I distinctly remember my first time riding without training wheels, the bike was way too big but luckily the footpath had a hedge which came in handy when it was time to stop.
The reason I still remember is that it was a turning point, I suddenly had the freedom to move under my own steam, bike to my friend’s house and cruise around the backyard.
Teaching a child to ride a bike without their training heels fitted is something even most parent will remember, be it the tears or smiles! By breaking up the steps, and a quick bit of bike setup, the task can often be achieved fairly quickly.
Make It Fun
I think this is one of the most important points to consider, having a kid wanting to learn and achieve something like learning to ride a bike can be extremely motivating for them, it’s likely they will master the process quicker as well.
Keeping the experience positive will speed up the process, keep them encouraged by talking up riding prior to them having a session, maybe ask them if their friends are off training wheels or perhaps taking them to a local park where other kids are riding around or pointing out kids riding bikes on tv.
Make It Safe
Wearing a helmet and gloves will make your child feel safer when falling off a bike the first thing people do is put out their hands to break the fall, this is where the gloves will save cut and scrapes on your child’s hands if they are on a concrete surface or similar.
Drop the bike seat down so your child can touch the ground with both feet, this means they can stabilize themselves and are less likely to fall sideways if they panic.
Short Sessions For Quicker Results
Have you ever tried to learn something for the first time, often practicing day after day only to come back to the same challenge after a few days rest to nail it the first time? Learning a difficult section on guitar or something challenging at work?
If your kids keep their sessions relatively short, focused and fun before they get tired, they will be up and pedaling round far quicker. Some kids might pick it up in an hour but others might take longer, if they are struggling, just take a break for a few days and come back to it. I found one or two nights in the week, combined with slightly longer weekend sessions helped my daughter learn her balance bike quicker this way.
Pick A Good Location And Suitable Surface
Try to find a wide open space with minimal distractions and obstacles. It’s ideal if there’s a good amount of run-out space for them to cruise around once they get up and running and not having to stress about stopping or dodging random thing in their way.
Having a slight downhill can be handy to help carry the bike up to speed and avoiding the wobbles but you can also help by pushing on the back of the seat for extra speed.
Also, the type of surface will influence things, concrete is great for predictability and speed but obviously not good for tumbles which are inevitably going to happen, very short grass is good as longer and thicker grass grabs the wheels, slowing things down and making the steering difficult. Dirt or even astro-turf will work well.
Try Breaking Down The Skills
If your child’s been riding around with training wheels, they may already be familiar with braking and pedaling. They can do it with the safety of their training wheels and not having to balance, but when that stability is taken away there’s a whole, extra brand new skill thrown into the mix.
- Balance – This is the big one, the big change after the stabilizers are removed. Help your child by reassuring them, don’t hold their handlebars but just closely run beside them at the ready or just the occasional hand on their shoulder to let them know your there.
- Knowing how to stop – Your kid’s bike might be running hand brakes or a coaster, spend some time with them helping them understand how the brakes work and with hand brakes, make sure the brake lever is set up properly for their smaller hands.
- Time To Pedal – Once your child is comfortable coasting and getting a good feel for their balance by hovering their feet off the ground for extended periods, you can guide them to rest their feet on the pedals and have a go turning them. Their seat will be lower since you might have dropped it down so they can more comfortably touch the ground, so they pedal position will be not ideal but as they progress you can raise the seat so they can stretch out their legs.
Starting Out On Their Own
Your child should be able to comfortably touch the ground with both feet while sitting on the saddle. With your child straddling the bike and able to support themselves upright, either give them a gentle push or let them roll down a gentle slope.
Be there with them, but let them coast along, scooting with their feet taking larger and larger steps building their confidence. Since they can scoot along they will still feel in control and safe by being in contact with the ground.
Encourage them to take longer strides and once you see they are hanging their feet easily it’s time to move to the next step.
Time To Pedal
They should now be confidently able to hold themselves upright, by starting with their feet on the pedals and you pushing them along, let them go but remind them to put their feet on the ground and stop pedaling when they need to stop. You can repeat this process a few times until they get the hang of it.
Once they can balance and pedal, re-introduce the brake if they have previously been using one, it’s should come back to them pretty easily otherwise spend some time instructing them about the handbrake of the coaster (back-pedal brake)
Keep working on each skill individually if needed to help them master them if they are struggling with a particular one.
Learning to ride gives kids massive confidence and freedom and it’s excellent bonding time, plus it’s an awesome feeling seeing your child reach milestones and the buzz it gives them.
Any other tips? We have been using a balance bike lately and find it helps a lot with focusing on balance since this is usually what most kids can have difficulty with. How do they compare to trainer wheel equipped bikes? see our balance bike vs training wheels comparison or the ways in which the help your child develop balance and strength.