May is national bike month. And, there’s no better time to share the joy of bike riding with your family. Whether riding their own bike or as a passenger on Mom or Dad’s, kids love spending time outdoors. Cycling is a fun and healthy activity for individuals or families, young and old.
Many D.R. Horton communities feature community trails and parks offering great opportunities for a ride. So let’s jump in to introducing your little ones to the world of cycling.
Passenger Cycling Options
Introducing your child to riding at a young age is a great way to spark their interest in a healthy lifestyle. If your child isn’t old enough to learn to ride but can sit up on their own, they may be ready to ride in a child seat or bike trailer. Check with your pediatrician first. Then pay a visit to your local bike shop and ask for advice about learning to ride with your child. They will ask you what type of riding you plan on doing and help you pick the option that works best for your intended use.
There are many options, too. Such as front- or rear-mounted seats that attach to your bike. If a child seat on your bike doesn’t sound appealing, you may want to consider a trailer. There are many types of trailers available. From small carriages to bicycle-style trailers that let your youngster pedal along with you. They’re a great option for longer rides that exceed a child’s skill and endurance level.
The Weehoo iGo Turbo
While you’re at the bike shop, be sure to pick up a helmet to protect your cub from accidental spills. Many states have laws that require riders under a certain age to wear a helmet. In 2014, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons reported that of sports/recreational activities, cycling was responsible for the highest number of estimated head injuries (85,389). This is nearly double what was reported from football (46,948). Make sure your child wears a helmet properly every time they ride. Your local bike shop will be happy to help you find the right helmet and fit it properly. Children tend to wear a helmet incorrectly, like a bonnet on the back of their head. A properly fitting helmet should come down to the middle of your child’s forehead, one or two fingers above their eyebrows. The chin strap should pass the “Yawn Test.” Or, it should be snug enough that when your child yawns their jaw just begins to push against the strap.
Training Wheels or No?
If your child is playing with riding toys, walking or running, they may be ready to start learning to ride a bike on their own. We suggest skipping the training wheels and introducing your tyke to a balance bike. The idea behind the balance bike is to teach the fundamental skill of balance, then move on to pedaling. Training wheels can keep a bike upright but they don’t offer the natural riding experience of leaning into a turn and, in fact, prohibit that type of movement. With a balance bike you’ll see your child lean as they turn and you will be amazed as they stay upright on two wheels while coasting even longer distances.
Find a Safe Road
While they are learning, be sure to find a bike path, sidewalk, park or empty parking lot where your kid can ride without the danger of traffic or other obstructions. Don’t forget the sunscreen and consider keeping a light first aid kit handy. There may be falls, scrapes and bumps as they start off. Keeping wipes and bandages handy for those little boo boos will help mitigate the tears.
Pedal Bike or Balance Bike
If you’re on the fence about trying a balance bike, you may want to read the article, “Beyond the Balance: Five Reasons Why Balance Bikes are Worth the Hype,” along with reviews and buying information at Two Wheeling Tots. Though there are many dedicated balance bikes out there, you may consider converting a pedal bike into a balance bike. Just take the pedals off as recommended in this post from REI. Whichever you choose, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your tot can learn how to ride.
When your child is ready to move on to a two-wheeler with pedals, be sure to find a bike that makes it as easy as possible for them to ride. Two Wheel Tots also offers a lot of advice on purchasing your child’s first bike. You’ll want to choose a bike with the “best geometry” to give your little one every advantage as they learn to ride. When they’re ready to move on to a bike with pedals, try finding a gentle grassy slope where they can learn. Let them coast down the hill, using the balance they’ve already mastered. As they coast down the hill they can try to pedal. Before you know it they’ll take off and you’ll have many years of riding together in your future.
Cycling is a great activity that the whole family can enjoy. Learning to ride can help build your child’s confidence, teach self-sufficiency and open up a whole new world for them to explore. Cycling in the park or to a playground will become your child’s favorite activity. Seeing their excitement as they say hello to passing cyclists and the amazement of others at such a tiny cyclist will have you brimming with pride.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start riding today.
Have any other bike riding strategies you use to teach your little ones? Share with us below!