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Top tips to teach a child how to ride a bike

Father pushing young daughter on bike in front of Osterley House, with other daughter riding bike behind
A child learning to ride a bike at Osterley Park, London | © National Trust Images/Rob Stothard

Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage for children. Gaining this vital skill can give them an important sense of freedom and independence, but it's not always easy. Here are a few tips to help your kids find their way on two wheels.

Start with the 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 learn the movements needed for riding.

HSBC UK Ready Set Ride by British Cycling has lots of games to try.

Try a balance bike

A balance bike is essentially a small bicycle without pedals, which children sit on and move by walking their feet along the ground. They're a great introduction to cycling, and the skills children will gain from scooting the bike along will help them progress to one with pedals.

Let them move and get used to the bike at a speed they feel comfortable with. They'll need to keep looking ahead at where they're going as this helps with balance – look down and the wobbles will start.

Two children on balance bikes at The Argory, County Armagh
Children on balance bikes at The Argory, County Armagh | © National Trust Images

Moving onto pedals

When 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. Or, you could hold them lightly under the arms.

Be prepared to brake

A really important habit for learners to develop is to cover their 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 suddenly.

Learning together

If you've never learned to ride a bike or are a bit rusty after time off the saddle, why not brush up on your skills with your kids? Not only do you get to spend quality time with the family, it can actually help children to learn bike-riding skills faster.

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, as well as many of the places we care for.

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