September 28, 2023

Teaching an Older Child How to Ride a Bike

Are you one of those parents whose child is, say, older than 9 years old and still has not mastered how to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels?

No sweat… sometimes we aren’t always on time for milestones, and that’s okay. Your child might be delayed for any number of reasons in the area of bike riding.

Here are some possibilities…

  • Parents very busy, both working, no one has had time to teach the child to ride a bike.
  • Family lives in a rural town where there are no bike riding friendly neighborhoods.
  • Child may have some type of developmental disability that has caused a delay in gross motor skills.
  • Parents may be struggling, financially or otherwise, may not have the money or time to devote to bike riding skills.

It’s never too late to learn how to ride a bike. Even an adult who doesn’t know how can learn!

If your child is a bit older and still has not mastered the art of bike riding, don’t make it about guilty feelings or embarrassment for either you or the child. 

Of course you can acknowledge the child’s feelings… but then accept them, make it okay, help your child to feel confident and capable, and move on to the bike riding lessons.

Keep this in mind as you approach the bike-riding milestone.


Great reasons to teach your older child how to ride a bike:

Bike riding is a fairly common skill and he or she will feel more confident knowing they can do what many other kids their age are able to.

Riding bikes can become a family activity, you can get your exercise on the bike path at the park or take a ride together around the neighborhood.

Your child can go on neighborhood bike riding adventures with friends and build important skills like becoming mindful of cars on the road.

Bike riding mastery could lead to more exciting pursuits like Motocross.

Good tips for teaching an older child to ride a two wheeler:

Remember that your child may feel self-conscious. He or she will likely do better if you move your bike riding lesson to an area where there are not a lot of people around. You can teach the basic skills without your child feeling like all eyes are on him or her.

Make sure that neither you nor your child are feeling stressed or hangry before teaching bike riding. If you had a rough day at work, you might want to relax a bit first.

If your child lacks strength or coordination, work on him or her gaining basic control of the bike.

Lots of people think that if they just put their kid on a bike, and push off and tell the child to start pedaling, this will work.

But if your child is not practiced or coordinated with bike riding, once he or she tries to stop you’re going to have a problem.

So let your child get a feel for maneuvering the bike. Here are some steps.

  1. Move the seat so that he or she can comfortably keep feet on the ground.
  2. Have your child go through the steps of standing next to the bike, kicking up the kickstand, and then swinging a leg over to position themselves on the bike seat.
  3. Let your child get the feel of shifting their weight back and forth from one leg to the other while being seated on the bike. If your child has a sense for being able to right himself and not falling over while on the bike, then once they get the hang of two-wheeling they will be able to manage with ease.
  4. Let your child use their feet to walk the bike along while sitting on the seat. Teach them to do a kind of “scooting the bike forward” movement (using the feet) to help build strength in the legs. Eventually this will give them better control the bike. Your child can use these methods in situations where they’re unable to pedal around normally for whatever reason.
  5. Take your child on gentle slopes so that he or she can get the feeling of what it’s like to ride the bike up a hill and down a hill. They don’t have to actually ride yet if they’re not ready. Right now we are just learning how it feels to be on the bike and controlling the bike.
  6. Practice turning left and right. Again, this doesn’t have to be after the child uses it as a two-wheeler. For now they can simply walk along while seated on the bike and practice going left and right and turning around.
  7. Show your child how to position themselves to get off the bike. Believe it or not, not every child has these skills of coordination. So if yours seems uncomfortable, show them how. Take the steps.
  8. You can demonstrate how to lean the bike to the more comfortable foot, place the foot on the ground and put your weight on it, then swing the other foot over the back tire, use your hands to steady the bike and then use one foot to kick the kickstand into place.

TIP: Don’t worry too much about the helmet at this time.

Retrospec Bike, Skate & Scooter Helmet Ages 1-10 Years Old

Schwinn Thrasher Bike Helmet Age 8 to 14

If your child is simply practicing maneuvering the bike around, the helmet is just going to feel cumbersome and distracting.

You’ll want to have a helmet once your child learns to push off and ride on two wheels, but right now it’s probably not that important.

Children who grew up prior to the 1990s did not have helmets and they learned how to ride bikes. Your child will be okay.

Take a brake.

Make sure you show your child how to use the brakes. A bike that’s appropriately sized for a 10- to 12-year old will probably have both hand brakes and the option to pedal the feet backwards to stop the bike.

Have your child practice doing this so they will know how to stop the bike when they actually push off and begin riding on two wheels.

If your child is slow to learn skills like this, have patience. It’s okay if it takes four or five tries before they seem able to move the bike in a basic way.

Just taking the bike out and having the child repeat using it will help for the slow bicycle riding learner to gain confidence, be able to control the bike, and work their way toward riding onto wheels.

It’s not a race. Yet!

Remember, it’s not a race. If your child is not ready then don’t sweat it. Just keep at it and try not to stress out or become frustrated. Teaching children these types of skills requires patience and empathy.

Also, be sure to say encouraging words if your child had a good day of learning bike skills. Even if they didn’t master the two-wheeling part yet, let him or her know how proud you are.

Look, Ma… no training wheels!

After you spend some time getting your child comfortable with the bike, one fine day the unthinkable will happen. Your child will be bike-riding like a champ!

Next thing you know, you will have yourself a proud bicycle rider!