In Gloucestershire we’re incredibly lucky to be surrounded by some amazing scenery that’s perfect for discovering on two wheels. But travelling up hill and down dale can seem pretty daunting for little legs.
But that said, one of the most perfect places to learn to ride is right on our doorstep. With plenty of open space and off-road trails, the woods at Beechenhurst Lodge are ideal for helping kids learn how to ride.
To help encourage budding cyclists to ride with confidence, the Forestry Commision has launched The Cycle Superstar Challenge, providing a downloadable chart for children to record their progress, as well as activities and resources to keep them motivated as they learn to ride.
SoGlos has teamed up with the Forestry Commission to provide seven tips to teach your child how to ride a bike, so they’ll be exploring some of the county’s hidden gems in no time at all!
To take part in the Cycle Superstar Challenge visit forestry.gov.uk directly.
As parents learn very early on, each child is completely different to the next! Generally, kids can be ready to ride between the ages of four and six, but it’s been known that children as young as two have mastered the co-ordination needed to learn to ride; only you’ll know when your child is ready to learn.
They need to be old enough to follow instruction and understand dangerous obstacles such as trees or roads. But sometimes children over the age of six can be over cautious or scared of getting hurt.
Choosing a good location for your first lesson is very important. Many parents choose grass as they believe it provides a softer landing if their child should fall. But, the texture of grass can be much harder for little legs to push against.
Ideally, parents should find a large open space away from traffic and obstacles such as a local park or empty public tennis court. Eventually, once children are more confident with the basics, you can move to more challenging surfaces such as the cycling trails throughout the Forest of Dean.
According to British Cycling a badly fitting bike can ‘slow a child’s progress, put them off riding or even lead to injury’, so it’s important that parents spend some time getting this right.
The best way to fit a child’s bike is by measuring their inseam. Ask your child to stand against a wall with a book between their legs, and then measure from the top of the book, to the floor. Use this measurement against the manufacturers guidance on the brand of bike you choose, or if you’re buying from a store, take the expert advice that’s offered.
Other measurements to consider are the arm length and handlebar height. Your child shouldn’t need to over-reach and should be able to look forward comfortably whilst holding onto the handlebars.
Whilst helmets are an important addition to a first lesson, many parents forget that protective gloves might be more commonly used by new cyclists.
Instinctively, children will put their hands out to try and stop themselves if they do fall, and scraped palms are certainly enough to bring a first lesson to an abrupt end! Fingerless cycling gloves often come with cushioned support to protect the palms. This extra protection should encourage children to dust themselves off and try again if they do end up taking a tumble.
Starting out, little riders will often be so amazed at what’s going on by their feet, they forget to look ahead of them. (And who can blame them – this is their first time, remember!) Gently remind them to look ahead and keep turning their feet on the pedals.
Try to avoid holding onto the handlebars or saddle, as this can prevent children learning how to lean into corners, or counter steer. Holding them under the armpits from behind can help you to steer them in the right direction, whilst not taking any of the control away from them.
Ask your child to walk alongside their bike with both hands on the brakes. When you say ‘Stop’, chances are they’ll put the brakes on full lock, and come to a very abrupt stop.
Talk them through how the brakes work and practice more gradual braking as they walk next to their bike. Once they’ve mastered this, try supporting them under the armpits as they practice braking whilst they ride.
If they do brake too suddenly, you’re right there to catch them before they fly over the handlebars!
A bad fall or injury can be enough to put many children off learning to ride a bike for months, or even years. Try not to let your child to cycle too far ahead of you, until you’re sure they’ve mastered all the steps of balance, pedaling, steering and braking.
When your child has mastered cycling, why not get adventurous and enjoy some of Gloucestershire’s most well-loved cycle routes around the Forest of Dean. Visit forestry.gov.uk directly for some inspiration.
Choose from the Family Cycle Trail, Downhill Trails, The Verderer’s Trail or Cannop Cycle Centre Freeminer’s Trail. Check out our list of 11 places to get on your bike in Gloucestershire for more ideas.
By Melissa Hamblett
Thursday 21 June 2018
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