Strider bikes provide a very quick and fun way for children to learn how to cycle. These simple two wheeled cycles feature saddles and may have a brake, while they are propelled by the feet. Using these, children can learn very quickly how to balance and steer.
A child can typically begin with a strider bike from age 2-3, then transition to riding a proper bicycle with pedals from age 3-4.
When a child is ready to progress from a strider bike to a bike with pedals, a good suggestion is to lower the saddle. Although this is less efficient, it allows a quicker transition from the strider bike to the pedal cycle and helps build confidence. Some parents may wish to remove one pedal at first, allowing the child to push with one foot and pedal with the other.
Fitting stabilisers to a pedal cycle is a bad idea however. This hinders a child from learning how to ride properly, by teaching the wrong techniques for cornering. And for a child trying to corner too fast, there is a risk of tipping over with the stabilisers actually increasing the risk of injury.
Teaching a child to ride a pedal cycle is not difficult, particularly if the child has started with a strider bike. Many parents however do make the common mistake of holding the saddle or the handlebars. This means that the bicycle is not free to move properly and instead of teaching the child how to balance, it actually hinder learning. A better option is to have the child wear a small backpack with a handle at the top. By holding the handle, the parent supports the child safely and prevent a tumble. At the same time though, the child remains free to steer and can feel the bicycle responding.
Parents may wish also to equip their child with a cycle helmet, although speeds attained with a bicycle at first will be low as will be the risk of injury. But bumps and scrapes to knees and elbows are common for children riding for the first time, so knee and elbow pads, as well as gloves to protect fingers, can be a good choice. For parents who don’t cycle regularly, advice for proper helmet selection is best given by experts in dedicated cycle stores, or by local cycle clubs.
Cycling can also be a good sport for some children on the spectrum. It can allow them to integrate with other children, while giving them the personal space to compete on their own.
Written by Mike Woof