Learning how to ride a bike without training wheels is a major milestone in a child’s life, and while all kids develop at their own pace, the average age to master this skill is somewhere between five and seven years old. That’s good news for my seven year-old son, who wants to go from four wheels to two sometime this summer. I must admit, though, that we’re both a little nervous about the process. He’s worried about falling and getting hurt, while I’m stressed trying to figure out the best way to teach him. And I’m happy to find I’m not the only one: A poll conducted by Schwinn found that 55 percent of parents are nervous about teaching their kids how to ride, and 36 percent wish someone else would do it for them!
But before I source this parenting chore out, I decided to ask some pros for their best advice on the subject and discovered these eight tips for teaching my son how to ride without either of us having a meltdown.
1. Make sure your child wants to do it. When it comes to learning how to ride, the child should have more interest than the parent. “Sometimes kids are pushed into an activity when the child is not ready.
This usually turns into an uphill battle with no winner,” says Steve Finkelstein, founder of Professor Pedals, which offers individual and group bike riding lessons on Long Island, as well as in Westchester and Northern New Jersey.
It’s also important to factor in the child’s maturity, which is critical in areas of safety and control. After all, a bicycle is a vehicle and needs to be treated with respect—not to mention also having respect for other riders, pedestrians and vehicles.
2. Practice balance. It’s best to start testing a child’s balancing capabilities before he gets on a bike. “The child’s ability in other activities that have balance and risk taking components—riding a scooter, karate, ice skating, gymnastics, skiing, etc.—are good signs that they are ready to learn to ride,” says Finkelstein.
3. Choose the right bike. Parents often purchase a bike with the idea that their child will grow into it, but the bike is then too big and difficult for the child to control, says Katie Needham, director of retail activation for Schwinn. The Madison, WI-based company recently launched a line of Smartstart bikes, which have been designed to better fit a child’s body and riding needs.
Here’s a guideline for choosing the best bike: Measure the height of the child to determine the correct wheel size of the bike. For a child who is 28” to 38” in height, a bike with a 12” wheel diameter should be best. For a child between 38” to 48” in height, the best bet is a bike with 16” wheels.
A taller child who is 42” to 52” inches tall would be able to ride a bike with 18” wheels, and a child 48” to 60″ inches tall should be ready for a bike with a 20” wheel diameter.