School’s out for summer
Geographer and GetOutside Champion, Alan Parkinson gives our teachers some outdoor inspiration for the school holiday period.
Cycling is brilliant for all ages – it’s fun, great physical exercise and provides an opportunity for family adventures outside. This New Year make the resolution to invest the time supporting someone to pedal for the first time.
Can you remember the first time you rode your bike?
Whether it's a little one with their new Father Christmas bike, or your partner that missed that rite of passage from their childhood. January is a perfect time to teach the skills with loads of practice time available ready for spring expeditions.
Start children on a balance bike any time from 2yrs+. In the Netherlands they believe starting the children scooting as soon as can walk. They are normally ready to learn to pedal from 3yrs+ if they have used a balance bike. However, the best time to learn is when the person wants to learn.
This very much depends on the individual. Short sessions tend to work best. Do not overdo it or they may be put off forever! Half-an-hour is enough for young children, older ones and adults may cope with up to an hour.
Remember learning to ride a bike is mentally exhausting for all ages – the brain is having to create new pathways and may need time to absorb what it’s learnt. Sometimes children are just too young to grasp the skills. Don’t panic, leave for a few weeks and it will happen.
Hard, level surface, rather than grass. Ideally, it should have a gentle sloping gradient. Make sure your chosen location is traffic-free. Your local park is an excellent location.
Appropriate clothing for the weather conditions, including correctly fitting helmet. No wellies and tight jeans. Cycling gloves or mitts, can be helpful as small hands can get sore easily. Keep a drink and a few snacks handy to keep up enthusiasm.
Use a balance bike or take off the pedals and stabilisers off a normal bike to start with. Make sure the rider can reach the brake levers and put the balls of their feet comfortably on the ground when seated on the saddle. Lower the saddle if necessary to the lowest setting.
Initially teach the rider to use the brakes by asking them to push the bike along while walking and squeeze both brakes gently practicing stopping.
At our Stage1Cycles base in Hawes, Wensleydale we offer 1:1 lessons for all ages. Sometimes receiving coaching from an instructor makes the process more successful for a nervous or reluctant rider.
In addition, co-ordination and cognitive difficulties may make the process more challenging and additional specialist support helpful. If you are struggling check with your local bike shop if they offer a similar service or can direct you to an experienced local instructor.
Many schools now deliver balance bike sessions, check with yours?
Community clubs accredited to either British Cycling or Cycling UK may offer beginner sessions. Our Wensleydale Bike Club runs a wobbly wheeler session every Saturday (February to October). These run alongside a Yorkshire Bank Bike Library, so you don’t even need a bike to take part. Watching other children cycle is a great encouragement to even the most reluctant rider. Clubs often offer adult sessions too.
Maybe a visual demonstration would help? British Cycling have developed free games and app at readysetride – you don’t even need a bike to begin!
Good luck and happy riding!
Helen spends her days, managing a cycling business, chasing her daughter Daisy, running with dogs, falling off her bike, and hopefully encouraging others to do something similar.