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My child (five years old) is learning how to ride a bicycle. At the moment she can ride a few meters on her own, but quickly loses her balance. Therefore I practice with her regularly, by walking by her side and gently holding her by the arm so she does not fall.

This works reasonably well, and she enjoys the practice, however I am not sure whether this is the best approach - in particular, it seems her balance is only improving very slowly.

There is a general question about learning how to ride a bike, but my question is specifically:

Would it help to have training wheels on the bicycle?

I have heard they do not help a child how to keep the balance, because they completely change a bicycle's handling, making it more like a tricycle. Is that true? Or does it make sense to mount training wheels as an interim solution?

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    The biggest problem is that you don't let her fall. My daughter at the age of yours learned it in 1 day. Equip her with protective pads and all should be good. If you take a way the sensation of falling she won't learn to balance. – Grasper Aug 29 '17 at 17:44
  • I'm going vote to close this as it seems more like a Physics.SE or Mathematics.SE question. – tuskiomi Sep 21 '17 at 18:34
  • @tuskiomi: Mathematics.SE? Are you sure you didn't comment on the wrong question!? – sleske Sep 21 '17 at 20:41
  • I was being facetious. Of course it will help your child balance, that's how training wheels work. I'm not sure if that's what you mean though. – tuskiomi Sep 21 '17 at 21:20
  • Update (one year later): It took a while, in part because I could not practise with her for a few months, but this summer we had our first bicycle tour together :-). We just continued to practice, with me supporting her balance, until she could do it alone. We did not use training wheels. What I did find to help was keeping the saddle low enough so she could put both feet on the ground. – sleske Sep 6 '18 at 7:43
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Training wheels do not help keep balance. Their primary purpose is to get a child used to the rest of a bike's features (pedaling, braking, etc.) while not worrying about the hardest part (balance). They can be used in a 'up' mode to 'catch' children when they overbalance one way or the other, but I haven't seen that be very effective in children I've seen learning.

I do recommend balance bikes (or removing the pedals), as recommended in the other answer. However, if you're already to this point, I suspect you can work with her directly.

The key is to not support her while she is pedaling/etc. Instead, give her a start, and then let her go, pedalling however far she can. Then repeat. With my children I would do this and count sidewalk squares; one per meter, roughly. This didn't take too long - a few days per child - but both had at least a little experience on a balance bike (I taught my older at 5 and my younger at 4, the latter had a year's experience while the former had a few months).

If pedalling is part of her issue, then I would definitely try a month or two on a balance bike or just removing the pedals and lowering the seat so she can have her feet flat on the floor. If she's a strong pedaller, then perhaps that's not necessary and you can just work on this. But the key is not to support her during the pedalling - just support her for a start.

I would also not hold her on one side. Hold the back of the bike if there's a handle there (there often is), if there's not then you might be able to hold the front of the bike (but avoid holding the handlebars if you at all can). It's important that you not add to her balance issues, and holding on to one side but not the other does create a balance issue.

Otherwise - just give it time, learning to ride a bike takes a while for some kids depending on their strength. Patience, and perhaps some pads and gloves (if the falls bother her), help tons.

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    Just don't try and teach her about riding a bike when your street has a slight downhill angle--the voice of experience here... – magerber Aug 28 '17 at 15:11
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    @magerber - Funny memory. My older brother taught me how to ride a bike exactly this way. He took me to the top of a large, sloping lot surrounded by a chain-link fence. At the very top, he pushed me off and told me he was going to hold on all the way. The forward momentum took care of itself, and all I had to do was balance, and I didn't discover the deception until I crashed into the fence. At first I was livid. He answered, "but now you know how to ride a bike." And damn if he wasn't right. Not only could I balance, but I was also unafraid of crashing! Smh. Crazy brother. – anongoodnurse Aug 28 '17 at 16:18
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I would try to set her up with a "running bike".

Here in Germany kids get these when they really are toddlers (around 2 or so). It's a small 2 wheel bike, with no pedals, and with the seat low enough that they essentially "run" while sitting on the bike. Here are some examples: https://www.puky.de/de/red/laufraeder

They naturally learn the balance needed to ride a normal bike as they will quickly progress from strictly running (with feet always on the ground) to running/coasting behavior (when they lift their feet). Once they can coast for some distance, they can try a normal bike and usually manage to ride it without much extra effort.

I think a 5 year old is too big for these little bikes, but you could try the following: remove the pedals and lower the seat until your child can really put her feet on the ground, flat. Then let her scoot around, and maybe encourage her to coast if she isn't doing that on her own after a few weeks.

good luck!

  • Ah yes. In america (OP hasn't specified location), they're called Balance Bikes – tuskiomi Sep 21 '17 at 18:52
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I am another vote for a running bike. My kids all started on that and by 4/5 yrs old could ride a pedal bike without any "training" time at all. On the 1st child my husband was preparing to "teach" him how to ride. He hadn't been on a bike all winter. My husband just got the bike ready (air in tires, etc) and told my son to hold on a minute while he sat down the tire pressure gauge when I yelled to my husband he "missed the boat" on "teaching" him to ride because he was already halfway down the block. The only thing they had to learn was brakes.

In case it helps, here are directions on how to safely remove your pedals, chain, etc so you can use it as a running bike until balance is established. You can just put it all back on when you feel ready. https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-kids-bike-into-a-balance-bike/

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Been there, the answer is no for us. Our son just leans on the training wheels and tips over anyway if he does something too wrong, hits a hole with the training wheel, the road is too far from level, etc. The only thing good about the wheels is that he can go slow enough that he can always put his foot down and not get hurt when falling over. But that low speed also makes it much harder to learn about balance.

For background, he has poor natural balance and coordination but was able to go over 100m without help nor wheels last summer, at 6. Only, he did not like it as he was constantly scared of falling, even though he very rarely did.

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I agree with the postings above. "Running bike", or a used bike low enough for your kid to easily reach the ground. And then paddle forward to get the feel. After self confidence has arrived, then it's time for proper pedalling. I fixed a busted thrown away bike for my son (then 5 yrs), he was a bit too tall for it but it was perfect for this method. Didn't remove pedals, but he easily had a wide stance.

Support wheels make a false sense of safety. They also occasionally will leave your kid standing with the rear wheel off the ground due to uneven ground. Looks silly and your kid will burst into tears. Also wilder kids may not be able to lean and turn and will thus flip over and get a great road rash. I've seen it.

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