How to Teach a Child to Cycle: The Glide Method

Learning to ride a bike has become a modern rite of passage. Rightly so, as it is an excellent way to give children a sense of self-confidence and independence, not to mention achievement.

Most of us will have learnt through the “I won’t let go. I swear!” method. (If you are unsure what this refers to then you are very lucky indeed.) However, there are various other ways in which you can teach a child to ride. One of the most popular currently is the glide method, and here are the simple steps to help you get your child cycling using this method.


Is Your Child Ready?

This is the first question that all budding teachers should be asking themselves. As a general rule: most children learn to ride a bike between 3½ and 4½, but every child is different, and it is important to gauge for yourself the readiness of your own children.

Pushing them too early can have the reverse of the intended effect, and cause negative associations with the bike. While leaving it too late can be troublesome also, as studies show that children become much more cautious after the age of 6.

Children Riding Bikes

A nice gauge can be to point out some bike riders to your children and gauge the reaction accordingly. Remember that nearly all skills a child picks up are through observing and repeating, so you can also take this opportunity to point out some key aspects of how to ride.


Where to Learn

It can seem very appealing to select a grassy area, with a nice soft landing, for those first lessons. However, this can cause more problems than it solves.

Cycling on grass not only takes more effort through the pedals, but the unevenness of the surface creates its own troubles. It is best to select a smooth area.Tarmac is good, as it is easier to learn how to balance a bike if it is responding predictively.

Of course, it will need to be a quiet spot without any traffic. A cul-de-sac or empty parking lot are the most commonly selected spots.


Choosing the Bike

A common mistake is to try and teach a child to cycle on a bike that is simply too big for them. Although it is understandable to get a bike that the child “will grow into,” this can have an adverse effect on effective teaching. To judge if you have the correct size bike – have your child sit on the saddle, they should be able to place the balls of their feet on the ground.

Right Sized Bikes According to Age and Height

Make sure they can reach the handlebars without straining. If the bike is smaller than this then their knees are likely to interfere with turning and balance, but any larger and the idea of riding can become a daunting and difficult prospect. If you need some help in choosing the correct bike for your children then here is a quick guide to help you.


The Glide Method

The glide method is designed to try and eliminate some of the problems with traditional teaching and make learning not only quicker, but more enjoyable.

The first step is to remove both pedals. Then have the child sit on the saddle and hold them under the armpits. It can seem instinctive to have one hand on the handlebars to help guide them but this not only means that you can end up fighting your child for control but also that the pupil is not gaining an understanding or feel for the bike.

Child Riding a Balance Bike

Once you have successfully completed a few glides, then ask your child to steer through a few S turns, in order so that they can gain an understanding of the steering and changes in balance. Once you see that they are ready then you can continue to glide while gradually letting go.

Once you are happy with the child’s confidence and comfort on the bike then you can attach one of the pedals. Try a few more glides, making sure that one foot is now on the pedal, before attaching the second and repeating. You should now be able to start your student off as you have been doing, slowly letting go and allowing them to pedal along.


Teaching Braking

With pedaling conquered it is now important to teach your child how to stop. The most effective method is to have the child step off the bike and walk alongside while they squeeze the brake lever. They will begin to gain an understanding of the process and can then be placed back on the bike to try for themselves.

With all these new skills to be concentrating on, it is very common for the child to forget to put their feet down as they stop the first time, so be extra vigilant and ready to catch!


Pushing Off

From here there is only one more aspect to learn, and that is starting all by themselves. Make sure that your child is ready and confident on the bike before starting. Have the pedal in the 2’o’clock position, on the side of their stronger foot, and ask them to push down whilst pushing off from the ground with the other leg. For most children this is likely to take a number of attempts before making a successful start.

Dad Teaching His Child to Ride a Bike

There you have it. Your child should now have all the skills to be an independent cyclist. However, before they go roaring off into the world, do make sure to have a chat with them about cycling safely and how to cycle within their limits.


Don’t Forget: It Should Be Fun!

One, seemingly, universal trait of young children is not reacting well to stress, negativity or pressures. The most important aspect to any teaching method should be to remain upbeat, patient and positive.

One easy way is to frame the whole teaching experience in the fashion of a silly game to keep them engaged and having fun. If the mood is starting to turn away from fun, then simply stop for the day and come back another time for another go. Of course a reward is also a great way to finish the lesson. Why not get both of you an ice-cream, you both deserve it!

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How to Teach a Child to Cycle: The Glide Method — Bike Hacks