You never forget how to ride a bicycle. We've all heard that saying hundreds of times throughout our lives and it is in fact true. Back in 2009 a group of neuroscientists led by the University of Aberdeen carried out some research to find out why this is and it turns out it's all down to a key nerve cell in our brain that acts as a memory bank for all of our acquired motor skills.
So, that's why we never forget how to ride a bike once we've been taught (and also why we never forget how to ski or use chopsticks either, apparently). But, how do we learn to ride a bike in the first place?
We all know that making the transition from a balance bike or taking off those stabilisers for the first time can be a daunting experience for your kids. But ditching those training wheels and learning how to ride a bike should be a fun and memorable experience.
To help you to teach your kid to ride a bike for the first time we have enlisted the help of Vicky Spencer, British Cycling Cycle Training Manager, who has some top tips to get kids off tricycles and balance bikes and onto proper road bikes:
Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike: Step 1
Starting out: try removing the pedals from your child’s bike. Your child’s focus is now on their balance and they can have hours of fun pushing off with their feet and gliding along. Their confidence will grow to the point where you will observe your child moving along without wobbling or putting their feet down to support their balance. It’s then time to reattach the pedals.
Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike: Step 2
One pedal at a time: take it slow and make sure your child has mastered each skill before moving on to the next. Cycling skills should be developed progressively; for example, start with pedalling and riding in a straight line and once mastered, move onto steering. You could set up some obstacles for your child to cycle around (something small and soft is a good idea at this stage), ensuring the gap between obstacles is sufficient for your child to negotiate.
Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike: Step 3
Cycle Training: Bikeability will teach your children basic bike handling skills and how to cycle safely on road. Research shows that 64% of children felt a lot more confident when cycling following a Level 2 Bikeability course. Check to see if your child can access free Bikeability sessions at school or book onto a private course.
Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike: Step 4
Family time: One of the best ways to improve a child’s cycling confidence is through practice and having fun. They don’t need to do it alone. This summer, why not take the whole family out for a picnic, cycling there and back. You don’t need to go far and it’s your choice what route you take. Remember though, the best way to improve skills and confidence is to practice what you’ve been taught. So, if you can incorporate an on-road section, then give it a go. If you are looking to improve your own skills and confidence as a cyclist, search for a local Cycle Training instructor here.
Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike: Step 5
Be seen, be safe: This is not just about wearing high-visibility clothing or having reflectors on your bike, it’s also about cycling correctly. If your child has completed their Bikeability award they will tell you themselves about the primary and secondary road positions. To find out what this means, read British Cycling’s Effective Traffic Riding Guide.
Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike: Step 6
Getting sporty: If your child would like to explore cycle sport, then a local cycling club is a great place to start. It’s a good idea to try out a range of cycling disciplines – such as mountain biking, BMX or cyclo cross – so your child can decide what kind of cycling they prefer and develop well-rounded bike handling skills.
Go-Ride Cycling Clubs are specifically for young people, with regular coaching sessions hosted by British Cycling trained coaches in traffic-free environments.
If you liked Vicky Spencer's tips on how to teach a kid to ride a bike, we think you would like these too: