Teaching children how to ride a bicycle without stabilizers
Fig. 1 - Wheel measurement
In this article we will be instructing parents how to teach children to ride without stabilizers (training wheels). This article applies to parents that decided to use a traditional bike instead of a balanced bike. There are many teaching methods but this is the most efficient one.
It is very common to have questions like:
- What is the right bicycle size for my child?
- What is the right age to remove stabilizers?
- How to teach children balance on two wheels?
- Are there any professionals that teach children how to ride?
Until the age of 12, bicycle sizes are measured according to the size of their wheels (see Fig. 1). This means the length of the diameter (D) of the wheel in inches.
The sizes start from 8 inch and go up to 26 inch. The latter is also considered to be an adult bike and thus comes in different frame sizes. The right size depends on the height of the child and not his/her age. Age is merely used as an approximation of his/her height. A summary of the right bicycle size is shown in Fig. 2. Before reaching the height of 89cm, a balance bike, an 8 inch bike or a tricycle should be used.
Fig. 2 - Summary of Children bike sizes
There is no exact age to teach children how to balance. This depends on each child and his/hers confidence to take the next step. As a rule of thumb the age of 4 is the best time to try. Remember the child must feel ready; otherwise it could be a setback.
Fig. 3 - Saddle height
First of all a flat terrain with mild descent of about 40 meters long should be used. The child should wear a cycling helmet and preferably cycling gloves.
The easiest way is to teach a child how to balance first. This is done by removing the stabilizers and lowering the seat post at a position where the child’s feet reach the ground comfortably (see Fig. 3).
Furthermore, the pedals need to be temporarily removed and the cranks secured to the frame.
Then, follow these steps:
- Have the child hold the bike by the steering bar and walk in a straight line next to the bike for a distance of 15 meters. Repeat this 5 times.
- Ask him/her to repeat this by applying pressure to the rear brake only, until the bicycle stops. Again repeat 5 times.
- Repeat step 2 for the front break only.
- Repeat the above by applying pressure to both brakes simultaneously.
- Repeat step 4 by running.
The aim of this exercise is to make child feel comfortable with the brakes and know subconsciously how to brake while riding. This should allow them to refine their braking technique and avoid skidding or locking the front wheel.
The next step is to have the child seat on the bike and move by pushing his/her feet on the ground. Initially, a slow movement is expected but as child confidence grows a faster movement will be observed. Eventually he/she should hold the feet up and balance. The aim is to balance safely on 2 wheels. This step is the most difficult. The child is ready when he/she can hold the legs up and balance for approximately 10 meters.
At this point the parent reinstalls the pedals and raises the seat slightly. The child knows how to cycle.
As days progress and the child confidence increases, the saddle should be raised to avoid injury on the child’s knees. (A separate article will explain correct bike fitting)
There are many Cycling academies that teach youngsters of all ages cycling, from how to ride until the level of competitive Cycling.
UCI Level 2 Coach
CCF certified instructor