A monthly column from Becky Cox of Swindon Cycle Campaign.
Recently our little person passed a huge milestone and learnt how to ride a bike of his own!
Unlike my generation, who mostly learnt to cycle using stabilisers, many children nowadays have what’s known as a balance bike. You can either buy a specific balance bike or just take the pedals (and stabilisers) off an existing bike.
A few months after his second birthday, our son started taking an interest in his balance bike. Soon he loved it - realising he had the freedom to get around a bit quicker. He especially enjoyed visits to the local BMX track off Maunsell Way in Wroughton.
We then bought a second-hand pedal bike and took the pedals off, using it as balance bike. Letting him get used to using brakes to stop was key for his development.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, we were at the County Ground Athletics Track- a perfect environment to learn to cycle. I asked him whether he wanted to try using pedals like mum and dad. He was keen to try so we went for it.
I helped him get started with his feet on the pedals and guided him along with my hand on his back. He soon started to see how moving the pedals around propelled him forward. After a couple of laps I started taking my hand off his back for a couple of seconds, then a bit longer, until I was counting out loud and he was shouting ‘mummy I’m cycling by myself!!’
It was a life-changing and proud moment for him, and for us as parents.
Within 30 minutes he was confidently cycling alone, turning and manoeuvering around with relative ease.
If you’re keen to help a little one get on a bike, here are three things that really helped:
1. Starting with a balance bike (or a bike without pedals)
2. Having a good quality, lightweight children’s bike. We picked ours up second-hand on Facebook Marketplace. These are worth investing in as they make cycling easy and fun; buy second-hand and you can usually sell on for a similar price.
3. Involving them in your own cycling trips as a passenger, watching us negotiate around the streetscape, and developing their spatial awareness.
Tips: Typically children’s bikes start from age 3-4 with 14” wheels - however all have slightly different geometry, some much bigger than others. We have a long-legged tall toddler who was able to fit his Isla CNOC at aged 2-and-a-half . Some high quality children’s bike brands to look out for are: Isla, Frog, Squish, Hoy, Woom etc.
Other resources for learning to cycle and family cycle include: Family Cycling UK Facebook Page, Cycle Sprog website (www.cyclesprog.co.uk) and British Cycling Ready Set Ride website (www.readysetride.co.uk).