How to Teach a Child to Ride a Bike: Video, Photos, and Instructions

Teaching a Child to Ride a Bike

Learning to ride a bike is one of the most significant physical hurdles of childhood. Bike riding is the quintessential childhood activity and although it's easy once you learn, the process of learning can be difficult. Skinned knees, bruised elbows, a few tears, all accompany the art of learning to ride a bike. How can parents teach their children to ride a bike in the most painless manner? Let's find out!

Lila, our daughter in the above video, is our third child learning to ride a bike. We have gone through a few methods of teaching and I think this is the best and easiest way to teach a kid to ride a bike.

Proper Equipment

It's important to have all of the proper equipment before learning to ride a bike.

  • Of course, a Bike! If your bike comes with training wheels, remove them.
  • The bike seat should be lowered so your child can easily touch the ground and stop themselves. Once they become more confident, you can raise the seat to the appropriate level.
  • A proper helmet. Your child should never ride their bike without a helmet
  • Closed-toed shoes - no stubbed toes, please!
  • Long sleeved shirt and pants to avoid scraping if they fall.

Steps to Learning to Ride a Bike

  1. The most important thing to remember when teaching your child to ride a bike is to offer A LOT of encouragement. This is probably the most difficult physical feat your child has attempted since learning to walk. They will most likely fall and hurt themselves a little bit. A positive attitude by the parents can make the whole process a lot easier.
  2. Training wheels. All of our children started riding their bikes with training wheels. Lila started with training wheels at two. She also had a run bike, like a skoot, that taught her balance. She wanted to ride with her sisters but wasn't physically mature enough to ride without training wheels at first, so the training wheels were a necessity. In some ways this caused poor habits; she would lean to the side to make contact with the ground. If your child is older, at least three, I would attempt to have them learn to ride without training wheels.
  3. Lower the seat so your child can easily touch the ground. This helps them with confidence so that if they do start to fall, they can put a foot down. Since most of the time they will be going fairly slowly, this can help them avoid a lot of falling off of the bike.
  4. If you don't have a run bike or skoot, a two wheeled bike without pedals, have your child just practice riding down the street without training wheels by pushing with their feet and gliding. They don't even need to put their feet on the pedals, just push and glide. This gives them the feeling of balancing while feeling safe because they can easily put their feet down. The seat should be low for them to be able to do this. You may need to temporarily remove the pedals to do this.
  5. Find a safe, flat street or parking lot to practice. If the street has a slight decline, that might be helpful. Make sure there aren't any large obstacles that could be hazardous. We live in a cul-de-sac, so it's the perfect location to learn to ride a bike. Our first daughter was taught at the park. We attempted to teach her on grass to avoid having her hurt when she fell. I think this made it even harder for her to learn.
  6. Align the wheels so that they are perpendicular to the ground. Have your child put their foot on the pedal that is in near the front wheel and their second foot on the ground to push off.
  7. Start of by holding them either under their arms or on the back seat and have your child begin to pedal. Encourage them to pedal quickly, it's difficult to balance if you're going to slow. This is the hardest step for parents. It takes endurance and it's hard on the back! Practicing for only a few minutes a day is good for the child and the parent!
  8. Encourage them to look in front of them and to keep pedaling. They should be holding the handlebars and evenly as possible.
  9. As their balance begins to form, you can run behind them with arms on either side like in the video. As they lose balance, gently touch them on either side to help them regain.
  10. At first just attempt going straight. Once your child has mastered going straight, teach them to turn. Start with wide turns where they slightly lean in to the turn.

GyroWheel

Try a Gyrobike product: The Gyrowheel

The Gyrowheel is a stabilizing wheel that replaces the front wheel of a 12 or 16 inch kids bike. The wheel balances the bike on its own; you can actually push the bike down the street without anyone on it and it will balance until it loses speed. It's a great way for kids who are having a lot of trouble balancing, especially kids who are older and are embarrassed to use training wheels. Although it's expensive, about $115 for the 12 inch wheel and $155 for the 16 inch wheel, if you have multiple kids that will learn, it may be worth the price. Since the wheel wasn't available for our older girls, we taught them the old fashioned way.

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Comments 18 comments

Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, Teresa! It is such a special time when you are teaching your kids to ride a bike. We are very fortunate to live on a street that is safe for practicing, but a farm would be even better!


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

My kids are long past this stage now but I remember it well. Living on a farm we found that soft turf worked best for our oldest son. Falls were less painful and he learned in no time. Fantastic hub and great use of video!


