Advice on teaching my kid how to ride a bike.

We are buying our little one a bike for her birthday. We’ll probably get something that looks like a small mountain bike of good quality so that it will last for the second kid’s use. I’ll be getting a helmet, but don’t know about full body armor (elbows, knees, etc), and I have heard there is a certain ‘feh’ towards training wheels these days.

How did you do it? what should I do/avoid? Etc.


Here are good tips in the right order. Both of my kids learned, years apart, at the same holiday spot. It had a slightly sloping, driveway with wide expanses of grass both sides. Their was another family staying with us and some of them could ride and my boys each managed to be comfortable in only a day or so. I all honesty once I got them started the friend’s kids provided most of the instruction and encouragement. No training wheels were used.

I can tell you how I learned.

No training wheels, no pads, no helmet*. I was pushed along on the bike while I tried to keep upright. It was done on a nice lawn area. After a few goes where I fell off everytime the pusher let go, I found myself riding along hearing a faint cry, “your doing it! I’ve let go, it’s all you now!” I promptly fell off again but realised that it could be done. It gradually got easier!

*A helmet is a must of course. The only reason I didn’t wear one was because you just didn’t wear them back then. I personally think knee pads can be missed, sure there’ll be some scrapes and scratches but nothing life threatening. Training wheels do nothing to teach you how to turn a bike as you can’t lean with training wheels, therefore, I’d avoid them.

I’ve not had the opportunity to try this out, but I have heard this advice several places before. To teach your kid without training wheels, it’s helpful to lower their seat all the way so that they can sit on it and flat-foot the ground. Then, let them push themselves around with their feet, hobby-horse style.

Before long, their natural tendency will be to coast as long as they can between pushes…and they’ve learned most of what they need to about balance. Then you raise the seat up to an intermediate level where they can get their toes on the ground without leaning, and let them keep at it. Encourage them to use the pedals at this point. Finally, once they’re actually riding, you put the seat where it needs to be.

Again, I’ve never tested it out, but it seems supremely logical to me.

Something I heard that seemed to work with me kids was to teach them to steer the bike towards the direction it is going. So if they veer to the left, they should steer the bike that way too.

Seemed to help.

Buy Band Aids & Bactine, before you buy the bike.

And give the little rug-rat support, not criticism.

Why all the hatred for training wheels? I grew up using them, and both my kids did too. Never affected my turning, or slowed down my development, or reduced my IQ. As soon as my dad saw that I was balancing on the tire and not on the training wheels, off they came, and we did the “run alongside hanging on and then let go” thing…I felt proud and grown-up! Gave me the time to get familiar with the bike without all the drama of falling over every five seconds, and it was more me learning how to do it than having to have a parent out there all the time. Of course, this was back in the days before children were so closley supervised, so actually the other kids in the neighborhood were the ones who really taught me. But dad or mom is important for that final, “wow, you’re doing it” ride!

One thing to keep in mind is that there is a huge age range at which kids are comfortable riding a two-wheeler. If your kid hasn’t decided she wants to, or doesn’t feel she is ready to, you will not succeed in “forcing” her and will only be in for a whole lot of unpleasantness.

What does she ride now? A tricycle? i remember each of my kids differed. One had a lot of trouble pedaling a tricycle, so from an early age she rode a teeny 2-wheeler with training wheels. OTOH, my son loved tricycles, and for a long time had a pretty large (pretty cool and tricked out!) tricycle. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with training wheels. I seem to recall you would essentially get them free with small bikes. Tho some folks worried about whether it “was time” for the kid to stop using them, every kid makes the transition at some point or another. Usually around kindergarten-1st grade IIRC.

One thing that made sense for us was someone recommended that we practice in a large area such as a parking lot, “You don’t learn to walk on a balance beam, so why learn to bike on a sidewalk.”

I remember liberal applications of alcohol made the process more palatable. :wink: Be ready for a sore back after a day’s running back and forth, bending over, holding up the bike.

Some kids learn quickly in one day, or even just a few tries. Others make gradual progress over several sessions. Again - it is not a race. Take it at their own schedule.

The idea of setting up the bike so the kid’s feet easily touch the ground is a good one.

I believe we used wrist guards and knee pads we had anyway for rollerblading. Not sure how necessary they were.

I’m confused. Isn’t the proper height for a bike seat where you can have both feet on the ground, flat, while seated? If my bike seat was any higher than what you described above, I’d lower it.

No expert by any means, but I think the key to training wheels is weening the rider off of them before they get too used to them. The whole trick to riding a bike is balance. And I’ve noticed a lot of kids who use training wheels, get used to always leaning so that they’re on one of the training wheels. I think this is counter-productive to teaching the child about the balance required. This “comfort zone” of leaning over and not falling can get a little ingrained, and the child never reaches that “balancing on the (real) wheels” point. So if they are used initially to get the child used to the bike that is fine. But my feeling is that they should be removed very shortly after, to get the child to learn the real aspects of riding the bike.

I was, obviously, a no-training-wheels learner. I actually think it is still the best approach - using the smaller/lower “starter” bike. But I can also see the value of using training wheels to get the child comfortable with the mechanics of riding first.

