How To Give Your Child A Great First Cycling Experience
We know you love to ride as much as we do. We know you want your kids to share your enthusiasm. We want to help you provide your child with a great FIRST riding experience, so they’ll want to keep riding again and again. After all, your kids could end up being your favorite riding partners down the road!
Think about a time in your life when you tried something new and for some reason, it just didn’t stick. What was it like? Do you remember your instructor? Did you even have an instructor? Was it too hard? Did you have the right equipment? Was it in the right environment?
Ok, you get the point. Whenever you try out a new experience for the first time, your first impression is always the lasting one. The first experience is so important that it could make or break your decision to continue trying the activity. If you try something out for the first time and it goes miserably wrong, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll never try it again.
To that point, here are some of our personal tips on providing a great first riding experience for your child so they’ll want to come back to the bike again:
- Plant the Seed:
Before buying their first bike, use subtle encouragement to plant the cycling bug in your kid’s mind. Even at an early age, showing them awesome videos of mountain biking, BMX riding, sprint finishes, as well as genuinely being excited about the sport yourself, goes a long way! Show that enthusiasm early, plant those seeds, and chances are they’ll start asking you for their first bike before they can even stand over it.
- Have Quality Equipment That Fits:
If you get the cheapest bike on the market then sure, you’ll save some money. Unfortunately, that bike will be about 5-10 lbs. heavier than a slightly more expensive quality bicycle from an Independent Bicycle Dealer or a Cycling Specialty Retailer.
“But 5-10 lbs. is nothing”, you say. Well, children are tiny, and a kid’s bicycle’s weight counts for more pounds when it comes to the little tikes. An extra 5-10 lbs. for your kid’s bike is like adding an extra 20-30 lbs. to your bike.
The bike has to fit correctly. Don’t get a bike for the child to “grow in to”. If the bike is either too big or too small then the bike will not handle properly, which could lead to an unnecessary crash.
To learn more about how to choose the perfect bike for your child, read our blog : Kids Bikes Buyers' Guide.
- Provide a Safe Environment:
This is KEY! Don’t start out on the busy neighborhood road. Find a park or a yard with grass and a soft place to land in case of a crash. If possible, find an area with a slight grade of descent to coast down at first. Speaking of being safe, ALWAYS use a helmet. Knee and elbow pads are encouraged to prevent boo boos. Gloves can also come in handy, just make sure they fit good.
- Set the Training Wheels Aside:
Start with a balance bike or take the training wheels and pedals off to begin with. This way the child will learn their balance first. They’ll be able to get their speed up with their feet, coast along, and put their feet down to stop. This is where the grass, and preferably a slight descent in grade comes in handy. Make sure they have good shoes on as well! It’s hard to stop in flip flops, not to mention it’s dangerous.
Once they learn balance, teach BRAKING before pedaling. If they learn their balance and then go from foot power to pedal power, their speed will more than double. If the child doesn’t know how to brake, then a potential tumble could hurt twice as bad.
Once balance and braking are established, move on to the pedaling part.
- Ride With Them:
Get on your bike. Teach by example. There’s no easier way to learn than by imitating someone else, watching what they do, and trying to replicate it. After all, you’re their biggest hero. Lead and they will follow.
- Encourage, but be Patient:
This is the great balancing act (pun intended). Patience is key. Be supportive and encouraging.
If the child falls off the bike, do a quick check to make sure they’re ok. If there are tears at first, take a second to let them breathe. Give them a moment, see how bad the fall really was. Focus on the positives. 9 times out of 10 the tears disappear fairly quickly, and they remember how awesome it was to go so fast. Then they’ll hop right back on the bike and do it again.
Remember to know your child’s limits and know when it’s time to call it quits. If you’re out there and you’re making some progress but the kid crashes one too many times and is ready to go inside or do a new activity, then by all means move on. If it was a great first experience, they’ll be ready to get back out there in no time!
- HAVE FUN!
After all, fun is what it’s all about. Fun is what keeps us all coming back to the bicycle over and over!