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Teach your child to ride a bike without stabilisers

Mother and daughter hugging next bike on green
Farther and daughter posing next to bike
Child sitting on bike in front garden

We all remember that exciting moment of learning to ride a bike for the first time. It's exhilarating and a brilliant bonding moment for you and your child - not to mention a great photo opportunity for the family album.

But where do you get started with teaching your child to ride a bike? We've put together nine steps for a seamless tranisition to stabiliser-free cycling. 

 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.

- Chris Bennett, Head of Behaviour Change and Engagement
Cycling for the first time without stabilisers can be a very powerful memory in a child’s life. It’s an achievement that will help build confidence and a natural sense of adventure. And teaching your child to ride a bike is a wonderful memory-making moment for you too.

Here’s our guide to helping a child learn to ride a bike without stabilisers, by one of our experienced School Officers.

What you’ll need:

  • A bike without stabilisers per child
  • 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

You may want to bring a camera to capture the moment.

Nine steps to riding a bike without stabilisers

1. Get ready by lowering the seat and removing the pedals

Lowering the seat and removing the pedals enables the child to scoot along on the bike with both feet. Use this opportunity to provide instruction on using the brakes.

2. Giant steps

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

3. Kangaroo hops

Encourage the child forwards for about 10 metres using the 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.

To help them balance on their bike, encourage the child to look up, not down at the wheel or their feet

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 pedestrians, dogs, balls and vehicles.
  • Ensure that pedals are replaced correctly.

We have lots more advice and tips on cycling with children.

Now they've got the hang of it why not check out where to cycle with kids?