Learning how to ride a bike is one of the great rites of passage for any child. And for parents, being able to teach a kid to ride a bike is super rewarding – and a whole lot of fun!
Once your child’s keen to learn, get a bike in their size (not too big), strap on a helmet, head for a smooth area, and then practice, practice, practice how to balance, steer, use the brakes and pedal.
Choosing the right bike
Before you begin teaching your kid to ride, it’s all about choosing the right equipment for their age and stage.
A balance bike: These are perfect for kids aged between 18 months and three years old. They have no pedals and the movement comes from a child pushing their feet on the ground and propelling the bike forward.
A bike with training wheels: From around two years old, children have enough gross motor skills and balance to give a regular bike a go. They also have the coordination to pedal, but the training wheels provide some support while they learn to keep the bike upright.
Two-wheel bike: From about five years old, kids are ready to tackle a regular two-wheel bike, without training wheels. Check that they’re comfortable, adjust the seat to the right height and that they can reach the handlebars easily.
Selecting the right bike size
Once you know what type of bike is best for your child’s age, it’s time to get the correct size. The table below explains the recommended wheel size, based on children’s age and height.
To work out if the bike is the perfect height, your child should be able to:
- Straddle the middle of the bike while it’s upright (not sitting in the seat), with their feet flat on the ground. There should be a clearance of about five centimetres.
- Not be hitting their knees or legs on the handlebars while riding, and their legs should be just slightly bent when the pedal is closest to the ground.
- Be able to turn the handlebars completely in either direction without stretching too much.
How to teach kids to ride a bike
Now you’re ready for teaching how to ride a bike. For a little help along the way, here are 7 videos with plenty of tips to help teach kids how to ride a bike. Now they’re off and racing!
Push, push, glide method
Around the age of two, a balance bike is a great way for children to learn their bike-riding basics, without needing to worry about pedaling. It’s all about getting that all-important balance and confidence. This method of learning to ride a bike starts with slowly walking along with your child on their balance bike, while you hold onto their handlebars. Then it’s your child’s turn.
Get your child to sit on the seat and ‘walk’ their bike along, using their feet to push at either side of their bike. If they’re finding this a little tricky, check you don’t need to lower the seat. To stop, they just need to stop walking. As they keep practicing, they’ll naturally start to pick up speed. Encourage them to take longer steps, saying the words ‘push, push, glide’, until they learn to lift their feet off the ground and glide along. This video explains how to master this method quickly and easily.
Always remember that even with a balance bike, whack a helmet on your child. Safety first!
Straight to pedals method
Older kids between three and four can skip the balance bike stage, and head straight to trying to ride a bike with pedals – and no training wheels. At this age, they’re developmentally ready to give this a go. It really helps if they’ve had the chance to watch other kids pedal a bike, so they know what to do with their legs.
If your child hasn’t got a clue how to pedal, get them to sit on the seat hold their feet onto the pedals and use your hands to show them how to move them forward, while another adult holds the bike upright. If they’re physically and developmentally ready to ride a bike using the pedals, they’ll get pick up the concept really quickly. If not, just wait a few more weeks and try again. Once they are confident with pedaling correctly, stand behind the bike and your child, and hold the rear wheel steady using your feet. Support them under their armpits, and let them go, running alongside and keeping your hands close so you can catch them if they wobble.
Without pedals method
By removing the pedals from a normal bike, you’re essentially turning it into a balance bike. This helps your child learn to control their balance before you reattach them. Let them master pushing and coasting along, and then pop just one pedal back on.
Get your child to coast along again while using the one pedal that’s attached. Once they’ve mastered gliding along, attach the second pedal. This way they’re slowly being introduced to the most complicated part of riding a bike – learning to pedal.
Five steps method
In just one hour and five steps, your kid will be sitting proudly in the saddle of their bike, riding along like a pro. Step one is to remove the pedals from a normal children’s bike. Step two – get your child to walk their bike around while sitting in the saddle. Next step – ask them to build up some speed and glide along – lifting their feet as they get more confident.
Step four – put those pedals back on, the fun is just about to start! Finally, it’s time to get back on and start pedaling. In just one hour, you’ve taught your child to ride a bike. Round off the lesson with teaching them how to use the brakes. Then next stop, Tour de France! Just don’t panic if they don’t get this concept right away, not all kids do, just head back to step one and try again.
Kangaroo hop method
With this method, you need a bicycle without training wheels or pedals or a balance bike. Once they have the hang of walking their bike while in the saddle, it’s time to get them coasting along. And here’s where it gets silly!
Teaching your child how to coast along while lifting their feet for longer and longer periods means getting creative. Tell them to take huge steps, just like a giant would. Then use the ‘kangaroo hops’ method, They stand with their feet flat on the ground. Then they pushing off with both feet at the same time, like a kangaroo hop!
Now it’s time to reattach just one pedal and do the one pedal scoot before the second pedal is put back on, and the real fun starts.
The mimic method
Kids learn by mimicking, so watching other kids ride their bicycles is a sure-fire way to get those legs pedaling. A trip to the local skate park to watch other kids riding is perfect, or tune into YouTube clips like this one where four-year-old Emma explains exactly how she learned to ride, without training wheels.
She uses the pedals-off method, learning how to balance first, before mastering normal bike riding once her pedals are reattached.
The nine-minute method
Persistence is key with this method, which involves mashing up a few different techniques. This four-year-old learns to ride his bike in just nine minutes, by having his parents help, coasting along, watching others, and then just giving it a crack!
Being that little bit older he’s got the coordination and developmental skills to get the hang of riding his bike really quickly, so age is definitely something to keep in mind.
Children are different, so if one of these techniques doesn’t help teach your kid to ride a bike, try a different strategy. Or give it a rest for a couple of days to take the pressure off. Then gently encourage them to have another go. Sometimes it’s just not that easy to teach a child to ride. But it’s a lesson in persistence for both you and your little rider, and the first time they finally take off on two wheels, you’ll be beaming with pride. And they’ll be full of confidence.
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