Tips for Teaching Kids to Ride a Pedal Bike
With sunshine, shorts, and sunscreen comes more outdoor adventures and the perfect time to learn to ride a bike. At Strider, we know a thing or two about teaching kids to ride; we’ve studied, practiced, tweaked, and witnessed the process thousands of times. No need for frustration or training wheels! Here are some tips to make your child’s transition from balance to pedals a spectator sport. Grab an ice-cold beverage, a lawn chair, a pom-pom or two, and maybe even some tissues (to wipe tears of pride and joy) to prepare your child’s cheering section.
1. Watch for the Signs
Age or size alone is not a good predictor of pedaling success. Typically, kiddos who start as babies on the Rocking Bike and move to a 12” without the base are ready to begin riding quite early. Why? Because BALANCE is the number one most important skill for learning to ride a pedal bike! Regardless of when your child starts, we recommend all kids start on a balance bike BEFORE trying to pedal. That is why our Strider 14x model starts as a balance bike and converts to pedals. Watch for these signs; they are good indicators that your kiddo is ready to pedal!
“While riding a Strider Bike, my child…”
- can support all their weight on the seat.
- is able to gain momentum by running with the bike.
- balances with feet up for extended periods.
- is able to avoid obstacles in his/her path.
- can lean through turns with feet off the ground.
- is able to find and use the footrests while riding.
- can control their speed.
- is able to stop safely with only their feet.
2. Ignore the Pedals
Now that your kiddo has mad balancing skills, it’s time to put the pedals on your Strider 14x! But don’t get too focused on them just yet. The 14x has unique narrow “stride-around” pedals that allow little riders to continue to focus on their balance and use the pedals sporadically until they are ready to commit. Let your kiddo get used to the weight and feel of the bike with pedals attached. Encourage them to lift their feet and look forward. Mostly, this is a time just to let them play, ride, and have fun. If there is one thing we know and see over and over is pedaling will just happen naturally. Don’t put too much focus or pressure on the pedals. Your child might be at this stage for several weeks, days, or for some, hours. Everyone is different; trust the process!
3. Encourage Pedaling
It’s the moment of truth. The time to shine. The real deal. The crux. It’s time to introduce pedaling! But it’s no big deal; everyone is primed. Encourage your little rider to take a few big strides and just set their feet on the pedals. If it seems like they need a little help at first, place a hand on their back to help steady or to give a push. Don’t hold the bike for them at any point as it throws off their balance and causes them to rely more heavily on the help. It is best at this point to give your child some space. If they need a bit of inspiration, get out your bike and show them how you pedal. Most kids do best with trial and error at this point, sometimes the best thing parents can do is step back. They will likely go back and forth between striding and pedaling for a while, or only pedaling on slight downhills. Don’t fret! It won’t be long until they are pedal pros!
4. Learn to Stop
After pedaling, the next important skill to master is stopping. At first, your now pro pedaler will instinctively stop by using their feet because that is what they did in balance mode. That will work for now while the seat is low enough and they can easily put both feet on the ground. As they become more proficient pedalers, raising the seat will be more comfortable. It’s best to practice stopping now. Coaster brakes can be tricky to get used to, especially after all the work to learn to pedal forward. Telling your child to pedal backward can be confusing and counterproductive. Try instead, “push back with your heels” (you may need to show them where their heel is). Show them how to make skid marks and have them try; it’s a fun way to learn to brake! Once they’ve got it down, raise the seat and let them soar.
Learning to ride a pedal bike is a true childhood milestone. The moment can be bittersweet as you witness a marker of growth, independence, and freedom in your child. And it’s just the beginning of all of the ways your little pedaler will make their way through this big, wide, beautiful world. Now, grab that tissue, wipe your eyes, blow your nose, and be your kiddos loudest cheerleader.