A balancing act: teaching kids to ride
From living room practice to backyard races, Sydney dad Clayton Reed shares the ins and outs of teaching his toddler son to ride a balance bike.
When it comes to teaching a child how to ride a bike, cycling legend and Medibank ambassador Cadel Evans says the best way is to ride together as a family.
“Getting on your bikes as a family not only teaches kids how to ride, it sets a good example, putting them on the path towards a healthy lifestyle,” he says.
This is a belief that Sydney father Clayton Reed wholeheartedly agrees with. With his two-and-half-year-old-son Chase now happily riding a balance bike on a regular basis, we spoke to Clayton to find out how he went about teaching his little one to ride.
Why did you decide to teach your son to ride a bike?
Like a lot of small children, Chase always seemed to have a natural interest in bikes. I’m a regular cyclist and whenever I would bring my bike out at home, Chase would want to play with the pedals or steer the handlebars.
Whenever we went to the park, Chase was fascinated by the other children on bikes. He’d run along, trying to keep up with them. We wanted to encourage this interest, so we decided it was time to get him a bike of his own.
What did you look for when choosing a bike?
We bought a wooden balance bike with rubber inflatable wheels. I’d heard that balance bikes were easier for children to learn on, so it seemed like the best option to get Chase riding at a young age.
We wanted something that was lightweight, so he would be able to use it easily. We also wanted something compact so we could fit it into the back of the car. A wooden balance bike was the perfect choice.
The model we chose was the right height for Chase and it had smooth edges and rubber handles so we knew it would be safe for him to ride.
"He loves being able to copy Mum and Dad, so he is always excited when we ride our bikes as a family."
How are you teaching Chase to ride?
We live in an apartment, but we do have a large grassed area right outside. When we first got the balance bike, we’d take Chase down there and encourage him to ride back and forth.
At first we had to help him get on the bike, showing him how to hold on and push it forward. It took a few goes but now he never stops moving. In fact, he will often just ride his balance bike around the house, making circles through the kitchen and living room.
Do you ever ride together as a family?
Yes, on the weekends Chase, my wife and I take our bikes to the Botanical Gardens. Chase loves being able to copy Mum and Dad, so he is always excited when we ride our bikes as a family. Riding together has definitely played an important role in keeping him interested in learning to ride a bike.
What benefits are you seeing from teaching Chase to ride a bike?
His balance has definitely improved and it keeps him active. He can easily zoom along and he’s getting more and more confident. He now even rides down small hills!
But the best thing is that when he’s riding his bike, he’s happy and smiling. He particularly enjoys bringing his balance bike when we visit his two older cousins. When they’re together, they’ll happily spend half the day racing around the backyard on their bikes.
Do you hope Chase continues riding as he gets older?
Absolutely. My father got me into bike riding and whenever I go back home to visit, we will always go for a long ride together up in the Perth hills. It's great to have fun and it’s a challenging form of exercise that we can do together. I would love to ride more with Chase in the future, and I can picture all three of us riding those Perth hills together in a few years’ time.
Keep reading about the benefits of bike riding for kids and what you need to know.