How to raise a rider

Catherine Holecko

If you’re a parent, you probably want to bring bicycling to the next generation. The nice part is, you’re way ahead of the game by being a rider yourself. Kids (well, at least little ones) often want to do things just like their parents, but if you need a little help getting your child interested in biking, try these tips.

For littles (kids under five)

You’re starting young. Awesome! Take your kids along when you ride, whether in a trailer or bike seat. They’ll see you riding — and enjoying it — and feel the same freedom and fresh air you do. Plus, they’ll get the message that riding is your family’s preferred mode of transit. For long rides, pack snacks or toys and stop regularly so kids can stretch their legs and play. As soon as your toddler can toddle, she can play with ride-on toys like balance bikes, trikes, and mini-scooters. This will give her a taste of the wheeled life (and we bet she’ll love it). Little ones this size can even play with these toys inside in fairly limited space. As they grow, you can move up to larger, outdoor ride-ons. Take them to the park and cruise your neighborhood.

For beginners (ages 5–8)

Now your child is ready to learn to ride a two-wheeler on his own. Play up the big-kid privilege this is! Some kids catch on quickly, while others need more time. Be patient. Pressuring your kiddo could turn him off, so praise him for his efforts and keep trying. A trail-a-bike lets him feel like a big boy while still allowing him to take breaks from pedaling and balancing when needed. Use your bikes for family outings whenever you can. Then it’s like a double reward — everyone gets to enjoy biking, plus when you stop at a park, the library, or the pool, you get a bonus fun family activity!

To help your young child build stamina for longer rides, set up small goals and challenges and increase them gradually: From up and down the driveway, to around the block, to a short trail loop, and so on. If your kid’s mad for stickers or prizes, set up a simple prize chart. Or maybe she’d respond better to you taking videos of her and sharing them with grandparents, or coloring in a map of the places she’s been on her bike. She might not even need any nudging at all. You know your own kids best (but don’t feel bad if they need some gentle urging — a lot of kids do).

For tweens and teens (ages 8 and up)

Depending on where you live, your kids can start to use their bikes for transport and active commuting now. Sweet freedom! Teach them the routes to their favorite places, along with a healthy dose of road safety, and then let them take independent trips when you can. For some kids, this is a huge part of the appeal of riding. If yours feels more comfortable with you by his side, that’s okay too. More biking for you! Kids this age can sometimes be motivated by stuff, too: Yours might love a jersey, a simple bike computer, or even just a cool water bottle. Keep those kinds of goodies in mind for birthdays and other gift-giving occasions.

But of course, biking is its own reward. Giving your kids plenty of opportunities to experience it will go a long way toward helping them join you in your love of bikes.

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