Cycling is not only a fantastic way to keep fit but it is also a great social activity – this is just one of the reasons why parents are so keen to introduce their children to cycling. But what is the best way to do this to ensure that children are comfortable on two wheels from an early age? We take a look at the best tips for parents.
Intro to Cycling
The best way to introduce a child to the world of cycling is to ensure that they are confident and experienced on bikes before they attempt to cycle by themselves.
A great way to do this is to carry them as a passenger in a seat or trailer, or even to co-ride together on a tandem or trailer bike, so they can pedal and experience cycling but don’t have to worry about maintaining balance. This allows your child to become used to the feel of a bike so that they aren’t worried or concerned when the time does come to try it for themselves.
Also, if you child sees that you are enjoying cycling then they are more likely to want to try it out too; so, it is best to ride quieter routes with minimal traffic or through parks and forests if possible to demonstrate that cycling can be a pleasant and relaxing activity.
What skills do they need?
Being accompanied by your child on rides can also help to pass on some of your traffic and road safety skills, so ensure you are sticking to the highway code. Children learn a lot from watching their parents so make sure that you are setting a good example!
Once your child is out and about on two wheels you should consider enrolling them on a cycle awareness course to ensure that they have all the skills they need to stay safe and to maximize their enjoyment whist cycling. Traffic awareness is one of the most important skills a cyclist needs so it is vital that you make sure that your child is comfortable changing position on the road and knows what to do when approaching junctions or at traffic lights.
It is just as important that a cyclist possesses bike maintenance skills, this ensures that their bike is in prime working condition and reduces the risks of accidents. The brakes and tyres are two of the most important parts of the bike; you should show your child how to change a flat tyre or repair a puncture as well as how to check that a tyre is roadworthy. Likewise, a cyclist should always check to ensure that the brakes are in good working order. This is especially important if you plan to cycle on roads and amongst traffic as you may be required to brake suddenly to avoid a hazard.
How can I help my child when they are out on the road?
Before any ride starts always ensure that your child wears a helmet, explaining the importance of this and the risks of not wearing one. Your child’s helmet should fit snugly on their head without feeling either too loose or too tight.
The importance of wearing a helmet cannot be overstated; a bicycle accident specialist funded research that shows that most accidents occur on leisure rides, with over half of all accidents involving a third party, whether that is another cyclist, a pedestrian or a motor vehicle.
Also, ensure that your child’s bike is well-suited to them. It’s important to think about the weight and size of the bike; don’t be tempted to purchase a bike that they can grow into. All this will do is make the ride more tiring and uncomfortable for your child which could put them off from pursuing the activity.
For a ten year old, a bike that weighs around 13kg and with 24-inch wheels should be a good fit. Similarly, the number of gears a bike has isn’t that important when a child is starting out. It’s best for a child to use a one gear bike until they master the basics and feel comfortable, then you can introduce gears when they are a little older and more confident.
Once your child can cycle by themselves the best way to ensure your peace of mind that they can cycle safely is to ride behind them to observe how they deal with hazards such as traffic and junctions. Other things to consider is whether they cycle to close to parked cars, whether they are visible to other road users and if they make it clear that they are about to slow or come to a halt, or if they just slam the brakes on.
As they’ve just started learning how to ride solo they will make mistakes, so be prepared to give constructive advice after the ride explaining what they should do and why.
Wrapping it up!
No doubt both parents and children will be a little apprehensive when a child is first learning to cycle but there is absolutely nothing holding them back from enjoying a lifetime of cycling.