Top Tips on How To Ride A Balance Bike.
Top Tips on How To Ride A Balance Bike – a guide for parents.
Teaching your toddler how to ride a balance bike but not sure where to start? If you haven’t as yet bought one, our guide to choosing suitable bikes will help you.
Teaching your child to ride their first bike is an exciting milestone for any parent. I know I couldn’t wait to get my kids pedaling away. Hoping they would be able to replicate my summer holidays with lots of bike adventures with friends, I was keen to get them riding as soon as they could. Researching balance bikes, in 2009 we started retailing and then our family business went on to distribute Strider Bikes in the UK. Nicknamed the “balance bike power couple” by CycleSprog. we are keen to share our expertise from the past 12 years.
You have unboxed and assembled the bike – now what?
This guide covers hints and tips to get you through the first few days and months. Introducing anything new has to be done when the child is in the right mood. If it is Christmas Day or their birthday, please don’t expect too much. Excitement overload, lots of distractions, and shiny wrapping paper everywhere will distract any toddler. For the first few days, their bike may just sit in the house untouched except for the odd wheel spin.
The good news is the fundamental skills of moving two wheels along by walking, balancing and steering are instinctive. Not a great deal of teaching will need to be done. All you need is enthusiasm and some hints and tips to get the child to enjoy their balance bike from Day 1.
Step 1 – Set up the bike correctly | How high should a balance bike seat post be?
Starting at 18 months. Put the seat height as low as you can go for a brand new rider. It is likely they won’t sit on the seat for a few rides out yet. All you want them to do is straddle the bike, and hold the handlebars whilst everyone smiles. Get your child involved with the build. They can help get it set up and they love to play with the box!
Children aged 1-years-old can ride providing they are walking confidently and they fit. They need to be able to stand over the frame and their feet touch the floor. You need a small bend in the knee so they can walk along.
Try this inside if it’s cold, wet weather. They won’t zoom off day 1. Most of us are fair-weather lovers so a cold wet day isn’t the best day to introduce an outside sport.
A slightly older rider may look to sit sooner or even on day 1. Adjust the seat so that the child’s feet are flat on the ground and there is a slight bend in the knee. A good starting height is 25mm or less than the child’s inseam.
Remember your child needs to be able to use their stride length to walk to move the balance bike along. If you have the seat too high they will only be able to shuffle. The other reason not to have the seat too high is it will bring legs really close to the bike. Our Kidvelo bikes have smoothed off wheel nuts and the footrest is streamlined to prevent leg catch. Bikes that have protruding wheel nuts and footrests mean the child may catch their calves and won’t want to ride.
As they grow be sure to adjust the bike for every growth spurt. If you are seeing your child struggling, then try different seat heights until they seem comfortable again. Kidvelo bikes have a measurement scale stamped on the seat post so you can measure and adjust easily using the quick-release clamp.
Step 2 – Don’t hold the bike. A child can learn to balance without physical assistance.
Starting at 18 months. Parental instinct will kick in to hold onto the bike to keep it from falling. Try not to do this. The child learning to hold it up themselves is important. If you have chosen your bike wisely then it will easily be light enough for them to hold on their own. When we have taught toddlers, occasionally we just place a hand on their back as reassurance. They must be allowed to feel the bike lean from side to side to learn how to keep it from tipping over completely. Your child always has 4 points of contact with the ground: two wheels (one in front and one in back) and two feet (one on each side of the frame).
Is your child is having trouble getting on and off the bike?
Suggest they step over the frame of the bike while it is laying on the ground and then lift it between their legs by grabbing onto the handlebar and pulling it upward.
A slightly older rider should need no help physically, just lots of encouragement and smiles. A big well done once they have had enough, even if only after a few minutes, keeps the experience positive.
Step 3 – Let your child learn at their own pace. Just make sure you allow frequent opportunities to try it.
