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Plus tips to get your littleuns up and running on two wheels

The younger you teach your child to ride a bike, the more confident they become, and the more likely they are to cycle regularly in later life.

A survey of over 1,0000 adults has found that the average age that adults began to ride was 6.9 years old, but this is becoming younger, with parents today beginning teaching at 5.9 years old.

Those who learned to ride aged 4-5 years old are far more likely to describe themselves as ‘confident’ cyclists now (73%) compared to those who learned aged 10+ (58%).

Those who learn to ride a bike without stabilisers at a younger age are also more likely to be regular cyclists now.

Over half (56%) of British bike owners say their parents taught them to ride a bike, although more than a quarter (26%) are self-taught cyclists. Around one in 10 were taught by siblings or friends.

Half of UK adults believe cycling is a life skill that everyone should learn, while more than a third (35%) think it’s just a hobby and not vital to learn. A further 9% say it’s not important to learn to ride a bike.

Rob Basinger, head of UK at Protect Your Bubble, who commissioned the survey, said: “I’m sure that many people can still remember the moment when their stabilisers came off, and they experienced either the freedom or anger of realising their parent had lied and let go!

“Some children learn to ride on two wheels as young as 3.5 years of age. Grass will provide a softer landing but is more difficult to cycle on than a wide, flat tarmac surface, obviously well away from any traffic. It goes without saying they should be wearing a helmet, and start by getting them to practice squeezing their brakes while walking the bike along.

“Make sure your child’s saddle is at a height that allows them to put their feet flat on the floor when they’re sitting, which will give them greater control over the bike. You can raise it slightly once they’ve mastered the art; and encourage them to look up, rather than down at their pedals.”

Want to get a youngster on a bike? This video takes you through the steps from getting your sprog scooting along to having them confidently pedalling around.

The basis is simple: find somewhere quiet and away from traffic, and get your little one's bike set up so she can easily push along on the ground.

Make sure she knows how to use the brakes, then let her play, pootling about, and get used to steering the bike with the confidence that she can stop at any time.

 

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

9 comments

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OldRidgeback [2802 posts] 8 months ago
4 likes

If your kids start with a strider bike, it'll be a lot easier. When you get the first bike with pedals, remove the pedals at first to let the child get used to the different handling as well as the brakes. Then put the pedals back on and raise the saddle a little, but not as much as would be normal for pedalling. If your child has a small backpack, then make them wear that at first when learning to ride. The parent should hold onto the backpack to help stabilise the child. But it is essential that the parent teaching the child should NOT hold the saddle or the handlebars - doing so is preventing the child from learning.

My kids learned to ride when they were four and three respectively. I also taught several of their friends how to ride. As they all had balance bikes first, it only took about two hundred metres at most until they got the idea of pedalling.

Do all that and you can forget about stabilisers, which are a bad idea as they teach poor riding technique and also cause a lot of crashes.

Oh, and don't forget that gloves are actually more important than helmets for kids riding in the park.

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TrippyZ [4 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

Could you edit the title to make it more of a tongue twister?

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SingleSpeed [359 posts] 8 months ago
2 likes

Mine had a frog bike.

Said frog bike also had a Chris King Headset and Full easton carbon finishing kit.

also "No Helmet No Ride" because I'm not a mindless fucking moron.

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joules1975 [471 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

I think the survey headline about age starting on a bike doesn't give the full story. The age at which someone starts riding and their later competency might be a good indicator, but the age they start might not be the thing that means they are more likely to cycle in later life.

Could the age they start indicate the parents attitude towards cycling - more positive attitude will mean good chance the parent is a cyclist, or at least go out on the bike regularly with the kids, which will mean the kids grow up with cycling being 'normal', and thus more likely to follow said parents in later life. I think the starting age is a consequence of the attitude, not the thing that results is higher cycling level in later life.

