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Teach Your Child How To Bike: Expert Advice

Teach Your Child How To Bike: Expert Advice

teach you child how to bike

Want to teach your child how to bike but don’t know where to start? This article contains expert advice from industry leaders.

Hardtail Canada produced this article in partnership with Kids Bikes Canada. They are a family based out of Calgary and the distributor for Clearly Bikes in Canada.

I used to kayak with Mike–he’s one of Canada’s leading high-performance kayak coaches. Lina is an ex-athlete herself and the business manager.

When it comes to coaching and high-quality kids bikes, these two are your top sources in Canada.

So: let’s get rolling!

Teach Your Child How To Bike

How to Choose a Kids Bike

kids bikes

Kids Bike Sizes

Before you teach your kid how to bike, you need to get them one.

Kids bikes are measure by wheel diameter. They typically come in 4” increments, starting at 12,” then go all the way up to 24” (12,16,20,24). You can find 14” and 18” bikes but they aren’t as common.

These options ensure you always have the appropriately sized bike for your child. Occasionally, kids skip a size if they have a big growth spurt. Or the opposite may happen—they stay on one size a long time.

Regardless, always ensure you are sizing a bike for your child’s actual body proportions.

Refer to the infographic below for a quick reference and starting point.

kids bike sizes
Thanks to Rascal Rides for this great infographic

Kids Bike Geometry: How to Make Sure the Bike Fits

kids bike fit geometry
The ideal kids riding position: leaning slightly forward

Picking out a bike according to the size guide is one thing, but you also need to make sure the bike fits your kid properly. Everyone has their own proportions—comfort is key.

An upright position may look more comfortable, but a slightly forward-leaning position allows for more stable riding. This is especially important when your child is learning how to ride a bike.

The slightly more forward-leaning position brings down the centre of gravity. The head, which is the heaviest part of a child’s body, will be lower. Most adult bikes are built with that in mind and it’s no different for kids.

Finally, a proper kids bike has an adjustable saddle height. This ensures the quickest transition to larger wheels, helping your child pedal faster and further earlier in their biking progression.

Do You Need a Freewheel or Coaster Bike?

Kids bikes come in two types: Freewheel with hand brakes, or Coaster.

The Freewheel version allows your child to pedal backwards without any effect on the bike. This is important when they start learning how to bike so they can get the pedal to the starting position without moving the bike. A Freewheel bike is also lighter.

On the other hand, when you pedal backwards on a Coaster bike it engages the rear brake. This is common on BMX bikes.

What Determines the Cost of a Kids Bike?

Two words: Quality and Serviceability

Price dictates what you’re going to get. This often means the difference between frames and welds produced with cheap metal, and more durable bikes built with higher grade steel and aluminum.

Top quality frames have parts that can be replaced when they wear out. They also have better performing moving parts like hubs, bottom brackets, cranks, and rust proof chains. These prolong the life of the bike, make sure it survives being handed down, and minimizes time consuming (and expensive) repairs.

Some high-performance component brand names to look out for are Tektro brakes, Sturmer-Archer internal hubs, and Shimano Deore derailleurs.

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Kids Bike Safety Gear

kids bike helmet fit

A well-fitting helmet is absolutely critical before you teach your child how to bike.

You want a helmet that does not slide bike and forth. It should not need constant adjusting–this is distracting and not safe. Consider a kids bike helmet with a dial, as this helps to comfortably cinch up the helmet.

kids bike safety gear

Gloves are highly recommended as road rash almost always starts at the hands.

Knee pads and elbow pads certainly help to prevent scrapes and bruises. Although, these may introduce distraction and be uncomfortable for your child. Feel free to experiment with what works, but they aren’t necessary.

If you’re at a bike park, long pants and shirts often prevent the worst road rash.

Techniques for Teaching Your Child How to Bike

teaching kid to bike

Pick a wide-open paved area where the bike can roll easily. Sidewalks are not a safe or easy place to teach your child how to bike.

A basketball court is a great option as there are no obstacles to distract or crash into. Also consider a slight downhill surface to get the basic motions.

Kids should start with both their feet flat on the ground when sitting in the saddle. While this may not provide the best biomechanics for pedalling, it will give them confidence, which is far more important.

Help them move at first and get a feeling for rolling/ pedalling. Once that is comfortable, move on to starts and stops.

Introduce pedal motions at 2.5 years old, after the basics are established and your child feels stable on the bike.

Kids Biking Progression

kids biking progression

Kids can start biking as young as 18 months on a balance bike, and 2.5 years on pedals. That said, each kid is unique and there isn’t a right age to start. The progression is based on your child’s comfort, interest and practice.

Find what your child enjoys riding: cruising through the neighbourhood, pump tracks, single track, downhill, road biking. Just make sure you are always encouraging them.

Generally, kids love biking, but each is unique and may enjoy different parts and kinds of riding.

For a resource on family bike parks, check out Kid Friendly Bike Parks in Canada.

Kids like destinations and goals, like a special place or picnic. Encourage the journey and the adventures along the way. This helps distract from the effort and work to get there. Examples include looking for special animals or counting puddles to hit.

Teaching Your Child How to Bike Conclusion

That is a summary of important points to keep in mind when you first start teaching your child how to ride a bike, courtesy of Kids Bikes Canada.

We hope to produce more family bike related content in the future!

If you have questions about anything kid biking related, reach out to Lina and Mike at Kids Bikes Canada.

If you have any comments or ideas for future articles, please comment below!

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Kids Bikes Canada Bio

kids bike canada

Lina is an ex-athlete, graphic designer turned entrepreneur and the driving force behind Kids Bikes Canada.

Mike is a high-performance kayak coach who loves to get outside biking, xc skiing, snowboarding and kayaking with their kids.

Helping kids progress in multiple sports is Lina and Mike’s passion.

Check out Kids Bikes Canada by Clicking the Logo below!

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