Ditch the stabilisers – that’s one of the most important things in teaching a child to pedal. We don’t recommend the use of bikes with stabilisers, even for a short period, because:
- they don’t help the child learn to balance, which is a key skill in learning to cycle
- a bike with stabilisers is difficult to control and we often see children skid and come off
- children get used to having their feet in the wrong position and it takes longer to learn to pedal without stabilisers, because they’ve got into a bad habit.
For a child who isn’t yet ready to pedal unaided, we recommend a balance bike – this is a bike without pedals.
A balance bike is used to teach the child how to scoot and to balance. Once they have mastered scooting they will usually be ready to pedal in a short space of time.
It is possible to scoot using a regular bike with pedals, or you can remove the pedals using a pedal spanner or a large adjustable spanner with WD40. This effectively converts the bike to a balance bike, and you can put the pedals back on when the child is ready to pedal.
Sometimes children are nervous about ditching the stabilisers but we have usually find that we can persuade them. There is no need to coerce a child into ditching the stabilisers. If you can’t get the stabilisers off the bike, the best course of action is to encourage the child to do these two things:
- start with their feet in the correct pedalling position – left foot on the ground; right foot on the pedal at 2 o’clock (parallel with the down tube – the diagonal one) – a left-footed child can reverse the feet
- push hard on the pedals, keep the pedals moving, and cycle quickly – left to their own devices on a bike with stabilisers, most children will get into the habit of turning the pedals slowly, and a little at a time; which will prevent them from getting their balance when they attempt to pedal without stabilisers.