Getting Ready to Ride

Getting Ready to Ride

You can generally start teaching a child to ride a bicycle between ages 3 and 6. The timing depends on your child's physical and mental development and comfort level. Don't force it.

Choosing a Kid’s Bike

Don't buy a too-large bike that your child will eventually "grow into." This can slow down or completely halt the learning process. Get the correct fit: Make sure that your child can stand over the top tube with both feet planted on the ground. He or she should feel comfortable and in control of the bike at all times. When you're ready to start your child on the road to self-propelled fun, REI offers a selection of bikes for kids.

Choosing and Fitting a Bike Helmet

The bike helmet should sit level across the middle of the forehead, no more than 1" above the eyebrows. If the helmet sits high on the forehead, or moves more than 1" when you push the helmet from side to side or front to back, you need to adjust the fit or you may need to buy a different size. (You might also consider gloves, elbow- and shinguards and knee pads. Be sure shoelaces are tucked out of the way and avoid loose pant legs.)

Where to Teach Bike Riding

Choose a traffic-free area where a child can learn to ride safely. Find a place that is large, flat, smooth and paved. This location might be a driveway, park path, school blacktop or empty parking lot. Empty tennis or basketball courts can also work well.

Preparing the Bike

Our method for teaching a child to ride a bicycle emphasizes balance first and adds pedaling later. Balance bikes are built for this method, but it's easy to modify a standard child's bike as well. Remove the training wheels. Training wheels help kids grow accustomed to sitting on a bike and using their legs to pedal, but they won't help them learn to balance. Remove the pedals and lower the seat: This allows kids to sit upright with their legs straight and their feet flat on the ground. The goal is to help them feel more comfortable and steady as they begin learning balance. (Note: Pedals can be removed most easily using a pedal wrench.) Properly inflate the bike tires. The bicycle will roll more smoothly and your child will have an easier time coasting when bike tires are inflated to the correct pressure. Look for the recommended tire pressure printed on tire sidewalls.

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