Top tips to teach a child how to ride a bike

A lady guides her daughter who is learning to ride her bike

The wind on your face, the butterflies in your tummy, the world rushing past in a blur. Speeding away on your bike for the first time is something you never forget.

We want as many children as possible to experience the excitement of exploring new places by bike, so we've created a list of top tips to help your little one find their wheels.

Jonathan Smith, cycle hire supervisor at the National Trust, said: 'It's vital for kids to learn to ride a bike – it gives them a sense of freedom, a sense of independence. It’s a real rite of passage and something every child should do before they’re about seven or eight.'

" It’s even better if you’re cycling in a beautiful environment like Osterley Park. It’s nice to be surrounded by trees and we’ve even got cattle and horses on the farm around the outskirts of the park"
- Jonathan Smith, cycle hire supervisor at the National Trust
Top tips for learner cyclists
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Learn how to ride a bike

There are lots of fun ways to exercise, including going on a bike ride. If you're a beginner, learning how to ride a bike is all about having fun and finding a sense of freedom.

We've got lots of tips on how to get the whole family into cycling, no matter your level of experience. Soon enough, you'll be riding independently and ready to explore the outdoors in your local area.

Try simple balance games before getting on the bike

Get back to basics

For young children who have never cycled before it’s useful to spend some time off the bike first. This stage is all about playing simple games to gain balance and the movements needed for riding. HSBC UK Ready Set Ride by British Cycling has loads of games to try, so take a look at the link at the bottom of this page.

Child trying a balance bike at Barrington Court, Somerset

Try a balance bike

Once they’re ready a balance bike is a great introduction to cycling. The skills they’ll gain from scooting the bike along will help them to progress to a bike with pedals. Let them move and get used to the bike at a speed they feel comfortable with.

Keep your chin up and look ahead at where you’re going. This helps with balance – as soon as you look down, the wobbles start.

Two children learning to ride a bike at Osterley Park and House, London

Get pedalling

When your children are ready to start pedalling pick somewhere flat, open and on short grass. Avoid holding the saddle or the handlebars as this will make it harder for them to find their own balance. Instead, support them gently at the top of the back, cradling the bottom of their neck with one hand. Alternatively, you could hold them gently under the arms.

A family cycling at Nostell Priory and Parkland

Be prepared to brake

Remember to cover your brakes (usually with two or three fingers on each brake lever). This saves a crucial split second when riders need to slow down or stop, and is a really important habit for learners to develop.

A family exploring the Dragon Cycle Trail at Wallington

Learn together

Have you never learned to ride a bike or are you a bit rusty after many years off the saddle? Why not brush up your skills with the kids? Not only do you get to spend quality time with the family, but it can also actually help the kids to learn more quickly.

Make sure your child is safe while cycling

Get ready to ride

Make sure your child’s bike and equipment are set up properly before they start cycling. A bike shop can help with this if you're not sure. If you’re worried about traffic then your local park can be a good place to start.

Learning to ride is a great way of spending quality time as a family

Go on an adventure 

Cycling with us is not only an adventure that the whole family can enjoy, but is also a safe way of exploring open countryside and getting some fresh air. Once your child is confident pedalling why not explore new places as a family? From quiet paths through ancient woodland to routes over open moorland, we look after a variety of cycling trails, which are free from traffic and pollution.