Fewer Kids Are Cycling – Here is Why and How to Solve That!

eric-awwy By Eric Awwy, 19 Feb 2023
Your child might refuse to ride a bike you've just bought can be extremely frustrating. But why do they refuse? Research shows that between 2014 and 2018, the number of children aged 6 to 17 who were regular cyclists- more than 25 times a year- decreased by over a million. This number includes both casual riders and more serious cyclists. Another research shows that since 2007, bike riding has dropped by 20%. And even though there have been fewer bike accidents, the reason for this is that far fewer kids are interested in riding bikes. This, by extension, means that many kids are missing out on the many benefits of cycling. Several reasons could cause this, such as bad weather, problems with the bike, and safety concerns, among others. If you are wondering why your child is not interested in riding, these reasons could be why.

Fear of Cars

The number one threat to kids' lives, or at least what they believe to be, is cars. Everything that makes it easier for you to drive to every place also makes it deadly for them. There is too much traffic because of so many vehicles on the road. According to the Federal Highway Administration statistics, more than 275 million registered vehicles are in the United States alone. Even though there are bike paths, rights for cyclists on roundabouts, and cycle traffic lights abound, the high number of vehicles on the road creates fear in children, making it hard for them to ride. Related Reading: Safety tips for kids who cycle.

Frequent Punctures

Occasionally getting punctures isn't a major issue, but frequent punctures can be a pesky problem. Even though they can be easily fixed, the dreaded hiss can make even the most experienced riders lose their psych and give up altogether on cycling. In addition, fixing a bike that experiences constant punctures is challenging for kids. They will lose interest if they don't get help from an adult. We've seen some kids wear sad faces having to walk their bikes home hopelessly after experiencing punctures as they ride. Maybe the best thing to do is to teach them how to fix punctures themselves and get them a puncture repair kit. Kids are very enterprising; they will learn this and do it independently. This alone will boost their confidence as they ride their bikes, even far away from home or where they cannot access bike shops.

Skipping Between Gears

If the bike's chain skips between gears when they pedal, phantom shift, or refuses to shift completely can interrupt someone's ride completely. Chain skipping is a common problem, especially in new bikes. Most of the time, a skipping chain between gears results from a cable chain, which can be quickly resolved by simply adjusting the cable tension. Related Guide:

Brake Issues

Think of how scary it would be not to stop when you wanted to. This is a manageable fear for an adult, but for children, this is an absolute nightmare. And this can be caused by the following reasons.

Rubbing brakes

Experiencing rubbing brakes can be annoying for kids. When the wheels spin, this can sound like a scraping noise every few seconds.

They Can't Figure out How to Break

If the child is an inexperienced rider, then there are certain things they don't know how to do, like breaking. Some bikes come with rim bikes, meaning the child must learn to use bike levers. Other bikes have coaster brakes which kids must learn to pedal backward to move. If they have a balance bike, they must learn how to use their legs to slow down and stop.

The Brakes are too Loose or Tight

One of the clearest ways to know something is wrong with your child's bike is if they are too loose or tight. You can tell that the brakes are loose if the lever keeps touching the handlebars. On the other hand, if the child struggles to squeeze the lever, then it means that the cable is too tight. Ideally, the brake levers must squeeze between 3-4 cm before it becomes problematic.

They Are Pulling on the Brakes Too Quickly

Grabbing the brakes and stopping too quickly can be too scary. They may feel like they can go over the handlebars. Pulling the brakes too quickly will also cause them to skid, which can be scary for a child.

Worn Out Brake Pads

If the child's bike keeps screeching or experiences heavy vibrations regularly, or the brakes fail to respond quickly, it could be hard to ride. The cause could be that the brake pads have worn out. Brake Pads wear out; if not replaced, they will reduce the bike's stopping power. If the child can't stop when they want to could spell disaster resulting in an accident.

Wrong Positioned Saddle

A saddle that is incorrectly positioned is not just uncomfortable but also causes instability while riding. If your child's saddle is incorrectly positioned, they will struggle a lot when riding. A highly positioned saddle leads to instability. They will pedal back and forth on the saddle, putting them at risk of falling. On the other hand, a low-positioned saddle will tire them quickly because the child will use too much energy, which won't be enough to transfer sufficient power to the pedals. Your child will struggle to get uphill and may even experience knee pain. Related Guide: Tips to make saddles on kids’ bikes comfortable.

The Handlebars Are Wrongly Positioned

The handlebars' reach is the distance the child has to reach to grasp the handlebars. If the handlebars are too close or far away, they will likely have steering issues. Your child's legs will keep bumping into the handlebars if they are too close, and their hands will be bent incorrectly. The child's elbows should be slightly bent as they reach to grab the handlebar grips to steer well.

Wrong Sized Bike

As a parent, you may be tempted to purchase a bike that is too big so that they can grow with it. After all, they grow up so fast. However, if your child is on a wrong-sized bike, they will likely find the whole riding experience arduous. Some of the ways to know if they are in a wrong-sized bike are if there:
  • Toes struggle to touch the ground even with the saddle at its lowest position.
  • Legs are noticeably bent as they pedal
  • Knees are scraping the handlebars bars
Your child won't enjoy riding if all they do is struggle to fit on the bike. So buying a big size won't save you money because they won't want to ride. What's more, when you finally purchase the correct size, there is a chance that they won't be keen to rid of it. Check out our bike-sizing guide with a sizing chart to get your little one a well-fitting bicycle, not a bike they can fit into. After all, kids' bikes are not one-size-fits-all. You can also check out our buyers' guide for kids’ bikes to purchase a bike that your kid will always want to jump on and ride. Whatever you do, you are better off not considering cheap kids’ bikes.

