! Follow your child’s lead. Allow them to walk on the bike as long as they need to.
Intermediate Level: Sitting and Walking on the Bike
Since you adjusted the seat for their height, you can, now, instruct your child to sit on it and walk while sitting. Remind them to hold the handlebars firmly.
They’re not really balancing on their own yet as they should still be walking slowly with their feet touching the ground most of the time. Pretty soon they understand that with a little more striding they can lift their feet and glide a few feet.
Advanced: Balancing while Sitting, Walking and Running on the Bike
The more they are practicing, the more they will connect all the dots and master the technique of riding a balance bike. When they can sit and walk on the bike, you should let them ride freely in an area that is safe for bicycles.
During this phase, kids learn to run on the bike and also master balancing.
You can encourage them to sit on the seat and run on the bike. Once they gain some momentum, lift both of their legs in the air so they can glide.
Tell them to start by alternating between legs. One leg should be in the air while they push with another one. When they reach adequate speed, they are ready to glide with both legs up in the air.
Pro Level: Sitting, Walking Running, and Gliding
At this stage, there is nothing more for you to teach them. Your young cyclist has mastered the art of riding a balance bike!
There is a chance that they will ask you to take them to a real bike trail. Keep in mind that now you can take them everywhere, as long as you follow their pace.
4. Transfer Skills to a Standard Bike
Once your child has mastered using the balance bike and can glide faster than you can run, he or she should be ready to use those skills on a regular bike. Although they may still like using the balance bike for fun, assure them that riding a bike with pedals is ultimately the best option for the long run.
Now that they are a pro at balancing a bike beneath them with no feet to ground them, they should easily and quickly pick up how to pedal and balance at the same time.
How Does a Child Stop on a Balance Bike?
Learning how to stop a fast moving bike with their feet is vital when riding a balance bike.
Kids by nature know to use their feet to stop. They usually use their whole foot to stop using their heels with their feet in front of them. However, some kids want to drag their toes to stop (with their feet behind them).
Dragging their toes will help a child to stop, it usually does a number on their shoes. Encourage them to stop with their feet flat on the ground to allow them to stop more quickly and safely.
Ensure that they are wearing closed-toed shoes when riding as well.
If you are ready to teach your kid how to ride a bike and they are at least 18 months old, a balance bike is one of the best gifts you can give to them. These bikes are the best for learning how to ride a bike compared to other options like scooters, tricycles, and bikes with training wheels.
It may be a bit more challenging for the kids to get used to and master all the skills necessary for riding it at first. However, once they do, you can be sure that they will be excellent cyclists and great company on all of your biking adventures.
Have you ever tried using a balance bike with your kids? What are your experiences?
Rachel is a freelance journalist and a passionate cyclist, who is covering all topics related to health and fitness. Since she is a mother of 2 girls she is also writing about various topics related to parenting. They live with her husband, 2 dogs and altogether enjoy bike rides.