Top 10 bike skills for kids to learn

Bike skills for kids to learn

Top 10 bike skills for kids to learn

Once your child has mastered balancing and pedalling a bike, then it’s the perfect time to encourage them to learn some new skills and drills to challenge them.

Children may need a day, a week, or even months to feel confident riding a bike. It's essential to let children practise cycling repeatedly, but you should also let them take a rest if they get too tired. A child's focus, balance, and motor abilities will improve as they practise precise bike handling skills. Whilst they think they are just having fun there’s really a lot more going on! Try our tips for kids learning to ride a bike before you move on to skills and drills.

We’ve come up with cool skills and drills that every child should try and explore. Ensure that your child is comfortable on their bikes before they master the next skills and drills. Check all the below.

✅ Balance - ensure they feel confident and comfortable
✅ Steering - being in control of which way they are heading
✅ Pedalling - basic understanding and knowledge of how to pedal and the ability to shift their weight
✅ Braking - learn to stop before they start, this will make them feel confident that they have control.

Photo credit- instagram @abscotland

If your child can comfortably tick the four boxes above, that’s great news so now they can move on to the next steps. We recommend setting up in a traffic-free location so it is safe enough for kids to practise their skills. We recommend creating the ultimate garden, and bicycle skills course with some basic equipment. You might want to grab some training tools like some chalk for the floor, cones, and maybe some race tape if you have enough space. If you want to make it fun you can add a reward chart to boost their confidence, 

Always lead by example and encourage your child to wear a helmet before you start your skills training.

1. Keeping balance

As soon as you hand a child a bike they feel super excited and often switch off from everything else and take off on their bikes. But, it’s important that they develop a good balance so they can manoeuvre in public spaces when they're ready. Ask your child to cycle freely and then encourage them to stop and start. Now, pretend for a moment that they are nearing traffic lights and that they must slow down in order to maintain their balance. Play this with them a few times until they are comfortable with their balance.

Peter from Blue Cycle Training suggests: 
For those learning to ride, balance is a key skill that needs to be mastered. The easiest way to learn this skill is for your child to go to the top of a gentle slope in a park:

  • Make sure their feet are firmly on the ground while sitting on their bike
  • Ensure they have their fingers resting on the brake levers
  • Get them to push backwards with their toes to get the bike moving forward and encourage them to try to take their feet off the ground
  • Repeat as much as is required until they can keep their feet off the ground for around 5 to 10 seconds
  • Once they are gliding with their feet on the ground, they are ready for the pedals

 Photo credit- instagram @henryslocks

2. Balance Beam

On a grassy surface, lay some 2x6 or 2x8 wood planks about 10 feet long. Get your child to practise pulling up on the handlebar and giving the pedals a quick stab as they lean back slightly and lift the front wheel onto the board. (The piece of wood isn't thick enough to cause any problems, check the plank before your child tries it out). Now, encourage your child to slowly ride the length of the board. The aim is to stay on top of the board until they reach the end and then ride off. As this gets easier, swap to a narrower piece of wood, or add another board at the end to double the distance. And, there you go your child is balancing perfectly!

3. Staying on Track

It’s important for your child to try and master this skill. It’s super easy, just grab some chalk and draw some lines on the ground. If you don’t have any chalk maybe just use some tape/string and lay it on the floor so it’s secure and doesn’t distract your child.

Make sure there is enough room in between the lines for your child to run their bike down before you draw two parallel lines on the ground. Get your child to ride through the lines when they're ready without touching the sides, helping them learn how to control the direction of the bike. You can keep a bleeper and make it entertaining by pressing it each time they touch the lines.

Photo credit- instagram @maggie_rose_cycles

4. The Art of Drifting

If your children are daring enough, they will appreciate learning this skill. This skill is basically an unwanted skid using their brakes and when children try this they are absolutely ecstatic. Just make sure you’re in a safe location first, it's ideal to practise on a quiet woodland track and flat surface. Be prepared by wearing long clothing as children will experience a few falls. Also please ensure your child has the correct headgear.

Mark out a line on the ground as this is where they aim to stop closer to the line. Ask your child to ride as normal and then aim to use both brakes and bring the bike to a halt on the marked line. If you have children who are confident enough, ask them to ride and lean over their bike to turn, encourage them to pull harder on the rear brake, and watch them skid. The tyres lose traction and this causes their bike to slide or ‘drift.’ Totally awesome feeling!

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5. Slalom

This is a great game to play in the park and improves your child’s skills. You can be really adventurous with this and it's simple. Grab some bottles or cones (football cones are fine).

Create a large figure of eight that will direct the bike around the path. You may want to give it a try first, so your child can attempt to map out their route. When you see their confidence increase, then it's time to reduce the circuit size a little, this is a great way for kids to learn core bike handling skills. Maybe make it really fun and set a timer and make it challenging each time and reward them at the end.

