Is Your Child Ready to Ride?
Date Posted:3 January 2017
Learning to ride a bike is a part of childhood no kid should miss out on, but at what age can children start learning?
Most kids can start their cycling adventure as young as 18 months, but there are different types of bike’s suited to different age groups. Knowing what type of bike they need is just part of getting your child ready to ride.
Why should I teach my child to ride a bike?
There are a number of healthy benefits and positive impacts that come with teaching your child to ride a bike.
1. It’s a healthy physical activity
According to the Australian Guidelines for Health, children between 5 and 12 should spend at least one hour a day doing moderate to vigorous physical exercise. Riding a bike is a low impact (there’s no tackling etc) and functional activity that will be useful for them for the rest of their lives.
2. It’s great for family bonding
No matter your age, anyone can ride a bike. Cycling is a great way for the family to explore, learn and stay healthy together, and teaching your child to ride can lay the groundwork for teaching them other things in life as well.
3. You're teaching healthy habits for themselves and the environment
Teaching your kid to ride early will give them a love for it even as they get older. Skipping the car in favour of the bike is not only good for the body, it’s good for the environment as well.
How do I choose the right bike for my child?
Choosing the right bicycle for your child is important, and there are several factors to consider. How old your child is when they start, how fast they develop physically, and how quickly they adapt to the different stages or riding, will determine the type of bicycle they need. Generally, the stages of riding are:
- Pedal car - generally suited to toddlers, these three and four wheel ride-alongs help kids get used to the motor functions needed to move around on wheels. Fun, safe and friendly, kids can use their feet to push around and eventually learn to coast along using momentum.
- Balance bike - balance bikes and trikes are pedaless bicycles that can sometimes be fitted with training wheels and pedals as your child grows.
- Training wheels - with or without pedals, children progress from balance bikes to training wheels, learning to use the brakes.
- Adult assisted - with the training wheels removed, an adult holds the back seat of the bike and runs alongside the child, eventually letting go once they’ve gained balance.
- Self riding - your child can ride on their own, and now works on safely mastering the various aspects of riding.
To pick the perfect bicycle, Bicycle Network recommends considering the following:
- Can they hold the handlebars comfortably?
- Can both feet be placed firmly on the ground?
- When they are standing, is there at least 3 centimeters of clearance between the crossbar and their legs (for road bikes) or between 5 and 10 centimeters for BMX and mountain bikes?
Children’s bike size and wheel diameter
Wheel diameter is often used to describe the size of different children’s bikes. As a rule of thumb, different wheel diameters correspond to different age ranges. Of course, your little one might be more comfortable with something larger or smaller, so use the tips above and this size guide to help figure out which bike is best for your child.
12 inch wheel diameter
Suitable for children aged between 2 and 4 years of age, or with an inseam of 35-42 centimeters. Most bikes in the 12 inch wheel size come with training wheels, a back brake and are single speed (no gears).
14 inch wheel diameter
Recommended for kids between the ages of 4 and 6, with an inseam of 40-50 centimeters. Most 14 inch bikes have rear coaster brakes and a hand brake. Great for learning how to stop under various conditions.
16 inch wheel diameter
Generally recommended for children between the ages of 5 and 8, or with an inseam of 45-55 centimeters. Most 16 inch wheel bikes come equipped with rear coaster brakes or two handle mounted hand brakes, one for the rear wheel and one for the front.
20 inch wheel diameter
Bikes of this wheel size generally suit children between 7 and 10 years of ages, or with a 55-63 centimeter inseam. May include rear coaster brakes, multi speed gears and hand brakes.
24 inch wheel diameter
For kids 9 and up, or with an inseam between 60 and 72 centimeters, 24 inch diameter bikes have most of the features you’ll find in a full sized adult bike.
Starting with pedal cars
Pedal cars are the ultimate playtime mobility toy for children aged between 1 and 4 years. Sporting either three or four wheels, they are usually shaped like popular vehicles (sports cars, fire engines and planes) making them fun to play with while giving young kids a perfectly safe introduction to balancing and movement on wheels. Hip Kids stocks a number of Pedal cars including:
- Baghera Ride On Avion Speedster Plane: three wheeled pedal car plane with steering wheel and padded seat, it can be personalised with your child’s name.
- Classic Pedal Fire Truck: Classically detailed ‘Fire Chief’ four wheeled pedal car with steering wheel, fireman’s bell and two removable wooden ladders. The Classic Pedal Fire Truck is made from steel and will last for generations.
- Baghera Legend Pedal Car: Dapper design and vintage colours make this pedal racer built to last. Can be personalised for your child.
All Hip Kids pedal cars come with a fail safe 1 year structural warranty and 30 day money back guarantee. See the full range of pedal cars here.
Graduating to balance bikes
Balance bikes help children between the ages of 18 months and 4 years learn how to balance and steer a bicycle without using pedals, and should be considered as a precursor for riding a pedal powered bike. Kids move around by pushing their feet along the ground. As they grow and learn, you’ll see them becoming more confident on their balance bikes. Kids can be encouraged to lift their feet up and coast, further developing their balancing and steering abilities.
What ages are suitable for balance bikes?
Anywhere from 18 months to 4 years is a suitable age for a child to start on a balance bike, though obviously a parent or guardian is always going to know what’s best for their child. When teaching your child to ride on a balance bike, remember to keep it fun, be patient with their learning, and take regular breaks when they need to. Some balance bikes double as pedal bikes, and can see some kids through to 7 or 8 years of age.
Best choices for balance bikes
Hip Kids have a number of great balance bikes in a variety of colours.
For children that start their bike riding early, the 2 in 1 Wooden Trike & Balance Bike converts from a three wheeled tricycle to a two wheeler, and is ideal for kids 18 months and up.
Our Kids Wooden Balance Bike comes in a variety of colours. It can be customised with your child’s name, and features a handle mounted front bag for storing toys, a water bottle and snacks.
For kids looking to progress to a pedal bike, the Kids 2 in 1 Steel Balance Bike can be fitted with training wheels and pedals so your child has a familiar bicycle that can grow with them as they get better at riding.
Does my child need a helmet on a balance bike?
Whenever someone of any age hops on a bike there's an inherent risk of accident. Protecting your child’s head is just as important as protecting our own heads when riding a full sized adult bike. When your child starts to learn to ride a bike, a helmet should be the first priority.
Tips for teaching your kid to ride
It can be tough knowing if your child is ready to ride a bike. As they progress, it’s natural to worry about increased risks. Here’s some tips for helping your child get better at riding and give you peace of mind.
- Finding balance: on a slight slope, encourage your child to keep their feet on the pedals and not skidding on the ground. When they reach the bottom, ask them to keep pedalling and see how far they can go.
- Stopping: teach your child to first gradually use their shoes to stop, then introduce them to brakes. Make sure they know the difference between front and back brakes and how they can be used to stop.
- Starting from a standing position: on a flat, sealed surface show your child how to raise one foot on the pedal while keeping the other on the ground for balance. Have them push on the pedal and lift the balance foot at the same time.
Are you ready?
Ultimately, no one knows your child like you do. While patience is key to building their confidence as a rider, the best time for your child to start riding a bike is when you are ready to teach them.