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks 2uesday. Yes, I think the gyro wheel would be great for adults learning to ride a bike because it looks similar to a regular wheel and a much better easier balancing tool.

Thanks, Rebekah! It's a really special time in a child's life! I appreciate the comment. ;)


rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 4 years ago from Tampa Bay

Robin, this is a wonderful tutorial. I remember the days well! The gyro wheel does look helpful. The video is precious.


2uesday profile image

2uesday 4 years ago from - on the web, I am 2uesday.

This article may be helpful for adults who missed out on learning to ride a bike as a child, as well as good information for parents with little ones learning to cycle.


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, CyclingFitness! Very much appreciated from a cyclepro!


CyclingFitness profile image

CyclingFitness 4 years ago from Nottingham UK

This is a great article with fantastic advice. I never knew about the gyro wheels for balance- I know quite a few adult cyclists who could do with one of them too!


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, Livelonger and Lela! It brings back memories of learning to ride a bike for me as well!

Simone, I'm sorry your experience was a bit more traumatic, but I know you've gotten over it since you ride your bike to work! Thanks for the comment!

Cardelean, the run bikes are a great way to start 3 year olds. Good luck with teaching your little ones. It's such a fun time!

Thanks for the comment, Randomcreative! They gyrowheel is so cool!


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Thanks for the video and detailed tips! I'd never heard of a gyrowheel before. When I have kids someday, I'll check that out!


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan

What a great video! This will definitely be referenced by me next summer when we teach our daughter how to ride her bike without training wheels. But now with your thoughts about 3 yr. olds, I'm thinking that we might be teaching both of them! Thanks for the great hub.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

This is SUCH good advice! My dad didn't exactly follow these guidelines when I was first learning... which resulted in me freaking out and not learning how to ride until much later. I think the real key is to take it slow, make it as easy as possible for the child to control the bike (e.g. showing them how to stop properly and lowering the seat, as you point out), and offer lots of encouragement. I am so glad you've written this. I hope it reduces the number of traumatized kids out there!


Lela Bryan 4 years ago

I remember doing this myself.... a long time ago ...but remember it like it was yesterday!!!


livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco

I loved the video - adorable! Even more than 30 years later, I remember how my dad taught me how to ride a bike, and I think he followed your advice. And that's awesome that there's a product nowadays like the Gyrowheel - what a nice alternative to training wheels!


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks for the comment, Jimmy. You are right, the look on their faces when they finally ride their bike on their own is priceless!

Hi Lily! It's probably the best time of year in Florida to learn to ride your bike! We started off with training wheels for all the girls, too. I think it would have been better to not, but it is what it is! For us, our two youngest learned the earliest because we're on a cul-de-sac that allows for a lot of practice and a lot of older kids as examples. Our oldest didn't learn until she was almost 6 because we lived in San Francisco - not a great place to learn to ride a bike! Let us know how it goes! Would love to see pics of your little ones riding. Hope you are doing well! ;)

Thanks for the comment, ktrapp! It's such a special time, isn't it? It's good to know that the tips worked for you too! Cheers!


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois

This brought back a ton of memories for me. I did what your recommend in point #8. I told both my kids to look way ahead and to just keep pedaling. It is so exciting when they get it! The video you have is a real treasure.


Lily Rose profile image

Lily Rose 4 years ago from East Coast

Robin - your timing could not be better! Last night my husband and I took our girls (5 & 6) around the block on our bikes. Both daughters have training wheels, as they have only had the bikes for about a year. We didn't ride too much this summer because it was so hot.

During our ride last night, I told my husband that now that it's cooling off (here in So Flo winter is the best time to ride!) we need to ride more and figure out how to lose the training wheels! After reading this, I realize that we probably should have skipped the trainign wheels altogether, but it is what it is - we need to just go for it now. I'm not sure that my oldest's seat will go down low enough for her to be able to reach the ground, but we'll see. Oh, and I better get some knee pads. :-)

I've never heard of that gyro wheel - pretty cool; pricey, but good to keep in mind. You've definitely reinforced the need and motivated me to get this done, even as tentative as I am about it!

Thanks!


MrHunter profile image

MrHunter 4 years ago from Highway 24

Enjoyable just for the reading.


jimmythejock profile image

jimmythejock 4 years ago from Scotland

Nice info Robin, patience and persistance are key when teaching your children to ride but the look on their little faces when they finally get it makes it all well worth it, love the video thanks for sharing.....jimmy

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