1. Bike check – Getting the Right FitFirst things first, let's make sure we have the right bike for your little one. Some tips to keep in mind: Your child’s foot should be able to touch the ground while they’re seated on the bike. This gives them confidence!
- For children beyond the beginner stage, they should be able to touch the ground with their heels slightly raised. This helps with adding power to their pedalling.
- A light bike is often the best for a beginner as it makes it easier for the child when they lift their bike or want to maneuver it.
- Ensure the bike fits the child at the time they are riding i.e. avoid purchasing a bike that’s too big! This is one of the most common mistakes, as parents often buy a bike that will be great for them in the future. It’s far better to have a bike that meets their immediate needs! You do NOT need to break the bank for that first bike. There are plenty of great used sporting good shops/bike shops that sell perfectly adequate bikes at a reasonable price.
- TIP TOO BIG - If the child is unable to touch the ground with their feet even after the seat has been lowered all the way, the bike is much too large.
- TIP TOO SMALL - If the child can touch the ground with their feet but there’s a visible bend in the knees, the bike is likely too small.
2. What Type of Bike?
While there are certain bikes that are "better" for certain ages, always remember that every child's experience will be different and should be based on their experience, confidence, and readiness. As a general guide:
2-3 year olds: Really benefit from “strider” or “run” bikes which help them to develop their balance.
4 year olds: At this age, children should be on bikes with pedals and training wheels. The child may have adequate leg strength and balance which would allow for the introduction of learning to ride on their own.
TIP – Training wheels shouldn’t be taken off if the child is having difficulty pedaling on their own with the training wheels still attached. Don’t rush the process. Removing training wheels too early can may a negative experience for the child and may lead to resistance in learning.
6+ range (and advanced riders): For older children who have adequate riding experience, it’s time to start thinking of getting them a bike with gears. Gears will be helpful for long rides which include uphill and downhill riding.
3. Safety Equipment – What’s Needed?
The number one rule of biking is to ALWAYS wear a helmet, and have one that is worn properly. Knee/elbow pads and gloves are optional.
At Pedalheads®, wearing a helmet is our most emphasized safety principle. Research shows that up to 90% of fatal bicycle crashes are the result of head trauma. Wearing a properly fitted and certified helmet will cushion and protect the head, significantly decreasing the chance of causing serious brain damage.
4. How Should a Helmet Fit?
We strongly recommend children bring a helmet with a retention system that allows you to adjust the fit. For more information about helmet safety, click here to see a video from our staff.
Is it too small? Here's the test:
1) Place your child's helmet on their head.
2) Face your child.
3) Check that there is no more than a two finger gap between your eyebrows and the front part of the helmet.
Is it too big? Here's the test:
1) Place your child's helmet on their head.
2) Keep straps off.
3) Have child shake head front to back and side to side.
4) Make sure helmet does not slide off.
5. When are children ready to drop their training wheels?There's a few indicators you can pay attention to when deciding:
Leg strength – If the child can pedal continuously with ease while the training wheels are still attached, this is a good indication that they’ll be able to pedal on their own.
Balance – Remove the training wheels temporarily and have your child practice gliding. Gliding is when the child pushes themselves forward on their bike while pushing their feet on the ground and lifting their feet up when they gather some speed.
Confidence – Even when a child is physically ready, they may not be emotionally ready to ditch their training wheels. It’s extremely important to make sure that the child understands that they are ready by offering positive encouragement.
6. When are Children Ready for the Road?
At Pedalheads, children in Level 4 “Advanced Pedalheads” and above are able to go on the road. See list of levels here. Children also have to be at least six years old, as this is an age where children can grasp the importance of safety concepts and riding on the road.
Younger children might have the biking ability, but may not comprehend the fact that dangers will be encountered when they tackle the streets with their bikes.
The following concepts should be addressed before going out on the road:
An understanding of road signs and how to react when encountering them
While riding with others, an understanding of the proper spacing between riders (1-2 bike lengths)
How to perform hand signals (stop, left turn, right turn)
It’s extremely important for children to maintain focus while riding on the road. Distractions of all kinds should be minimized to ensure their safety. (Riding without two hands, cell phones, music, etc.)
7. How to Avoid Accidents
Plan routes based on experience
Avoid heavily trafficked areas
Always maintain focus and be aware of what is happening on the road (oncoming traffic, cars turning etc.)
Making eye contact with other bikers, drivers of cars and pedestrians is a great way to avoid tricky situations.
8. Dealing with Hills, Stop Signs and Other Obstacles
Children should practice hill riding at local parks before they try them on the road.
Gear bikes help make tackling hills easier and safer.
Regardless of traffic conditions, ALWAYS stop at Stop signs. Proceed at a slower pace through intersections and look both ways.
9. How do I Keep my Child Interested in Biking?
Go on a family bike ride! Find new locations to bike to and turn it into a really fun adventure for yourself and your children
10. What Type of Surface should they Practice on Before they get on the Road?
Don’t be too hasty to take your child on the road. Have them ride on a flat surface such as grass in a park (often the best choice as it is soft if they fall) or pavement in an empty parking lot. It will be good for them to gradually become more comfortable on different surfaces.