How to Encourage Kids to Ride Bikes

eric-awwy By Eric Awwy, 04 Jan 2020

Having kids pump the brakes and pedal their bikes on the paves or around the neighborhood is a site that reminds us of our childhood days. Regrettably, not so many kids are riding bikes anymore.

A recent report by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association indicated that only a few children are riding bikes in the United States. According to the report, the number of 6 to 17-year-olds who rode bikes at least 25 times a year decreased from one million between 2014 and 2018. And that is very alarming given the benefits of cycling to kids.

The truth is that the elephant in the room for this internet-fanatic generation has always been how to figure out a way to get kids off the screen or couch and partake in outdoor activities.

Luckily, cycling is one of the easiest and most beneficial ways to venture into the outdoors. Hard as it may be to convince kids to ride their bikes, there are a few tips that can help you out with that.

If you are out here wondering how to encourage kids to tap into the exhilaration that comes with cycling, we have your back. Hold on to your pad, phone, or mouse and let us take you through some easy ways to get kids on the bike. Scroll through slowly not to miss any of the points herein.

We need more kids on bikes and here’s how:

1. Simply Teach Them How-To

Baby girl being taught to ride

The easiest way to encourage kids to cycle is by simply teaching them how to do it.

You might be thinking, “how can you try to encourage someone to ride yet they don’t even know how?”

Well, the truth is that most kids might already have an interest in the sport but they just don’t know how to do it and are afraid of admitting that they don’t know how to cycle.

Learning how to handle a two-wheeler doesn’t always come naturally and in such a case the kid’s uncertainty might appear as disinterest.

Another case is where the kid might seem disinterested in the sport because they had a bad first learning experience. If that is the case, then taking time as a parent or guardian to teach or re-teach your kid how to cycle is fundamental.

Lastly, in other cases, the child may not know how to ride because it isn’t a familiar sport in the sense that most of the adults and kids around him or her do not ride frequently.

There is no way that they can get fond of an activity that is completely foreign to them.

As for toddlers, teaching them how to ride with a balance bike will be more effective than with a pedal bike or with training wheels. We insist on balance bikes rather than training wheels as balance bikes make learning to ride easier.

So you see, teaching kids how to properly ride a bike might be the most effective way to encourage them to continue riding.

A good starting place is to teach them the basics which are balancing and steering. Once they have mastered these two skills then you can teach them how to pedal; although pedaling comes intuitively for most kids.

The most important skills for riding that they need to have is balancing the two-wheeler and properly steering it. After grasping these concepts; then slowly by slowly they can learn how to brake and even develop an interest in different styles of riding.

Ultimately, you might end up having to force your kid back into the house from their cycling escapades.

2. Buy Them The Right Bike 

A boy on a balance Bike

The unspoken code of riding goes; you need the correct bike to ride correctly. This is especially important for beginners.

Ask yourself, “Is my child riding the right bike or just any bike?”

As a parent, the price shouldn’t be the only deciding factor for you. If you depend on the price you will end up with a cheap but low-quality bike from a department store that will be uncomfortable for the little rider and might end up discouraging rather than encouraging them to ride.

In the end, the bike will end up rotting away in the garage and your kid might end up slouching on the couch for hours on end. And that is the last thing that you want!

If you are keen on getting your kid to become a frequent cyclist, then you need to invest in the right bike. We have stressed enough that balance bikes are a great feat for kids beginning to cycle at a tender age.

We have compiled the number one kids’ bike buying guide that can pilot you towards this decision including the weight and size of the bike’s frame, seat and standover height, the wheel size, and length of the wheelbase, cockpit size, and narrowness of q-factors.

However, the most accurate pointer for the right size is the bike’s stand over and seat height measured against the child’s inseam (height from ground to crouch). With about two inches of clearance from the standover height to the child’s inseam, the bike will correctly fit your child.

 As for weight, if your child is struggling to pick up the bike then you can imagine how hard it will be for them to maneuver it.

As a bonus; the cooler the bike’s appearance the better for your kid. Some bikes such as the Prevelo Alpha allow you to customize the decal onto the bike’s frame so the child can write their own name.

 Although not the most important deciding factor it is always a plus to get a bike that your child will be excited to ride.

The bottom line, ensure that you get in touch with the bike’s manufacturer for details before you purchase a bike that will completely kill the child’s mood for the sport.

Related: Reasons you should never buy your kid a 12-inch bike.

Related: The best bike brands for Kids.

3. Gear Them With The Right Kits

Want to more about what’s more exciting than getting a bike for your kid? Getting them matching kits!

Just picture your kid with their first bike; it correctly suits their size, is flaming red, and has matching red kits to go with the bike. Listen, it is probably going to work in your favor if you allow them to choose the kits and colors for themselves.

Kids get excited when they have a new rad look that they can show off to their friends. Getting them kits that match their bikes might be even more exciting and encourage them to take their bikes out.

Another factor to consider is that in addition to being an exciting thing for them, these kits serve a protective role.

Both young and old riders equally need protective gear. For kids, protective gear such as a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, chin guard, and gloves are a must.

