Greg and Kelsey Glynn after the Trek Across Maine

Four Tips to Teach Your Child How to Ride a Bike

Learning to ride a bike can be nerve-wracking for a child just first starting out and for the parent who is running alongside, trying to keep up the encouragement. The good news is with a little practice and the proper mindset, it can also be fun and rewarding.

Greg and his daughter Kelsey

Last year, I taught my daughter Kelsey how to ride her bike. In less than two months, she went from teetering on her pink Shopkins bike with training wheels to riding in the virtual Trek Across Maine. When she turned nine, she quickly grew out of her first bike and upgraded to her current Pacific Cycle Bubble Pop 20″ Kids’ Bike. If you are looking to get your child on a bike this year, here are four helpful tips.

1. Build confidence first. Purchase a bike helmet that fits and makes your child feel good. Having a “cool” helmet builds his or her pride and self-assurance.

Based on your child’s age and ability, start with a tricycle or training wheels. Even if this seems too easy, it will set your child up for success to take the next step. Let your child tell you when he or she is ready to take off the training wheels. 

Be sure to start in a large, flat parking lot or dead-end circle. Practicing in secluded areas will allow you both to focus and you won’t have to worry about traffic or other distractions.

2. Set the expectations. After the training wheels come off, the first fall is inevitable and part of the process. It is important to tell your child a couple of falls at first are going to be expected and that in itself, is not failure. Setting this expectation lets your child know it is OK to fall. Make sure your child is wearing wear elbow or knee pads to start. With every fall off the bike, your child develops trust in you as a teacher knowing these expectations.

3. Teach the rules of the road. As a parent, educating your son or daughter about the rules of the road before going out riding with friends is a critical part of keeping them all safe.

As your rider learns how to coordinate the handlebars with the pedals, it is important to teach your child the rules of the road. This includes everything from following traffic signs to using hand signals. A great way to practice is in settled neighborhoods, then in more populated areas, and eventually on busier streets and intersections. Every ride is an opportunity to learn increasingly complicated road rules.

4. Have fun! Cycling is a fun and safe activity for all ages. I have really enjoyed getting back on a bike again. Before starting the Trek Across Maine with Kelsey, I can’t remember the last time I rode my bike. The Trek Across Maine has motivated us to get outside, exercise more, and spend time together. I cherish each ride with her. Kids grow up so fast. During our rides we have enjoyed time with friends, seeing animals, and talking about random topics, including why bikes aren’t allowed at drive-thru restaurants, and of course our plans for the summer. I know I will look back years from now and not only remember our rides, but most importantly the trust and bond we built riding together. 

Story & Photos by Greg Glynn

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