Receiving a new bike for Christmas is a treasured childhood memory for many, so when you have children of your own (nieces, nephews or grandchildren) you want to give them that same magical feeling. Riding a bike for the first time is amazing and for older children gives the first taste of independent travel. Learning to ride a bike is a skill that lasts a lifetime, everyone wants their child’s first cycling experience to be positive and memorable.
Start them young with balance bikes
Forget the stabilisers of your own childhood, balance bikes without pedals give the best introduction to cycling skills and can be used once a child is confident walking. These bikes teach the basics of controlling a bike by bodyweight before introducing pedalling, unlike stabilisers which teach pedalling first before balance has been established.
The rider gathers momentum by scooting along using their feet and when they have enough speed and confidence to balance they simply lift their feet off the ground. A confident child can ride up and down small slopes and control their direction by shifting on the saddle so when they get onto their first “big bike” the only thing to add is pedalling technique.
First pedal bikes
Let’s put an end to buying bikes too big in the hope they will ‘grow into them’! To inspire confidence in young riders it is really important that their bike fits them and they are able to reach the pedals and properly use the brakes and handle bars.
Some brands have put serious thought into getting little hands comfortable on the controls and ensuring that the bike is as light as possible, making it easier for them to manoeuvre, which makes a huge difference to a child’s cycling confidence.
Whilst a cheap bike may be tempting, if you want the best experience for your young cyclist, it’s worth spending a little more and there are some excellent children’s bikes available. Luckily there is a thriving second hand market for quality children’s bikes, they tend to be grown out of before they are worn out, so buying the best bike for a little rider doesn’t have to be hugely expensive.
British Cycling Go-Ride clubs are a perfect way for older children to develop their skills, try different types of cycling and build confidence and enjoyment riding with other children.
Go-Ride does offer coaching but it isn’t a funnel to progress children into competition, its main emphasis is on making a sporting habit for life, for everyone. If you have a young cyclist in your family it is well worth finding your local club and giving it a go!