This gear is especially important for young riders who are more prone to accidents. And because the pain has never been associated with pleasure, you want to make sure that your kids have the rights tools before they hit the road.

Even more important is the fact that these gear will be a constant reminder that they need to be in the right frame of mind as they cycle.

That way, they will always feel protected and the kit will sire a need to always be careful on the road and this will, in turn, give them the confidence to become regular cyclists.

Related: How to choose the right kids’ bike helmets.

Related: Best Elbow and Knee Pads for Kids.

4. Educate them on the Benefits of Cycling

benefits that they will be reaping from this sport. Cycling is one of the sports that takes very little effort but has a plethora of long-term benefits.

For starters, cycling in itself is a way to exercise one’s muscles through pedaling. It helps develop muscle strength, burns calories and strengthens the heart and lungs.

It is also a therapeutic activity, especially when cycling in the woods where one gets to bond with nature by simply being at peace with it and away from the hustles and bustles of the city.

Now, be careful about how you phrase the importance of cycling especially if your kid is a teenager. The best approach is to avoid telling them that it will get them off the couch especially as they already associate the couch with comfort.

However, if they are still very young then you can ease them into the sport as they are not prejudiced against it.

Just make them aware that among other things cycling is a great way to conserve the environment by not releasing toxic fuels into the atmosphere.

As long as they are aware that there are several benefits to the activity then that is a good place to start and gradually grow into the sport.

5. Choose Appropriate Paths or Routes

By now, your kid already knows how beneficial cycling is to them and they are properly equipped with the right bike and protective gear.

Next, you need to choose a good, clear, and leveled path that they can use regularly use. You want to associate cycling with safety so avoid choosing busy roads.

If they are still in the early stages of cycling then stick to your backyard or neighborhood pavement.

 Gradually, as they get older then a trip to the local store or park might suffice. With time, they will get to explore other bike trails on their own but by that time they will be skilled and have more confidence in their riding abilities.

Related: Kids-friendly bike trails in the Bay Area.

6. Cycle with them!

Cycling with kids to encourage them to cycle

Unfortunately, as the statistics of kids riding either casually in neighborhoods or competitively in kids’ cycling competition dwindle, parents are partly to blame. Parents are not creating time to ride bikes with their kids. Whereas there are fears of letting children loose, you could think of organizing a successful bike camping trip.

Children learn mostly from observation so if you are a regular cyclist then this will definitely have an effect on your kids.

If you have an interest in the sport then most likely they will get curious about your interest and want to participate in it with you!

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be cycling. Any kind of regular physical activity within your household will have an impact on your child’s level of activeness.

The lazier you are, the lazier they will get.

So take responsibility as a parent and get active too.

7. Make it fun for them!

Fun; that’s all the motivation kids need in order to participate in something.

There are several ways you can make cycling fun for your kids. For instance, if you cycle as a family then you can compete against each other to know who the fastest rider in the family is.

Alternatively, you can set up the kids to compete against their previous scores. That way, rather than competing against other family members and brewing tension in the family, the kids end up cheering each other. 

 You can also take advantage of this opportunity to bond as a family and get to know each other better. Also, you could accessorize their bikes so that they always feel the fun pumping the brakes and pedaling around the neighborhood.

You will be surprised by how open kids can become when given the opportunity to do so. It’s even easier when you take the initiative to feed them with stories about your childhood especially in comparison with theirs.

And like we mentioned earlier, cycling is a great way to bond and become one with nature. With that said; you can also make cycling fun by creating games for the kids to play as they cycle. For instance, guessing games for the names and breed of plants and trees along the cycling route.

It works great because not only is it fun but it is also educative for them.

Your child will feel loved when they are involved in something as a family. Through the sense of belonging that riding together evokes, you will find that your kids will press you for those family rides instead of you coercing them into it.

8. Go on Regular Cycling Trips

Other than regular family rides around the neighborhood, you can also encourage kids to cycle by arranging and going for bike outings and tours in other states/ countries or even incorporate biking into your camp activities.

The advantages that come with family bike camping or touring are endless.

Firstly, it’s a great way to fuse cycling with other activities and end up exploring the world together. By cycling together in a foreign land, you get to see the world through your child’s eyes as you will end up noticing things that wouldn’t quite note you if you (or they) were riding alone.

Additionally, when they see that other families also participate in cycling then they will realize that they share similar traditions with other families and this may motivate them to keep their interest in the sport

The familiarity of having bikes around them even as they travel will further help them realize that this isn’t just a ‘homely’ sport and that they can participate in it beyond their local borders.

Check our article on how to successfully execute a bike tour with your family.

Related: Planning a successful bike tour with family.

9. Invite their Friends to Cycle Together

Having friends with whom they share a similar interest in riding will definitely inspire them to continue riding.

For starters, your kid won’t get bored as opposed to cycling alone. Double the number means double the fun!

You can begin by arranging neighborhood playdates with your kid’s friends so they can cycle together. With time this might become routine where other parents in the neighborhood arrange for these playdates and cycling eventually becomes a regular activity in your household.

Other than riding together, kids can also participate in friendly competitions where they can cheer for each other and compete with one another; be it at home or in school. If they get to win then they will feel accomplished and even if they don’t win they’ll still enjoy participating in a game with their friends.

