How to teach your child to ride a bike

How to teach your child to ride a bike

 If "I'm still holding on" means "'I was holding on" and stopping means crashing, you know you're knee deep in a bike riding lesson.

Teaching your child to ride needn't be stressful or traumatic for either of you. In fact, it can be surprisingly easy with the right attitude and approach.

Here is The Cycling Bug's guide on how to teach your child to ride a bike, so those stabilisers will be off in no time.

Do you remember learning to ride a bike when you were younger? Tell us about your childhood experiences of learning to ride or teaching your child in our forum.


Choose an open, paved area free of traffic or any other distractions.

The Bike

The bike you expect your child to learn on should be an appropriate size for them now, not a bike for them to 'grow into.'

  • Set the saddle at the lowest position possible - your child needs to be able to plant both feet flat on the ground as they straddle the saddle
  • Adjust the handlebars - they must be able to see clearly over the handlebars, reach the handgrips and turn the bars comfortably without stretching forward
  • Shorten the reach to the brake levers - ensure the brake levers are within finger reach by adjusting the limit screw
  • Pump up the tyres - for improved stability and to make coasting easier
  • Take the pedals off - Just for the first part of the lesson, it will make balancing much easier initially

In addition to being safer and fairer, learning on a bike that fits properly reinforces to the child the idea that they are ready to learn NOW. 

Other equipment

A well-fitted helmet is a must, fingerless gloves might be worth using to avoid any bumps and grazes. 

Let's get started!

Attitude is everything: if you're not upbeat, positive & focused, there's no hope your little rider will be. 

Lesson 1: Braking

  • Teach your child the basics of braking by having them walk alongside the bike & pull on the brakes
  • Pulling on both brakes at once is the most critical lesson to learn here - we're all familiar with what happens when you only grab the front brake

Lesson 2: Balancing

  • With the pedals removed, have the child scoot around with their legs while sitting on the saddle
  • Check the child is looking ahead where they want to ride - rather than at you, at the bike, or at the ground
  • Get them to push off with their feet and then raise their legs so they coast along - and then remind them to brake and put a foot down if they lose their balance
  • The longer they start to coast for, the more their balance is engaged, so keep encouraging longer stints of coasting
  • The faster they can coast the easier it will be for them to find their balance, so give them a push if need be - and again, reinforce they have control over the speed with the brakes

Lesson 3: Cornering

This step can take place after attaching the pedals also.

  • The most important lesson with cornering is for the child to gently look in the direction they wish to ride (left or right) and allow the handlebars to follow.
  • Start with big circles in both directions, and progress to smaller, tighter turns.
  • Use markers or chalk to provide a guide for the child to follow

Lesson 4: Pedalling

  • When you reattach the pedals, the seat will need to be raised slightly
  • The balls of their feet should be over the pedal axle
  • Start the pedal at 2 o'clock for the initial 'powerstroke' which will propel the bike forward - walk alongside your rider for a few pedal strokes until they gain their balance and speed
  • Remind them constantly to keep pedalling, as the momentum is the only thing keeping them upright
  • Do the cornering lesson again, ensuring the pedal on the inside of the corner is always raised for maximum stability
  • Make it a game and ask your child to ride behind you or follow a sibling or friend
  • Incrementally raise the seat up to the optimum level to ensure maximum pedalling efficiency - they should ultimately be on their tiptoes as they straddle the saddle, with their knees not coming above level with their hips. 

Reinforcement and celebration

It's obvious cause for celebration when your child makes progress with their bike riding, so don't be afraid to make a big deal about it. A celebratory ice cream for their magnificent teacher certainly wouldn't be out of the question either.

If there's any doubt left about this process, take a look at how NOT to teach your child to ride a bike:

Do you remember learning to ride a bike when you were younger?  Tell us about your childhood experiences of learning to ride or teaching your child in our forum.

More from The Cycling Bug


Brilliant, fantastic info and a nice vid to round it off. I was expecting the one from BigTrain at first -

anyone know what age you can get them cycling btw?


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