Photo credit- instagram @oliverrideshisbike

6. Cone Cornering

This skill involves concentration, it’s very difficult for some children when cornering, so it’s a skill that requires some patience. Your child must slightly tilt the bike over when making tight turns. They may fall if the handlebars are turned too quickly. Steering is more about leaning than turning the handlebars. Controlling the speed of the bike is crucial when cornering so encourage your child to stop pedalling if required and free-wheel, braking before they reach the corner, and accelerating out of the corner if safe to do so.

Have your child pass by a row of four or five safety cones or other such items, each placed about eight feet apart, to aid and encourage practice. It can be a good habit for your child to learn to keep their inside pedal (closest to the marking) up. As your child improves their cornering, encourage them to go faster, or move the cones out of a straight line so that they are staggered, and they have to turn more to get around each cone.

Photo credit- instagram @abscotland

7. Riding with one hand

Your child must be able to do this because, as they gain confidence, they will need to be able to signal with one hand at crossings in addition to their ability to manoeuvre at the same time. Ensure your child is comfortable and confident with riding a bike with two hands and with an easy balance. If they struggle to balance and ride with two hands, one hand will be difficult so please ensure your child is fully at ease before setting off.

Ask your child to ride at leisure and then introduce this next skill:

  • Loosen the grip of one hand
  • Use the hand they feel most comfortable with. Don’t let go, just hold it gently
  • While they’re riding, get them to uncurl one of their hands. Try controlling the handlebars with their flat palm as they ride their bicycle
  • Resting their arm or wrist on the handlebar support, now get them to let go fully. The main purpose of their wrist should be to steady the bike while they are riding straight
  • Now they can completely let go and remove their entire hand and arm from the handlebar. At first, they might feel a little unsteady, but if they keep riding, they'll get it naturally

Photo credit- instagram @oliverrideshisbike

8. Looking over your shoulder

Looking over the shoulder is an important skill when you need to check for traffic or when changing direction. Children need to be aware of their surroundings. You can check observational skills by asking children questions.

Hold up some cards with colours, numbers, or names of places on them. Ask your child to ride past and shout what they see. Now repeat this and ask them to turn their head and tell you what they see. You will notice that they are focusing on riding but are able to turn their head slightly to shout out what they have seen.

"As a child, my parents found an open space that was safe, away from traffic and lots of people. I'd then ride in a straight line and just begin by hovering with one hand just above the grip, ready to grab it if I needed to. I practised this for a while and then gradually built up to taking the hand further away, then I would try the other hand always making sure the brakes were within reach. Throughout the practice, I would make sure I looked where I was going and didn't look at my hands"
Sam Jacob - Frog Bikes Accounts Assistant, and Road bike enthusiast.

Photo credit- instagram @j1mmy_ess_ess

9. Trying to lift up your front wheel

This is a trick that all the kids find cool. This will help with on and off the curb. This takes a bit of practice so once you have mastered all the skills then move on to this skill.

Encourage your child to lift their wheel over something and it rolls over to the other end first to ensure they have control of their weight. Also, it’s great to model the skill first and then ask the child to try it by themselves.

"As a child, Amir always enjoyed this skill and it was easy for him to carry out, but practice makes perfect and for some, it could take longer. Amir suggests slightly bending your arms while leaning back and pulling both handlebars towards you in a quick action of straightening your arms. This will help you lift your front wheel off the ground momentarily."

"Once you have mastered this then you can then attempt a little pedal power during the above action in order to get the front wheel higher and keeping that pedal power going (along with mastering balancing skills) will eventually lead to a sustained wheelie. Practice makes perfect."
Amir - R&D Manager (Down Hill Rider)

Photo credit- instagram @miaridesherbike

10. Padded downhill and braking

This is a fun and easy skill for children but make sure they know how to use their brakes otherwise there could be a few tears. Find a grassy slope in a park to practise going faster and braking without skidding. Of course, a few skids can add to the fun and improve kids' bike-handling skills.

Being comfortable using the brakes to slow down, and come to a complete stop can take a little practice. The first thing to consider is hand positioning. When riding a bike, it's common practice to rest the index finger on the brake lever; this is called 'covering the brakes'. When using the brake levers, a child should only need to use their index fingers and not their whole hand, as this can cause a loss of balance. With a child covering the brakes, as they ride, they are stable to maintain balance and speed control.

Find a quiet area away from traffic to practice braking skills. To slow down and come to a controlled stop, begin applying the back brake for slowing down before gently applying the front brake to come to a complete stop. Have the child begin pedalling at a slow and steady pace, then have them gently squeeze the back brake to see how that feels for them. If you need more help check out, ‘How to teach kids about bike brakes with Bikeability.

Photo credit- instagram @emeliehallberger

 Now repeat all the skills and don’t forget to tag us on social media and we share your tips @frogbikes #frogbikes!
 Practice makes perfect….. good luck with your cycling!!

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