Additionally, if you are fond of regular bike trips then you can also invite friends so they have playmates away from home. This sense of homeliness gives them comfort and will ease their ability to ride freely in a foreign land especially if they are the shy type.

10. Make it Part of Their Routine

It goes without saying that human beings are creatures of habit.

Therefore, one of the best ways to make cycling part of your kid’s everyday routine is by introducing them to biking as a means of transportation to school.

Having your kids cycle to school is a sneaky yet effective way to encourage them to cycle as they have to do it for most days of the week.

You simply need to introduce them to the concept by finding a safe route and cycling along with them. It’s a great way to also get you to exercise and as your kid gets older then it becomes more natural to them and they can cycle to school by themselves.

With time, this routine will instill a sense of responsibility and self-reliance in them as they will be aware that they are in charge of taking themselves to school. 

Countries such as Canada, have instilled safe bike trails and bike parking and even have the Bike to School Week where thousands of children are encouraged to cycle to school. This is an ingenious method to encourage kids to cycle as even the ones who don’t cycle feel left out and eventually join the healthier bandwagon.

Through such schemes, children remain active and energized throughout the day; which is essentially one of the main reasons why cycling is recommended.

In the same way, you can teach them bike maintenance skills such as how to clean their bikes so not only are they responsible for availing themselves to school but also ensuring that when they do so, even their gear is in the right condition.

11. Introduce Fitness Apps into Your Household

There are a plethora of fitness apps and activity trackers that encourage kids to stay active through various activities such as walking, hopping, dancing, swimming, and even cycling.

Although most of them are keen on counting steps, you can find some that take account of any physical activity in order to avoid pressuring the kid into always walking. Physical activity such as cycling is included in playtime for such apps and the kids can even unlock rewards for achieving daily goals.

A good example of such a fun and interactive tracker is the Garmin Vivo fit junior 2 which is great for kid-cyclists as it tracks every sixty minutes of daily activity and gives you advanced data on performance.

You can also make this a family activity by challenging one another within the family to achieve certain goals.

Again, you need to be careful about your approach with this one because at the end of the day you do not want this to feel like a chore for your kids or that they are obligated to participate in.

Allow the kids to choose their preferred activity tracker or choose one that can easily be customized. Through such a personal touch they will end up having a more positive outlook of the activity.

Related: Review of the best fitness and activity tracking apps for kids (Plus a buying guide).

12. Watch Live Cycling Events

You will be surprised by the effect that a live show can have on the spectator.

Whether watching in person or through your screens, kids get to familiarize cycling not just with themselves but as something that a lot of people take pride in and pursue professionally.

There are a host of events that you can watch ranging from global events such as the Olympics to more popular ones such as the Tour de France or even local cycling events that you can go for in person.

The great thing about live events is that the lively atmosphere and general aura of the whole event usually stick in the crowd’s mind. So chances are that your child will want to cycle and experience the thrill that the riders feel or the joy that the crowd instills.

Additionally, if they really love the sport this might inspire them to actively pursue it and even make a career out of it if they are really good.

If that is something that you want to venture into then be sure to check out your local news for such events. 

Related: Balance bike cycling events for kids.

13. Join A Movement that Endorses Cycling

We live in a time where there are various movements created to push certain agendas. 

Some of these agendas include saving the earth from pollution or even collecting funds to help a group of less fortunate individuals. The execution of the mission of such movements is usually done by encouraging cycling rather than driving in order to reduce the amount of toxic fuels released or participating in cycling marathons in order to raise these funds.

By joining such movements your children become activists in their own way and they can feel like they are part of a course instead of just cycling for the sake of it.

Just be sure to explain to them the whole purpose of their participation and if your child is gritty in supporting what they believe in then they will thoroughly enjoy being part of an activist movement be it locally or globally.

14. Be patient!

The last and perhaps the most effective way to encourage kids to ride is by being patient with them in the process of riding that they go through.

This method never fails.

During the learning stages, ensure that you do not make them feel like they are not trying hard enough or that they are too slow even if you are tired of teaching them over and over again.

Be patient even after they have already mastered the skill of riding and allow them to develop an interest in the sport on the own. Then slowly by slowly as they grow you can introduce them to geared bikes, mountain biking and performing stunts as they ride if they so wish.

You can use the aforementioned ways to encourage them to ride but if you become too pushy with your kid then you will end up resenting both you and the sport.

As the saying goes; patience pays.

Bottom line

Cycling is fun; even for kids.

We can talk of structural hindrances such as lack of safe pavements, closed-up neighborhoods, carelessness among drivers, and all those excuses. However, there is a thing or two you as a parent can do to kick start your kid with cycling.

We no longer want excuses when the number of obese kids is on the rise and many children are becoming addicted to screens. All we need now is serious action, one that can put more kids on the bikes.

Even though an old sport, cycling has its own way of making kids enjoy their childhood. We can do this one parent at a time and it could be the next best challenge.

You can be sure that if you use either or a combination of these tactics then the child in your life will be a pro and a frequent rider.

Happy riding!

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