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Published: 4th JUNE 2019

Teach a child to ride a bike without stabilisers in nine steps

Learning to ride a bike for the very first time can be an exciting and exhilarating moment at any age. It signals the beginning of a whole new way to make everyday journeys and explore the world. Teaching a child to ride a bike is a gift that they can treasure for a lifetime. But how do you support a child to make the transition from stabilisers to two wheels? Here's our nine-step guide.

Mum hugging daughter on pink bike

What you’ll need:

  • A bike without stabilisers.
  • A spanner to remove and replace the pedals. If the pedals aren’t already marked left and right, make a note yourself as the left pedal threads in the opposite way to the right.
  • (Optional) a camera to capture the moment.

Cycling for the first time without stabilisers can be a very powerful memory in a child’s life.

It’s an achievement that could help to build confidence and a sense of adventure.

Teaching a child to ride a bike can also be a wonderful memory-making moment for you too.

Blockquote quotation marks
Learning to ride a bike for the first time is a memory many people treasure. Cycling’s not only fun, it’s also a great way for children to exercise, explore their sense of adventure and gain independence. Blockquote quotation marks
Chris Bennett, Sustrans Head of Behaviour Change and Engagement

Here's our 9-step video guide to teaching a child to ride without stabilisers.

Nine steps to riding a bike without stabilisers

1. Lower the seat and remove the pedals

Lowering the seat and removing the pedals enables the child to scoot along on the bike with both feet (much like they would on a balance bike). Use this opportunity to provide instruction on using the brakes.

2. Giant steps

When the child is ready, encourage them to travel forwards for about 10 metres using giant steps.

3. Kangaroo hops

Next, encourage the child to travel forwards for about 10 metres using hops.

4. Put one pedal back on

Either left or right, it doesn’t matter. Make sure the child is comfortable on the bike and feels secure. An easy way of doing this is to get them to do a little ‘wiggle’ with the brakes on.

5. One pedal scoot

With one foot on the pedal encourage the child to scoot forwards using the other foot. Make sure they are looking up. Stop after about 10 metres.

6. Both pedals on

Put the other pedal on. Do the ‘wiggle’ (with brakes on) to show that the bike is stable and safe.

7. First go

Hold the child, not the bike. Explain that you are going to hold their back and their shoulder/upper arm. Get the child to put their feet on the pedals and check that they are ready. Encourage them to look up, let go of their brakes and pedal. Walk forwards (still holding on to them) and slowly release your grip. Stop after three to five metres.

8. Second go

Do the ‘wiggle’ (with brakes on). Holding the child as before, get them to put both feet on the pedals. Encourage them to look up. If all clear, count down from three and encourage the child to let go of the brakes and pedal forwards. Let go after a few steps, then step back to exaggerate the distance they have travelled. Shout ‘stop’ after 5 - 10 metres. Now count out the paces so they can see how far they have gone.

9. Third go

This time, reduce contact with the child by gripping their clothes with one hand and holding the bike handlebars with the other. Repeat steps as before, releasing them after only a few steps and letting them ride for as long as they wish.

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To help them balance on their bike, encourage the child to look up, not down at the wheel or their feet. Blockquote quotation marks
Sustrans schools officer

Things to remember when teaching children to cycle without stabilisers

  • Find a quiet, traffic-free area such as a cycle path or somewhere with short grass or smooth tarmac.
  • A slight downwards slope can often help.
  • Look out for hazards like other path users, dogs, balls and vehicles.
  • Ensure that pedals are replaced correctly.


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