We all remember our first bike ride, that feeling of excitement and freedom, but learning to ride a bike can be tricky. How long does it take to learn a skill like bike riding? Every child is different, so it can take as little as 45 minutes, or up to a couple of weeks to teach a child to ride a bike. We asked independent family-run bicycle brand Bobbin for their top tips on how best to do it.
4 easy steps for learning to ride a bike
Before you begin teaching your child how to ride, there are a few things we recommend checking:
Sizing of your bike
First thing first, getting the size right will make learning to ride ten times easier. Grab a tape measure, and measure the inside leg of your “mini-me”. If their inside leg is within the size guide for that bike, they’ll be comfortable on the bike. Size up for confident riders or stick lower if they’re a beginner.
There are three key areas to consider: stabilisers, saddle height, and handlebar height.
The stabilisers can easily be attached and removed behind the rear wheel nut. For both the handlebars and saddle, it’s important not to pass the minimum insertion line. Both settings are down to personal preference. Higher handlebars will give a more upright riding position – lower will feel more like a racing bike. A lower saddle may feel safer, but higher up will make it easier to pedal. We’ll let you decide on this one – there are no wrong answers!
Before taking to country parks and trails, we recommend learning on tarmac. This gives a smooth, even surface, ensuring pedalling is easy, with no tricky and unmanageable terrain to combat. Top tip: a slightly sloped surface will allow them to gain some forward momentum, increasing confidence early on.
Wear a helmet and stay visible: Check out a helmet size guide, and make sure it fits them comfortably by using the adjustable straps, extra padding, and clip. And for fun, add some tassels to fly behind them as they cycle off into the distance!
Tips for learning how to ride a balance bike
This stage can be the most daunting, and often takes the longest. What’s this strange new 2-wheeled vehicle in front of me? Be patient and let them get used to the feel of the bike. They can stand over it and walk it a few paces at a time.
So, they’ve had a few strolls around the block with their new bike. Next up – let them sit on the saddle and have them push off with their feet as above. If they’re confident, getting them around other riders at this point can be great and can ignite their passion for cycling! But, if your mini-me is shy, helping them learn on their own may be more helpful as they concentrate on themselves.
By this point, they’re ready to become fully-fledged all-terrain cyclists. It’s best to get them somewhere open with lots of space to explore. Believe us, they’re going to love flying away on this bike, and you’ll need to run after them. They’ll often have one foot off the floor at this point, so helping them learn to balance is key.
With the new feeling of freedom on the horizon, it’s time for them to get excited. From here, it’s helpful to get them used to all sorts of new terrain, and practice new things like going up/downhill, and cornering. All you need to do is stay nearby for any accidental topples and enjoy watching them on their new adventure!
Learn how to ride a bike with stabilisers
Brand new bike! “Must look down to feel safe.”
We see this reaction in first-time riders all the time. It’s totally natural. But we recommend getting them to look forward from the off. Not only does this help with balance but avoids any accidental bumps and crashes en route.
Little and often
It takes everyone a different amount of time to learn. But it’s usually best to break this down into 5-10 minute sessions. Keep them interested and excited, and they’ll be flying along in no time.
The benefit of stabilisers is that the balancing aspect of riding is all taken care of. This can be a great opportunity to get them used to some of the more technical bits and bobs. You can have them place their foot on the pedal whilst you rotate them gently by hand, so they get used to the motion. Then ask them to recreate this themselves.
Once they’ve got the hang of the above, you’ll want to teach them to brake. Hold them on the bike as they pedal, and practice coming to a gradual stop. You can demonstrate this by showing them the effect of squeezing the brakes gently and powerfully.
Learn how to ride a bike without Stabilisers
Lower the saddle
Initially, it can help to lower the saddle slightly. This helps with balance, as they have a lower centre of gravity, and will make them more comfortable in case they need an emergency stop.
Remove a pedal and dance the one pedal scoot
This brings a sense of familiarity and stability to otherwise unfamiliar territory. Removing one pedal allows them to practice pedalling with one foot, and scooting along with the other, a la balance bike riding. Once they’re confident with this, you can remove the second pedal.
Make them feel comfortable
The easiest way to do this is to have them sit on the bike, both pedals attached and stationary. Have them hold the brakes and give the bike a little “wiggle” from side to side. This shows them the bike is steady, safe, and nothing to be frightened of.
You can keep hold of their clothes from either side as they take their first few rotations. As they gain confidence, let go of them to balance on their own for a few rotations, before catching them again. This will help build confidence, and you can leave them on their own for longer each time.
Now – It’s Cycling Time
So, you’re now an expert at teaching your little one how to ride a bike. Remember – everyone learns at their own pace. The most important thing at this stage is to let them enjoy this very exciting new adventure – and, of course, to let them know how super cool they look on their new bike. Good luck, and happy cycling!
About Bobbin Bikes
Launched in 2007 Bobbin is a London based independent bike retailer offering vintage style bikes in pastels and beautiful bright shades.
Bikes are available for adults and children – starting from age 2 with balance bikes.
They offer a range of complementary accessories including wicker baskets, pannier bags, helmets and bike decorations.