Chris Hoy's expert tips to help mums and dads get children cycling safely
Six-times Olympic champion cyclist Chris Hoy reveals that teaching a child to cycle isn't quite as easy as, well, riding a bike...
LEARNING to ride a bike is a moment in time that many of us remember for life. That seemingly never-ending frustration of simply not being able to balance and pedal at the same time – until that elusive day when something finally clicks.
You think your mum/dad/aunt/uncle/granny/granddad is still holding on to the back of the bike and running with you, when you suddenly look back and discover it's all your own work. It's a pretty big memory for kids and parents alike.
What with spring being the perfect time to get about on two wheels, six-time Olympic champion cyclist Chris Hoy offers a steer here to help get more kids cycling.
As well as being good fun and an efficient way of travelling, cycling is a great form of exercise and an easy way to encourage kids to be active. But finding the time and staying patient enough to teach little ones how to ride is easier said that done.
These tips from dad-of-two Hoy might be just the ticket:
1. Start with a balance bike
Balance bikes aren't just a fad. Learning how to balance on two wheels gives you a head start. If you plump for a bike with stabilisers, then once you take the stabilisers off, the child will need to re-learn how to ride all over again.
2. Get the right bike
Make sure your child starts on a bike which fits. It's all very well getting a big one that they can 'grow into' in an attempt to save you money longer-term, but it just makes it harder to ride.
A bike that's lighter in weight is much easier to learn on. Ensure the saddle is the correct height – a child should only be able to rest the balls of their feet on the ground to stabilise. It might feel much safer to rest flat feet on the ground, but all that means is the child's knees will come up too high and interfere with steering.
3. Learn somewhere that's flat and easy
Most of us probably learned to ride a bike in a field of some sort, but grass can be hard work. A nice smooth, flat surface (like tarmac) will be easier – and somewhere away from traffic is also a good idea.
4. Practise using the brakes
To get kids to understand how the brakes work, let them walk along with the bike and then pull hard on them. Brakes can be tricky to get to grips with, so keep going with it and remind little ones to put their feet down as they come to a stop.
5. Learn how to support your child
Running along supporting the the weight of a child and a bike without collapsing in a heap is hard work – as any parent will tell you. But according to Hoy, holding on to the back of the saddle isn't the best way to support them. Try standing behind them and hold the child under the armpits or on the chest, so they get used to the weight distribution and controlling the handlebars.
When it comes to pedalling, explain they should push hard with their stronger leg while setting off with their standing leg. And to help kids get used to what the pedals do, make sure you stop pushing if they stop pedalling.