What is the best way to teach my kids to ride a bike?
As a parent of a young toddler who is most certainly a source of boundless energy, you are likely spending a great deal of your time together outdoors exploring the world, mostly in an attempt to tire him or her out so she can get that afternoon nap in and you can shower :). Life with a toddler is full of milestones that inevitably lead to parents experiencing flashbacks of their own childhood. Have you ever been out at a park and witnessed a parent teaching a young child to ride a bike and BAM! There is it is! Throwback to your own first experience on a bike. You were likely 5 or 6 years old (unless you are Cam Zink or Mat Hoffman ;)) but kids now are able to do it at much younger ages with the right equipment and instruction.
Do you recall the sheer panic you felt as your parents asked you about removing the training wheels? Remember how they promised to keep holding the saddle as they shouted how great you were doing? You were probably struggling to keep your balance while pedaling frantically and eventually ended up with a skinned knee? The trouble with learning to balance and pedal at the same time is that it can be an overwhelming and at times frustrating process.
This is where balance bikes come in to play. The concept is almost too simple: “balance first, pedals later”, but it works very well.
Through the use of balance bike such as the Tengu 12”, kids as young as 18 months old have the opportunity to learn basic bike handling skills like coasting, turning, and braking at their own pace without the added pressure of having to pedal at the same time. The trick is to introduce kids to the joys of biking gradually by first having them stand over the new steed, then slowly work up to walking on it and then coasting and using brakes. They will be cruising around in no time.
A great and often overlooked resource is your local BMX track! The tracks are run by parent volunteers and are very family-friendly. We have had the pleasure of having both of our children practice and race at various BMX tracks here in British Columbia over the years and it all started at “half-track class”. What it means is that on practice and race nights at the track, half of the track is closed to allow little balance bikers and beginning pedalers to practice without being intimidated by all the action. Racing is very fun too and is a great way to instill the love of biking and a little healthy competitive spirit in your little one from the get-go.
Balance bikes build a solid foundation of bike handling skills from an early age making the transition to a first pedal bike (like the Yoji 14) a breeze, skipping the outdated and awkward training wheels phase altogether. Most kids who start out on a balance bike are able to pedal on their own by the time they are about 2.5 years of age.
Here at Spawn, we are of the opinion that hand brakes are a must, especially for balance bikes. As kids become more comfortable (and FAST!) on two wheels, it becomes more difficult for them to stop by using their feet. We added a Tektro micro v-brake to our balance bike to help avoid crashes and the reach-adjustable, easy-action levers on the Tengu work well even for tiny hands. Learning to use brakes at a young age also makes for a smoother transition to pedals later on.
Coaster Brakes: Yes or No?
This brings us to the next point - coaster brakes. Chances are when you were learning to ride a bike, you had to pedal backwards in order to stop.
This method is just as inefficient now as it was then (and almost as bad as training wheels, if you ask us?). Why learn something you have to “unlearn” shortly anyway? By introducing your child to using hand brakes right away eliminates the confusion of having to break the habit of pedaling backwards later on.
And for those lucky kids who learned on a balance bike, coaster brakes are not at all intuitive and, in our opinion, downright dangerous. When a kid wants to slow down on a balance bike, what is their go to move? They put their feet down. Try braking on a bike with a coaster brake when your feet aren't on the pedals - oh, yeah, that doesn't work...
For this reason, you won’t ever find coaster brakes on a Spawn Cycles bike.
So, your balance biker is ready to pedal, what’s next!? Stay tuned for our next post where we discuss some tried-and-true strategies for a smooth transition to pedaling – you got this!
We use a combination of height and inseam (instead of just age, weight and/or standover height).
For sizing advice, please refer to our handy sizing guide.
Why Spawn Cycles?
Our bikes were spawned from (see what we did there) a need to find something suitable for our own active (then) toddler, Danny, back in 2011. Long story short, when the time came for us to get a first bike what we found were bikes that had seen very little evolution since the 1980’s. They were heavy and geometry and components plain sucked.
We set out to change that.
I Want One!
You can purchase a Spawn Cycles bike online directly from us at www.spawncycles.com.
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Have a Wheelie Good Day!