Here at Saracen, we want to support you during these testing times. When homeschooling gets tough and your knowledge of 'simple' maths and science is fading, there's only one thing for it...
There's no better feeling than getting your kids on a bike, whether that's learning to ride by doing laps of the garden or a socially-distanced cruise around the park.
But what if you don’t know where to start – or what to do next? Fear not, because we have our very own shredmaster! By day, Will Longden is team manager for Madison Saracen Factory Racing – but right now, he’s playing lockdown dad and keeping his kids entertained with some on the bike fun.
We got some tips from Will about the best ways to teach your kids how to ride, and how to keep them coming back for more.
BALANCE IS KEY
Learning how to balance is the key to it all. For kids with a bit of confidence, you can see them go from a balance bike to a pedal bike in a day.
Once they have learned how to ride, they will probably go back and forth between the balance bike and the pedal bike, but you don’t have to worry about that. The core skill of balancing is common between both bikes, so they will be learning good habits whichever bike they are riding. Avoid stabilisers at all costs, because they don’t teach balance. When you take off the stabilisers, it’s like going back to square one and learning to ride a bike all over again.
if your child is too big for a balance bike and is about to start learning to ride, we would advise taking the pedals off so they can use their regular bike as a balance bike. Then when they’ve mastered the balance, pop the pedals back on and away you go.
Once your kids are onto pedal bikes, they have to learn how to pedal.
A really easy way to teach them this is to push them along while they pedal, but as soon as they stop pedalling, or start messing around, or backpedalling, I’ll stop pushing. This way you support them a bit with balance so they won’t fall over, but they will learn that they have to pedal to keep going along. You are probably going to get a tantrum here and there – the classic ‘my legs hurt’ as they learn that they have to pedal to keep going. Maybe explain that it’s not pain – you can just feel the muscles working so you can get big and strong. If your child’s name is Rob, this can be a massive problem. You just have to accept that and do a lot of pushing/bike carrying.
Once they’ve got their balance and pedalling and brakes, you can do some drills – all you need are some little of cones. Set out a zigzag, or a circle – something simple.
Remember – this isn’t a test, don’t make it impossible! This is about making it easy. You want them coming back bursting with confidence, telling you how easy it is and then you can make it more challenging, one step at a time.
Even when you’re an adult, if you start something new, the most rewarding part is to see your progression. Nobody likes to fail at the first go.
FOLLOW THE CHILD’S LEAD
If your child loses interest and puts the bike down, leave it. Put it in the garage.
I’ve always loved riding and racing bikes so this was hard to accept when it happened, but it’s important to know that the kids have the final say.
When they first picked it up the bike, they loved it. Then for six months they ignored it. Then, when they wanted to and were excited by it, they came back to it.
They have to want it. Kids aren’t on a timescale to learn - let them enjoy it and have fun.
You want to educate them, help them, keep them safe, but beyond that there’s no need to be shouting and be firm. Keep it positive.
MAKE IT REWARDING
When we started out, a lot of the stuff we did was chocolate driven. Amy now has a chart on the fridge – with one bar for cycling and one bar for running. Each time she does an activity, she can colour in the chart and once she reaches the end, she gets a reward. How I wish it was this easy for our riders to win the World Cup overall!
DO IT ANYWHERE
You don’t need a big space! Remember, a kids bike is small and you can make the game. You can even do it in the house, clear the furniture back and go for it. Mind the doorframes though as I’ve been told they hurt your knuckles!