Tips and Tricks for Learning how to Ride a Bike
By Nicole Campbell, PT, DPT and
Megan Schwengler, Student Physical Therapist

Teaching your child to ride a bike is very exciting but very challenging. Each child learns differently. Often we are asked, “When is a good time to start?” Or what is the best way to start?

The first place to start is with the bike itself. There are many varieties of bikes to consider beyond the two-wheeler that most are familiar. Each bike has different benefits. Parents should use their best judgment based on your child’s needs and abilities.

Balance Bikes

Balance bikes are good for helping your child balance (hence the name), steer, and improve coordination while feeling independent. Balance bikes also help kids learn without relying on training wheels. These bikes are light weight and have a low center of gravity, making it easier for children to begin learning to ride without being overwhelmed by too many skills at once.

Tricycles

There are a wide variety of of tricycles to choose from depending on your child’s age, size, and needs. You can find tricycles that are hand or foot driven, bigger for older children, or taller for increased support. Tricycles are beneficial to teach kids reciprocal movement as well as help them develop the gross motor skills they need to develop.

Recumbent bikes

Recumbent bikes are a good option for children with balance and stability problems since these bikes are lower to the ground. They are a good option for older kids and adults to promote development of gross motor skills while being able to participate in the fun.

Tandem bikes

Tandem bikes are a good option for parents of children with special needs that need assistance with pedaling, steering, breaking, and balance. This type of bike allows children of all ability levels to gain the benefits of riding a bike while an adult can assist them from behind as needed.

Teaching your child to ride a bike can be overwhelming for both you and your child. Learning to ride a bike consists of learning many different skills at the same time. The best way to teach your child how to ride a bike is to break each skill down separately.

Here are some steps that can help your child learn how to ride a bike without being overwhelmed:

Start with balance

  • Make sure your child’s feet can touch the ground by lowering the seat.
  • You can also remove the pedals from the bike so they aren’t in the way.

Coast down a small slope

  • By starting on a small slope your child can get the feel of the balance on the bike while it is moving without having to worry about pedaling at the same time.

Teach your child how to use their brakes and add pedaling

  • Teach your child how to use their brakes .
  • After learning how to use their brakes, start teaching them how to pedal by having them put their feet on the pedals while coasting down a small slope.
  • As your child is more comfortable, pedal using one foot and then add both feet.

Ride in a straight line

  • After your child is able to pedal while going down a small slope move your child to an open area with flat ground.
  • Start from a standstill position and teach them how to push with their feet to start pedaling.
  • Once they have mastered starting, have them practice riding in a straight line while looking straight ahead.

Add turning

  • Start by slowing down when going into a corner.
  • Slowly begin to increase their speed as they go around a corner.

Some tips and tricks for teaching your child to ride a bike:

  • If your child is having difficulty learning how to balance on a bike, you can start first with riding a scooter to learn balance, braking, steering and coordination.
  • Allow your child to master one skill at a time before moving onto the next skill,
  • Grassy areas are a great place to start to decrease the possibility and severity of injuries.
  • Don’t start teaching your child to ride a bike on a bike they haven’t used or been on before.
  • Stop the session when it has stopped being fun for your child and try again another time or another day.
  • Allow your child time to develop each skill as every child learns things at their own pace.
  • If it becomes stressful teaching your child how to ride a bike, ask somebody else that you trust if they can help teach your child.

Remember riding a bike should be fun!