Give a kid a balance bike and the kid will take care of the rest. That is all you need to do when getting kids into bike riding. But you came for an article, so you will find the nuances below.
Steps To Take When Getting Kids Into Bike Riding
Just like any other situation in life, you try to give your kids the best opportunity you can. Fortunately here, the best thing you can do, the balance bike, is also the easiest thing you can do when getting kids into bike riding. Kids will take it upon themselves to learn, with their own motivation. Additionally, it will save your back. There is no bending over holding your kid up.
Start with the balance bike as early as your kid shows interest. Put a helmet on their head and give them a flat place to start out. They will take it from there.
The Balance Bike
The bike does not need to be complicated. There are purpose built balance bikes on the market made out of all sorts of exotic materials – wood, light alloys – but they’re not necessary. Kids will not ride the balance bike for very long. If they are motivated, they will be riding a bike with pedals quicker than you think so spending a lot of money on a balance bike isn’t worth it.
An economical option is to take a full kids bike with gears and remove some or all of the drivetrain (the crankarms, chainrings, chain, and cassette on the rear wheel) to make it into a balance bike. It saves you from getting a separate balance bike and regular bike later. The easiest way is to remove only the pedals. Remember that the non-drive side (left-side) pedal is reverse threaded.
If you are mechanically inclined, you can remove the entire drivetrain – the bottom bracket, the crankarms, and the chain. Put them away (where you will remember them). Once your kid is ready to ride, put the drivetrain back on the bike.
Self Motivating and Self Teaching
Kids figure things out. Give them the opportunity to do something and they will get to it when they are excited about it. This is a key to remember when you are getting kids into bike riding. The first steps of using a balance bike are as easy as walking and holding on to the handlebars. There is nothing beyond providing the bike and space necessary from you.
Once they get used to walking around with the bike, they will start moving faster. Eventually they will glide; that is picking up one or both feet and moving further with each step than they would have if they were walking or running. Finally, when the gliding is so good that they can cruise without putting feet on the ground for longer stretches, they are ready for a bike with pedals. That was easy, right?
Adults Put the Limitations on Kids
Kids come mostly inhibition-free. Let them explore and experiment with the balance bike. Try not to put your own preconceived ideas of what riding is or how to do it on them. It will muddle the learning process. That said, be available when they have questions and the occasional scrape. In riding, it is not if you will fall, but when you will fall.
Training Wheels Are A Hindrance
Pedaling a bike is straightforward. Steering a bike is relatively straightforward. They are both very easy to learn. Relying on the rotation of the wheels to keep you upright is not straightforward and it is the hardest component of learning to ride a bike. Training wheels on a kids bike keeps them from learning and trusting the physics of the bike. They also complicate steering because it does not allow them to lean to steer the bike. Leave the training wheels off the pedal bike. They will already have the balance down from the balance bike and will likely take off on the pedal bike.
Remember, it is Easy
Getting kids into bike riding is easy. Give them a balance bike and let them figure it out. Once they do and are flying around, graduate them to a pedal bike. They will take off with this as well and your job, at least with learning to ride, is done.