Improving your child's cycling skills for more fun and increased safety
Once children are basically able to cycle on their own, there are many ways you can help them improve their cycling skills. This also provides you with the opportunity to put your own skills and abilities to the test while making sure your child cycles safely on the road.
Making Turns Safely
As soon as they are able to cycle straight, maintaining balance while turning is the next challenge for beginner cyclists. But also experienced cyclists will benefit from practicing turns (the tight ones in particular) and figure eights or riding through a slalom course: all these exercises will help to further increase your child's safety. As a next step, your budding cyclist can practice turns on different surfaces.
TIP: Set up a slalom course, first on asphalt, then on cobblestone, grass or loose gravel.
Braking properly is an elementary skill that should be mastered not only in case of danger but for everyday cycling as well. Therefore, learning how to brake with precision or how to perform a controlled rear-wheel skid are good exercises that are fun to practice for both children and adults. Internalising different braking manoeuvres while using front and rear brakes or practicing on different surfaces makes children feel safe and confident. Make sure your child applies the brakes gently in the beginning and only applies more power gradually when braking.
TIP: To practice proper braking place two cones where you want your child to start braking and draw a chalk line three to five metres behind the cones to mark the line where they must stop.
Controlling the Bike
A strong sense of balance as well as well-trained steering skills help your child to remain in control over their bike in every situation; thus, they are able to react properly to any surprises when cycling on public roads. Practicing to look over their shoulder helps children to be aware of what's going on around them. The ability to ride their bikes with one hand or even no-handed as well as the skill to brake, stop and continue without placing their feet on the ground, are signs that the children have good control over their bikes. Curbstones, rails that have to be crossed, as well as particularly steep uphill or downhill stretches form part of many bike excursions. Overcoming these obstacles safely is a skill that can be trained.
TIP: Dams, peninsulas and islands, such as the Danube Island in Vienna, often offer short climbs as well as a variety of terrain that can help your child to train their balance and steering skills far away from public roads.
Dealing with Technology and Traffic
Apart from mastering these practical exercises, knowing traffic rules is important. Even young cyclists are able to understand and internalise them when taught through play. Checking the tyre pressure and brakes before setting off is part of every ride and something that children are able to learn quite easily. Young cyclists over a certain age are also able to repair a flat tyre and maintain their bike chains themselves.
TIP: Make road safety and bicycle technology a part of everyday conversations and keep bringing these topics up. Often, this also offers parents a good opportunity to refresh their own knowledge or to find out about new cycling rules.
Introducing First Tricks
Once children feel safe and confident riding their bikes and are old enough to perform some expert moves, they can start learning their first tricks, which not only look cool and are fun to perform, but also further help your child to master riding their bike. These tricks include wheelies (riding only on the rear wheel), jumping over smaller ramps or doing so-called bunny hops (jumping without any aids). All of these exercises must be done away from traffic, preferably in an empty car park or a dedicated practice area.