Starting at 18 months. We have witnessed thousands of children riding balance bikes first-hand. Every child is unique in the speed they learn new things. Some jump on and take to it almost straight away. Some take a few weeks or months. It’s important to make time to ride, frequently and for short periods of time. Young children learn best through fun play, games and repetition. There are no hard and fast rules on how much progress will be made. Positioning on the seat is made easy with a Kidvelo as we tilt the seat slightly up at the rear, to encourage bottoms to sit correctly.
It is unlikely your child will sit on their seat straight away. This is fine. Just encourage them, pointing out the seat or perhaps showing them how you sit on your bike saddle may help. All kids will sit on their balance bike when they are ready.
Slightly older riders, on the whole, will be able to ride quicker sooner. Your job at this stage is to keep them motivated to want to ride. Visits to pump tracks, balance bike races and meetups with others, and joining a local BMX club are all great ways that encourage your child, especially by watching others. We know a few children that have gone on to represent GB at the BMX World Championships or developed a love of Cyclo-cross. Taking your child to witness firsthand the thrill of any cycling discipline, inspires them. If you want to try and few pump tracks here is a Pump Track Locator to find one near you.
Step 4 – Keep the riding fun!
People of any age will do something more often if it is fun. Mix up their riding experience. A family bike ride needs lots of breaks, drinks, and snacks. Make the journey exciting, with a stop at a park or feeding the ducks. Let them rest. Every time they play and ride the bike, they are making progress!
Balance Bike Instructors have their students use small dowels, a similar length to their handlebars, to practice turning by walking and pretending to steer through turns before they get on their bike. Encourage holding the dowel away from their body with arms extended like they would if they were handlebars. Your child can practice “imaginary turns” or even negotiate a little course around the house or garden. Then when back on the bike, have your child try to balance by walking and steering all at once.
Step 4 – Safety Gear | Helmets should be introduced at the same time as the bike.
Helmets are important to introduce alongside the bike. Surprisingly, in the UK, they aren’t legally required but we would suggest protecting your child’s head is paramount. If children learn that their bike means they need to wear a helmet from the start, then it becomes a lifelong habit. Pottering around the house, whilst learning to hold the bike up at no great speed doesn’t suggest a helmet needs to be worn. However, you know your child. So, if it’s easier to bring in the “wear a helmet always on a bike” from the very start, then do so. Don’t make a big deal of it. By the time you have adjusted the helmet and straps, it’s likely the child wants to go off and do something else entirely.
We suggest that all children should wear a helmet when they start riding outside. Remember a helmet is safe when riding a bike, but should be removed if playing on swings and slides, as that is not what they are designed for. Very few helmet manufacturers make a fit system with a quick release buckle, that is safe for playing in too.
To fit your helmet, do it well in advance of a bike ride. Straight out the box, they can be tricky to adjust correctly, so don’t try it if you are in a rush to get outside. Once correctly adjusted, then they should be quick to put on next time. We have witnessed a few episodes of pinched skin caught in helmet buckles when parents are rushing. Helmets should fit snugly, with the straps evenly tensioned. You need the straps to form a V-shape below the ear. A good test is once you have fitted the helmet, ask your child to raise their eyebrows up and down. Providing the helmet doesn’t move, you are good to go.
With regards to knee pads, elbow pads and changing clothes, judge this by how patient your child is. Sure, if racing or heading out on MTB trails, safety gear is important. We wouldn’t recommend getting all the gear out on day 1 as you will end up frustrated and they will throw a tantrum. Little ones have short attention spans, so once interest is shown, getting the helmet on and giving an opportunity to ride is more important.
Step 5 – Be their biggest fan, not a bossy teacher.
Nothing ruins the fun for a child more than being told what to do. That doesn’t seem to change even when they are teenagers, I am afraid! We want your child to have the most enjoyable experience possible when learning to ride their balance bike. As former organisers of balance bike racing championships, we know from watching interactions, that the kids that do well are the ones supported by happy smiling families, even if they come last. Parents who “coach” from the sidelines or show disappointment are not helping their children learn to ride. Be enthusiastic and their riding skills will improve far quicker.