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Important points to remember before introducing your child to the joy of cycling

  • For a successful approach break down cycling into manageable steps
  • Do NOT set a time limit i.e. ‘my child is going to learn riding in 1 month’. All kids will learn at their own pace. We have to enable them. Rushing forward too quickly can result in frustration and will undo all the good work you have done.
  • Practice when you or your child is at their best. E.g. both are in a good mood.
  • Erase Expectations – We all want our child to succeed but often that results in making them feel like a failure.
  • When they are done, they are done. NO USE FORCING THEM. BIKING SHOULD BE FUN.
  • In addition to teaching cycling – work on core strength, balance and strengthening of arms and legs
  • Every session should have a purpose or end goal. E.g. Ride the cycle to the playground and when you reach the playground, have them get off the bike and play at the swings slide.
  • Helmet is compulsory especially when teaching balancing on a cycle. Start early , when you are teaching them how to ride a tricycle.  Have them pick it out when you are buying it, it will help them accept it .
  • When teaching them how to bike, make it a play date with another child with his bike/tricycle. Or have the child watch the parents bike, have a family date.

 

How to measure if the bicycle is the right fit for your child?

 1) Safety is the most important thing. This is why NEVER buy a bike that is too large for your child, in the hopes that they would grow into it. The child should be able to straddle the middle of the bike with their feet flat on either side of the bike with a good inch or two clearances from the middle bar. They should not have to lean the bike one way or the other to get a foot flat down.

2) When your child is riding they should be seated in an upright position and their knees and legs should not be touching the handlebars.

3) Their legs should not be completely stretched out at the lowest vertical position (at the bottom of the stroke), their knee is slight bent about 25 degrees.4) AT the top of the pedal stroke there should be around a 90 degree bend at the knee.

4) Children should also be able to turn the handlebars in a sweeping motion to their full extent without being overstretched.

Bicycling itself is a strengthening exercise. However, along with specific cycling training, please also work on strengthening and balance activities.

 

 

How a Bicycle is different from a tricycle? 

Don’t expect your child to move easily from a tricycle to a bicycle. In a tricycle, force is required to push pedal forward and down. While in Bicycles, greater downward force is required with increased strength and increased awareness of the quadriceps muscle. The higher seat and 2 wheel base of support require a greater balance and body awareness. Because the kids are higher off the ground kids may feel overwhelmed or afraid. Bicycle requires more force and strength. Whether child is shifting from tricycle to bicycle or starting directly with bicycle, initially it should start with support/training wheels. One plan won’t work for everyone. Every child is different and the following information below is just a guideline. Some kids may not do well with the balance bike training (mentioned below) part and you may skip it entirely. You as parents know your child the best and judge accordingly. Riding and balance on a bicycle is a very complex and intricate activity and will require a lot of time and patience.

 

Steps to teach your child how to ride a bicycle

Method 1: Focus on Balance first – using the concept of a balance bike.

When using a new bike or transitioning from a tricycle to bicycle, put training wheels on it and let them get used to it for a couple of weeks/months before trying just 2 wheels (due to the reasons mentioned above).

The steps to train riding a bike with support wheels are similar to that for a tricycle.

  • Hold the steering, stand by the side of the bicycle & walk with the bicycle.
  • Scooting: Hold the steering, one leg on each side of the bicycle & instead of the pedals use feet to push on the ground to move the bicycle forwards.
  • Teach the child to climb on and off the bicycle repeatedly. Getting off is more important for the child. Focus more on getting off because that is where the child feels fear of falling down. Once he/she is confident about getting off focus on pedalling for long distance (minimum 1 km) at a stretch.

Move to the next step, which is training for biking without support wheels once your child can pedal and steer the bike safely and efficiently.

Balancing is the trickiest part of learning how to ride a bicycle.

Step 1:  Getting used to a balance bike.

What is a balance bike?

A balance bike is a two-wheeled pedal-less bike that teaches kids as young as 18-months to balance on two wheels.  After a brief learning period, toddlers and kids learn to ride, jump and coast on their bikes with no assistance from their parents. Balance bikes are a replacement for tricycles and training wheels as they are designed to be used during the ages that a child would typically ride a tricycle or use training wheels. With the skills learned from a balance bike, riders as young as 3 years old transition straight to a regular kid’s bike without the assistance of training wheels. Practise balance and don’t get stuck on uneven surfaces, easily gliding over rocks, dirt, curbs and even jumps.

YOU NEED NOT BUY A BALANCE BIKE – YOU CAN CREATE YOUR OWN

Select a bike whose seat can be lowered enough so learner can be seated and have both feet flat on the ground. Remove the training wheels and remove the pedals. Balance bikes allow child to gain confidence and feel his balance while moving. Seat height is adjustable and allows child to be lower to the ground initially and gradually move it up.

*Practice climbing on and off, forward movement, weight shifting and steering/navigating around obstacles (while allowing the child to scoot forwards with his legs). Initially please provide support till the child gains confidence. Since his feet are flat on the ground, he can control/balance the bicycle.

For Safety: Wear a helmet, tuck in shoelaces if any , wear long pants tucked into socks or ends tied with rubber band.

Step 2: Learning how to balance on a balance bike

Find a grassy (soft surface, in case child falls) gentle downhill slope- the bike should move downhill with both feet off the ground. The child will learn balancing the bike & controlling the steering simultaneously.

Once child is confident enough, fix the pedals & start cycling

If method 1 doesn’t work (please give it time to succeed), then

Method 2:  Working on it together

You can go back to the conventional method, which is slowly releasing support at the back of the seat. The one who is teaching needs lots of energy & capacity to run.

Activities to work on Core strengthening of arms and legs

These are just a few examples, maybe parents can reply to his post with ideas of their own which have worked with their kids.

1) Pushing pulling activities

2) Climbing stairs on all fours

3) Squatting and bending to pick up objects from the floor

4) Marching in the Sand.

5) Bridging- holds

6) Superman position while on tummy on floor, on swing or on a large ball

7) Plank

8) Wheelbarrow walking/ walking on hands while the parent holds the child’s legs

9) Swimming

10) Swinging

11) Walking like an animal – bear crawl, kangaroo jump, snake slither, crab walk, frog jump

12) Negotiate obstacle course

13) Walking on a zigzag line , curvy line

14) Walking on a mattress / uneven surfaces.

If a parent is not familiar with any of the above mentioned exercises, they may search for the same on YouTube ( When doing so, please don’t forget to specify the keyword ‘children’ )

Shifting from tricycle to bicycle is easy. Shift from tricycle to a bicycle with support wheels, & gradually remove the support wheels.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this guide is for information purposes only. Please consult a qualified health practitioner for safe management.

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