Teach a kid to ride a bike

Teaching your child to ride a bike can be challenging, back-breaking work, but it doesn’t have to be. Keeping a few simple tips in mind should make for a better ride for both of you.

Safety first. Make sure your child can reach the ground, pedals and handlebars comfortably and always wears a properly fitted helmet. Studies show helmet use prevents head injuries in about 85 percent of bike accidents. To avoid strangulation, the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute recommends teaching your child to remove his helmet before using playground equipment or climbing trees.

Skip the training wheels? Long hailed as a necessary stepping-stone from tricycle riding, use of training wheels may simply postpone the inevitable physics lesson kids need to master in order to avoid falling.

Teach your child to turn in the direction of an imminent fall. According to Reginald Joule, pioneer of this teaching method, this action quickly puts the bike back into the center of gravity, enabling the rider to avert a fall. This will make sense to you after you see how quickly your child masters riding with very little spotting and very few tears.

Another method worth trying (with older kids): Have your child cruise down a very gentle slope without pedaling. Gravity will pull the bike and your child can focus on balance and steering, while becoming accustomed to the sensation of riding a bike. Make sure you rehearse brake use first.

Praise them and make only necessary suggestions while your child is pedaling.

Time to take your show on the road? Ride behind your child, so you can keep an eye on things. Teach your child to stop, look left, look right, look left again and listen to be sure no cars are coming before entering a street. Make sure your child understands that just because he sees a car doesn’t mean the driver sees him. Kids must learn to look behind them before swerving, turning or changing lanes (mirrors help). Have your child practice this in a quiet parking lot without swerving off the painted line. He should not ride his bike in the street alone until he can master this skill.

Then revel in your new mobility, and enjoy the ride.

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