Of course, we all want to protect our loved ones, so the thought of them heading out onto potentially busy streets on a bike could be a terrifying thought. However, there are a few useful and simple tips for parents to ensure that their child is fully prepared to stay safe on their bike and fully enjoy the lifetime of cycling ahead of them.
There is no reason that young cyclists, or their parents, should be concerned about heading out on their bike, as long as they take precautions and understand how they can keep themselves safe.
The best way to keep safe on two wheels is to ensure that you understand and follow the Highway Code. It’s vital that parents fully explain the rules of the road to their children; after all, they will be sharing the road with other uses, including cars, so need to know how to react in certain situations.
Although novice cyclists don’t need to know the ins and outs of the Highway Code when they are still practicing cycling in parks, it is useful to be aware of the basics including the importance of wearing a helmet, the legal requirement to have lights on your bike and how to be aware of your surroundings.
How to teach your child the basics of cycling
First things first, in order to become a confident cyclist your child will need to first be comfortable on two wheels. A great way to prepare your child from an early age is to take them out for cycle rides, carrying them in a seat or trailer. As they get older you can even use a trailer bike or tandem so they can get used to sitting on the bike and pedaling, without the worry about losing their balance or falling off. You’ll see that once your child becomes used to the sensation of sitting on their bike, they’ll pick up the skills to ride solo in no time.
As mentioned, it’s vital that cyclists always wear a helmet. You can do your bit and lead by example, always wearing a helmet when cycling; after all, children pick up a huge amount from the parents’ behavior. If they see that wearing a helmet is part of cycling then they will become accustomed to it from an early age. This is important even if you only cycle at weekends as a fun family activity; research from bicycle accident claim specialist indicates that the majority of accidents occur on leisure rides rather than cyclists commuting to work – over half of all accidents involving a third party, often a car.
Getting through the first practice ride
In terms of actually learning the skills required to ride a bike, most children won’t be ready until they are around four years old. But when the time is right, it’s important to put some thought into the best place where they can learn; usually, a wide, flat area with plenty of space to roam and, of course, away from traffic.
At the start, you’ll need to support them with their balance but once their confidence has grown you can gently release them to see whether they can maintain momentum and balance on their own, just be ready to catch them!
After a few sessions, no doubt they will be eager to head out on joint cycle rides with you. This might be the time to enroll them on a cycle awareness course so you can rest assured that they will have all the skills necessary to stay safe when they do hit the roads.
Choosing their first bike is important too. It needs to fit perfectly to ensure that it is comfortable, not too heavy and easy to ride. Parents shouldn’t worry about getting a bike with gears for a good few years, it’s important that kids take the time to fully develop their basic cycling skills before they are ready for gears.
What other skills will they need?
Bike maintenance skills are important, especially as a child gets older. Punctures and flat tyres are common so all cyclists should know how to repair these effectively. Also, it is vital that parents teach their children how to maintain the bike’s brakes, especially if they will be cycling on the road when they may be forced to stop suddenly to avoid hazards. A well-maintained bike is vital to staying safe on two wheels.
Safety should always be a cyclist’s primary concern. Sustrans, a charity dedicated to making cycling safer and easier for all, spends over £1 million every year maintaining parts of the National Cycle Network. This is a great charity that promotes cycling as a healthy and safe activity, if you’d like to make a donation just click here.
With these tips, and your encouragement, your child will have the confidence to travel on two wheels in no time. And parents will have the peace of mind that their little ones will be safe and sound!