If that’s what you’re comfortable with, yes. But the proper height for a bicycle saddle is really a few inches higher. It depends upon the person, but generally the knee should have a slight bend at the bottom of the pedal stroke. This usually makes it necessary to get off the saddle in order to plant one foot on the ground, when stopped. The reason for having the saddle this high is that it allows for more efficient, easier pedaling, and is MUCH gentler on the knees (try jumping from a full crouch, then try jumping with your knees only slightly bent - this simulates the effect pretty well). Generally speaking, people who keep the saddle low aren’t going to want to be riding intensely enough to do their joints any damage, and they prefer being able to just put a foot down with their foot in the saddle. So this isn’t really a big deal for people who don’t ride much. It does make a difference for people who ride regularly, and is a good idea for everyone, really… but it won’t do much harm to keep it low.

Sorry for the hijack. Hooray for learning to ride! FWIW, I had training wheels, but they never seemed to do much good. As I recall, I learned to ride when my dad borrowed or rented a couple of bikes (with solid tires, ouch) and we took them out to the local high school parking lot.

I think you’re supposed to remove the pedals as well, so they don’t get in the way.

I haven’t tried it either but this seems very logical. Balancing is the hard part, and the hobby-horse riding will let you practice balance it withou the distraction of pedaling. Once you learn how to balance a bike, you can progress to pedaling.

Same here. They tried teaching me by the “run alongside hanging on and then let go” method first but that didn’t work. My sense of balance has always been a little off. So I got the training wheels instead–and had to ride hand-me-downs from my sisters!

Jayn_Newell, once you are able to ride a bike, the seat should be raised so your knee is almost straight when your foot is on the pedal at the bottom of the stroke. When you have the seat low enough to stand with your feet flat on the ground, it is more difficult to transfer energy to the pedals. As a teen I had the seat low and I tried a friends bike who had it set higher, I immediately raised my own seat as it made a HUGE difference in comfort and effort. When you stop, you’ll have to stand up over the crossbar since the seat is too high to stop and reach the ground.

cormac262 covered my feelings WRT kittenblues question…well done!

Required tools:
long sleeves
long pants (jeans preferable)
bike that fits (if it’s too big, they won’t want to try it when they can’t touch the ground).
wide vacant area with short (30-50 ft?) gentle slope

knee pads
elbow pads

The mittens are indispensible since when the fall (a lot) they aren’t scraping up their hands. Same with long sleeves and pants. The slope is needed so they don’t have to worry too much about pedalling, and the faster you move the easier it is to balance.

Teach them (and remind them) about braking…lots
Our story…

Our 5 year old twins are now seasoned veterans. We got bikes for them when they were 3 and left the training wheels on for them since I didn’t want them to be afraid of the bike. I figured that if they fell down every time the got on, they wouldn’t want to use it. The used the training wheels the first summer.

The second summer (age 4) I took off the training wheels and they practiced with us running along beside and behind. They would get scared and take one hand off the handlebars to reach for us and then crash. They gradually tired of this and didn’t want to ride any more. We didn’t push them towards it. Then we had friends over and the kids excitedly wanted to show them their bikes and they forced our friends to push them around. Then, in an instant, they got it! And the excitement and fun they had was incredible. Our friends had left and we took them down to a parking lot of a construction site (virgin pavement with no stones or broken glass, and completely empty on the weekend).

They rode and fell and got back on and rode again for about 2 hours. We went back the next day and the difference in ability was unbelievable. The rest period between riding sessions must have allowed their brains to process the sensations and better understand the mechanics of riding. Their ability to steer, ride without falling and confidence was incredible. If I had seen them on that day only, I would have expected that they had learned long ago.

They’ve praticed in the vacant parking lot many times and then we went on a long ride on a converted rail-trail this spring. We rode for 7 kilometers. We’ve been doing these types of treks frequently now and we’re loving it! I haven’t raised the kids seats yet, since they don’t have the ability to stand up and pedal (the bikes are still too small…and I can’t wait to get bigger ones and go for some reall rides!).

We are also in the market for a two-wheeler for my son who is 6. We got one at a yard sale that is just too big. He will have training wheels as he has some balance problems. I do wonder just how long he will have those training wheels. But, anyway, we’re going with the training wheels first and then we’ll what his balance is like after a while.

Maybe he would ride it more if it were really a two wheeler… Or maybe not. <sigh/>

Trust me on this!

Try Pedal Magic.

It works!

With my son, he came in one day (age six) and said ‘take the training wheels off’ So I did. And I went out and ran up and down the street (no easy feat at my level of fitness) and he didn’t get it and we put the bike in the garage because Mom was about to heave.

And the next day we look out the window and there he is in the cul de sac behind the house riding his bike without training wheels. The neighbor kid (who is a year older) held the back of his bike and “taught” him.

My daughter (age six) says we can take her training wheels off when she is “ten, maybe fourteen.”

The kid is 4, and gets frustrated easilly…I think I’ll do the training wheels for the first summer. I want her to just enjoy riding with me, now that we live next to a forest with lots of paved paths. I’ll see how she takes it from there.

Thanks for the info!


Personally, I hated having training wheels. I thought they were incredibly embarrassing. My dad made me leave them on for what seemed like a long time, as I “wasn’t ready” to have them taken off. He did the same thing to my brother (11 years younger than me) and my brother didn’t start learning how to bike until he was older (probably around 9). He hated it and I don’t think he got to the stage where they were taken off.

Ah, but part of the appeal of training wheels is that if you are embarassed by having to use them, you will try harder to learn how to ride without them! My dad would keep raising the training wheels up until they only touched the ground if you tipped way to one side or the other…so you were balancing on the wheel without realizing it.