Lack of Pedal Power

Power is simply the holy grail of biking. The more the rider has, the faster it will be for them at any given distance; however, if your child is pedaling and getting no power going to the wheels even on a level paved path, they won't enjoy the ride. Several reasons may cause a bike to be hard to pedal. Some of these reasons are:
  • The tires have low pressure.
  • The chains are dirty or need lubrication.
  • Damaged chains.
  • The bottom brackets have a problem.

They Have No Idea of How to Ride

According to Bikes & Edward Snowden's research, 6% of Americans don't know how to ride a bike. Learning how to ride a bike is a skill that takes time, and not everyone is interested in acquiring it. If you give your child a bike for the first time, they will likely not ride it. Related Guides:

The Bike Wheels are Not in Good Condition

If the bike's tires or wheels are damaged, the child may not want to ride them. This is because they feel like they will damage the bike ultimately. A bike should be maintained occasionally to be safe for them to ride. If they ignore the bike for a while because of school or other activities, it's likely damaged. A bike should be maintained even if it is not being used.

The Cost of Owning a Bike

Families spend a ton of money on owning and maintaining vehicles than on a bike, even though bicycles cost much less. Parents feel like purchasing a bike is an added luxury rather than a cheap means of getting around the neighborhood. So if you don’t invest in getting your child a bike, there may never be interested in gaining bike riding skills.

Cycling is Tiring

While cycling can seem fun, it can be extremely exhausting. A bike requires a lot of power and energy to pedal. It also creates muscle trauma and leads to a reduction in muscle strength. Continued cycling without enough rest or time to recover from the aches will lead to the child underperforming, and they will be more fatigued.

They Have Had a Bad Experience

Once beaten twice shy. Did your child fall while riding, or did something else upset them during the ride? If yes, then that could be why. If your child initially enjoyed riding, but something terrible happened while riding, there is a chance that they won't be keen on getting back on the ride.

Stabilizers are an Issues

Does your child still use training wheels? While they can teach your child how to pedal, training wheels don't teach them how to balance. This makes it hard for them to make turns and slows down. They won't like it very much if what they experience during the ride is uncomfortable to experience. If the child is struggling to ride training wheels, you are better off getting them a balance bike. This will help them speed up whenever they want and turn on corners without the risk of falling. Related Reading: Why balance bikes are better than stabilizers.

The Bike Could Be Stolen

Bicycle theft is a common problem because they are small, hence easier to steal. The bikes can be stolen even when the children are riding them. This is because children have short attention spans and are not too attentive. If you live in an unsafe neighborhood, your child may not want to ride it outside because of the risk that it could be stolen. Check out the guides below:

Bad Weather

Do you live in an area that is windy or always rains? Then this could be why. Riding in the rain is more dangerous than riding when it's not. Rain or water generally results in slippery surfaces, which could cause your child to lose balance and fall. On the other hand, riding when it's windy could also make it dangerous for them. Crosswinds can quickly push them off the road or onto oncoming traffic. Related Article: Tips for cycling with kids during winter.

Before you Go, …

Bike riding for kids is an important skill. It is linked to a hoard of health, physical, mental, and social benefits for kids, but nowadays, not every child is interested in participating in the activity. Unfortunately, too many kids are reluctant to cycle, even if they have the gear and the time. Several reasons could cause this, so it's hard to pinpoint the exact reason. Identify what the reason is and fix it for them. However, whatever the reason, know there are other activities your child can participate in if they don't find cycling fun. Just find what interests them and let them enjoy it.


Why Is my child scared of riding a bike?

Your child could be scared of getting hurt while riding. According to Vince Damiano, a REI Outdoor School instructor, a child may be reluctant to ride a bike because of fear of falling and getting hurt or because the bike looks like a lot of work.

What are the main barriers to cycling for kids?

The main barriers to riding a bicycle, according to research, are:
  • Safety concerns brought by traffic and crime
  • Poor weather
  • Lack o riding experience
  • Problems with the brakes
  • Bad experience with riding
  • Wrong-sized bike
  • Lack of free time
  • The growing cost of bicycles

Is riding a bike painful for children?

Yes. Even though cycling is an excellent way to have fun and stay fit, it comes with the risk of pain and injuries. Most of these pain and injuries is caused by improperly fitting bike. Common injuries include knee pain, back pain, and leg and foot pain.

How to make cycling fun for kids?

If you want to get your child interested in cycling, make it fun. These tips can help:
  • Allow them to rid through puddles.
  • Plan a fun family activity like a scavenger hunt.
  • Allow them to head to the hills.
  • Let them bring friends.

Why is cycling uncomfortable?

A bicycle is uncomfortable because of saddle problems. There are two types of saddle problems:
  • Pressure on the ischial bone. Most people who report butt pain due to cycling are because of the pressure made by the tissue in the ischial bones.
  • Shear and friction are experienced in the crotch, which irritates.
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