MID­DLE YEARS

The out­doors and cy­cling are key fea­tures of a Kiwi child­hood, but pass­ing on the ba­sic skills to your chil­dren can seem a bit daunt­ing. Fe­bru­ary is Bike Wise month so there’s no bet­ter time to start. Cy­cle skills trainer Mar­i­lyn No

Parenting - - In This Issue -

Top Tips for learn­ing to ride

Cy­cling is a great way for fam­i­lies to get out and about to­gether.

Re­mem­ber:

• Build bike con­fi­dence – the more you ride, the bet­ter you are – prac­tise makes per­fect.

• Give pos­i­tive en­cour­age­ment through­out the learn­ing process – and stop when it’s time to stop. Try and end on a pos­i­tive note.

• Make it fun!

Have your first lessons at net­ball courts, school play­grounds or other car-free ar­eas. Th­ese are great for learn­ing. Many par­ents make the mis­take of teach­ing their chil­dren on grass in case they fall, how­ever it’s best to teach them how to ride on a flat, smooth sur­face first if pos­si­ble. It’s eas­ier: the chil­dren ben­e­fit from learn­ing to ride smoothly first, be­fore go­ing over bumps!

Mar­i­lyn rec­om­mends a sim­ple five-step process for learn­ing to ride:

1. Set up your child’s bike cor­rectly to give them the best pos­si­ble start

• Your child should be able to stand over their bike and be clear of the top tube. The bike should not be too high and they should not have to reach too far in front of them for the han­dle­bars and more im­por­tantly the brakes.

• When sit­ting on the sad­dle, your child should be able to reach the ground with both of their feet flat on the ground.

2. Get­ting on and off your bike

It’s very im­por­tant to teach your child the fun­da­men­tals of get­ting on and off their bike safely. I would rec­om­mend the fol­low­ing ap­proach:

• When your child gets on their bike, en­cour­age them to ap­ply the brakes and lean the bike to­wards them.

• When get­ting off the bike, re­mind them to keep the brakes ap­plied.

3. Strid­ing and glid­ing or scoot­ing along

• En­cour­age your child to scoot along on their bike us­ing their feet to push off be­fore teach­ing them to pedal. This helps them to learn the feel­ing of bal­anc­ing on two wheels.

• The aim is to push them­selves off and keep both their feet off the ground for as long as they can.

• Chil­dren who are too big for bal­ance bikes should aim to learn to bal­ance on their nor­mal bikes with­out train­ing wheels by push­ing off with their feet and scoot­ing along.

4. Start­ing and stop­ping

Chil­dren should be taught to use their brakes prop­erly from the be­gin­ning even if they can­not ride yet. You can prac­tise by hav­ing them walk along push­ing the bike and us­ing the brakes to stop. Brak­ing is an es­sen­tial skill which ul­ti­mately will en­able

them to feel in con­trol when start­ing out. Note: Bal­ance bikes do not have brakes!

• Your chil­dren should be taught to use both brakes evenly to as­sist with more con­trol when com­ing to a stop.

• It is worth not­ing that although many chil­dren’s bikes will have a front hand brake it is of­ten very dif­fi­cult for them to ap­ply the brake as lit­tle hands are sim­ply not strong enough to do so. In this case you can teach chil­dren to stop the bike us­ing the back pedal or coaster brakes. The aim is to get them to be able to stop with­out wob­bling too much.

5. Bal­ance and vi­sion

• To give your child the best pos­si­ble start, I would rec­om­mend bal­ance bikes over train­ing wheels. It’s hard to progress to rid­ing un­til they learn to bal­ance on two wheels. Train­ing wheels shift the weight of the child from side-to-side and so it’s hard for them to learn the ‘bal­anc­ing in­stinct’. • Once the feel­ing of bal­anc­ing is learned it doesn’t go away – it’s an in­ter­nal mech­a­nism that kicks in, hence the phrase “it’s like rid­ing a bike”. Gain­ing this feel­ing early is in­valu­able as once they have it, a child will not lose it.

• Any­thing that in­volves bal­ance is help­ful. Scoot­ers are good for older chil­dren learn­ing to bal­ance – if they can scooter with both feet on the plat­form, they can learn to bal­ance on two wheels.

• En­cour­age your child to look where they’re go­ing. “Look where you go – go where you look”.

• Get them to keep their eyes up and look ahead – the eyes con­trol their in­ner bal­ance and di­rec­tion.

• Look­ing down can make it harder to bal­ance and get go­ing be­cause it pulls you for­ward.

6. Ped­alling work

Once your child has learned th­ese fun­da­men­tal skills and gained their bal­ance, it’s time to start learn­ing to pedal.

• Aim to have one of the ped­als in the 2 o’clock po­si­tion – the pedal-ready po­si­tion - in line with the down­tube on the frame, which will help them get started and gain mo­men­tum.

• You can run along­side them and help sup­port from the front by hold­ing onto the stem to help them keep their bal­ance. You will feel it as well when this hap­pens.

• Once they get the hang of it, get them to prac­tise rid­ing along and rid­ing around in ar­eas that are free of ob­sta­cles and haz­ards. You can add in some gen­tle turns to help with steer­ing the bike where they want it to go.

• A great way to teach them to turn is to set up some cones (a friend of mine uses rub­ber ducks!) two to three me­tres apart and ride in and out with gen­tle turns.

• They’ll soon pick up the tech­niques for con­trol­ling their bike.

• Use any op­por­tu­nity to prac­tise stop­ping us­ing both the brakes.

Find out more at www.bike­wise.co.nz

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