This is a normal part of trying something new though, and any adult who came to cycling later in
life will be all too familiar with the feeling. Luckily, this apprehension can usually be overcome
using a few best practices and with a little bit of patience. If you’re struggling to get your child
interested in riding a bike, here are a few tips and strategies to help.
Set up for success
Whether you’re teaching a child to ride a bike or heading out on one of their first longer
journeys, it is important to do everything in your power to make them feel safe and comfortable.
This means avoiding streets in favour of trails or parks and making sure you’ve established some
clear ground rules about what they can expect. If your child isn’t comfortable on streets or wants
to avoid even small hills, be patient at first. It doesn’t mean they won’t overcome their fears and
you’re not enabling bad habits by accommodating them.
Make sure they have a bike that fits or is even a little bit on the small side. Ideally, the child’s
feet should be able to plant firmly on the ground when they’re sitting on the seat at its lowest
setting. Make sure to have snacks, water, or anything else they might ask for on hand. Be
prepared for things to take a bit longer than expected and make sure you’re not in any kind of
Pick the right time
Speaking of having snacks on hand, make sure everyone is fed and well-rested when you head
out to ride. Pick strategic times not immediately following a meal, but when you know your child
has had a chance to rest and refuel from their last activity. If they seem to be tired or just having
an off day, don’t force it. Having a bad experience off the bat will make it much harder to
encourage them later. Kids have a tendency to believe that if they’re “naturally” good at
something, it should be a breeze from the start. You have to show them that just because they
find cycling daunting, it doesn’t mean they aren’t cut out for it. That being said, they’re only
going to tolerate so much discomfort at a time, so choose your timely wisely.
Stay positive and set realistic expectations
When riding a bike feels just as natural to you as walking, it can be hard to remember what it felt
like during those first few shaky rides. Take a moment to remind yourself to be patient and
gentle and that the whole purpose of this activity is to cultivate confidence and independence in
your child. It’s important to provide direction and encouragement, but make sure you keep your
voice assured and positive. Tell them in advance that if you do raise your voice, it is only so that
they can hear you, and it is not the same as yelling.
Let them know you are proud of them for trying something new and that you understand it can
be a challenge. Don’t discount their apprehension by simply repeating that riding a bike is “fun”
and “easy.” Learning to ride a bike can be hard. Acknowledge that their fears are real but assure
them you’re there to help and support, and that the struggle will be worth it once they get the
hang of things.
Focus on what really matters
In order to successfully persuade your child to give cycling a chance, and ultimately facilitate the
development of a healthy approach to the activity, it is important to focus on the right aspects of
what riding a bike has to offer. If you regularly compete, or are a goal-oriented cyclist, it might
be natural for you to focus on the challenging and competitive side of the sport. Although this
could be something your child also learns to enjoy later, it is important that in the beginning you
focus on things like discovery, friendship, and fun. Tell them about all the cool things you’ve
seen while riding your bike, or the friends you’ve made on group rides or at events.
Don’t make a chore out of it
Finally, it is important to remember that you want cycling to be something your child truly
enjoys and will end up pursuing on their own accord. If they feel like it’s something they’re
required to do, they’ll have less of a chance of developing a real passion for it. Above all else, do
what you can to make sure they’re having fun. Keep in mind that every child learns at different
rates and your job is to make them feel good about trying – celebrate effort over success.