And to wade into the helmet debate - I don't care whether you think helmets are good or bad, but if you are convinced enough about their merits to fit your child with one, then stick one on your own head as well. I get really annoyed seeing families riding where kids have helmets and parents don't.

1. parents set an example so it should be do as I do.

2. who relies on who? Child has head injury, yes it terrible, but parent can still carry on (other than obvious grief/stress/time off to care for child). Parent has head injury and child's life is affected big time, particularly if parent dies as a result.

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davel [1725 posts] 8 months ago
2 likes
SingleSpeed wrote:

Mine had a frog bike.

Said frog bike also had a Chris King Headset and Full easton carbon finishing kit.

also "No Helmet No Ride" because I'm not a mindless fucking moron.

Bindun, many times. Much better than is going to be done on this thread. http://www.cyclehelmets.org/ for example.

You want stick styrofoam on your family, go for it, but you want to bandy about shit like 'mindless fucking moron', you back it up, big man.

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Jimmy Ray Will [761 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

Shock horror... I'm a mindless fucking moron... happy to let me kids ride without a helmet... for now.

When we go up to the woods, we all helmet up, when we go to the park, we all go with the wind in our hair. I agree with Joules, one in, all in... but equally, I se eno reason to wear a helmet most of the time.

All about risk for me, and from my perspective, the risk of seriously hitting your head when tottling to and around the park is very low. The risk of hitting your head on something that might do damage and where a helmet can definitely help is significantly greater when challenging yourself off-road. 

My kids get this... they also have no issue with helmets being uncool. For me the most important thing is for my kids to understand that cycling, when done responsibly, is a very safe passtime. 

 

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Rich_cb [376 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

I suppose it depends on what sort of head injury you anticipate a young child suffering whilst learning to cycle.

If it's a low energy direct impact injury, ie from a low speed fall, then a helmet may well be of benefit.

Most direct injuries are minor but the potential for a catastrophic injury exists.

I think a direct injury would be quite likely in the above situation and therefore a helmet would be of use.

"Cycle helmets may produce benefit by reducing and spreading the forces that lead to direct injuries"
Cyclehelmets.org

Avatar
psling [255 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

I suppose it depends on what sort of head injury you anticipate a young child suffering whilst learning to cycle.

Agreed.

Rich_cb wrote:

If it's a low energy direct impact injury, ie from a low speed fall, then a helmet may well be of benefit.

Most direct injuries are minor but the potential for a catastrophic injury exists.

I think a direct injury would be quite likely in the above situation and therefore a helmet would be of use.

 

With a young child the neck muscles aren't so well developed and the additional weight and bulk of a helmet may well increase the chance of injury.

So - 

If it's a low energy direct impact injury, ie from a low speed fall, then a helmet may well increase the chance of injury.

Most direct injuries are minor but the potential for a catastrophic injury exists.

I think a direct injury would be quite likely in the above situation and therefore a helmet would be best avoided.

 

You pays your money, you takes your choice...

Avatar
Rich_cb [376 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes
psling wrote:
Rich_cb wrote:

I suppose it depends on what sort of head injury you anticipate a young child suffering whilst learning to cycle.

Agreed.

Rich_cb wrote:

If it's a low energy direct impact injury, ie from a low speed fall, then a helmet may well be of benefit.

Most direct injuries are minor but the potential for a catastrophic injury exists.

I think a direct injury would be quite likely in the above situation and therefore a helmet would be of use.

 

With a young child the neck muscles aren't so well developed and the additional weight and bulk of a helmet may well increase the chance of injury.

So - 

If it's a low energy direct impact injury, ie from a low speed fall, then a helmet may well increase the chance of injury.

Most direct injuries are minor but the potential for a catastrophic injury exists.

I think a direct injury would be quite likely in the above situation and therefore a helmet would be best avoided.

 

You pays your money, you takes your choice...

What evidence is there for helmets increasing the risk of injury in a low energy direct impact injury?