How to raise a Tour De France champion!

At British Cycling we want to encourage as many people as possible to cycle by providing them with the right information and the skills to get on their bikes. There is no right time to start cycling but it can start from a very early age, beginning with learning to ride a bike.

Teaching your child to cycle

by Vicky Spencer, Cycle Training Manager at British Cycling.

Children as young as three are learning fundamental cycling skills on balance bikes. Learning to balance is the key to being able to cycle and balance bikes can be a good tool to help children do this quickly. The bikes themselves have no pedals and so encourage children to focus on balance rather than trying to pedal at the same time. You don’t have to go to the expense of buying a balance bike, you could remove the pedals on your child’s bike until they are confident taking their feet off the ground.

Basic skills

Once your child has mastered their balance skills, the next stage is to learn the basic cycling skills that will enable them to cycle off-road. Bikeability is the new cycling proficiency for the 21st century. You may remember doing your cycling proficiency at school, many of you won’t have ventured out of the playground. Bikeability is different. The course is divided into three levels. Level 1 teaches basic bike handling skills, including stopping and starting, steering, signalling and use of gears. Level 2 takes trainees out onto the road and builds confidence in a real-life traffic environment. Children can learn to cycle safely on today’s roads, be taught how to position themselves most effectively to be seen, how to make left and right turns onto and from side streets and empowering trainees to make decisions when riding. Finally Level 3 progresses onto major roads with more traffic and advanced junctions.

Level 1 and 2 are usually delivered to children aged from the age of 9 up to 12. Level 3 is currently being delivered in some high schools between the ages of 13 and 15. The Department for Transport fund Bikeability in schools across the country. Ask you headteacher or Local Authority Road Safety Team if your child can access this free training.

Development

Once your child has the skills to cycle safely there are no limits to where cycling can take them. At British Cycling we want to encourage all forms of cycling from leisure and commuting through to competitive sport. We deliver cycle training courses for beginners and for those wanting to brush up their skills. Our development team run a very successful programme known as Go-Ride. The programme provides a fun and safe way to introduce young riders to the world of cycle sport and provides a platform to improve bike handling skills. Getting involved is easy, either with a local Go-Ride Club or through one of our many Holiday Coaching Programmes where young people will be able to sample the various cycle sport disciplines and start enjoying one of the fastest growing sports in the UK today.

One of the many benefits of cycling is the low cost. You don’t need to ride an expensive bike and there are no rules on what you should wear. The type of cycling and the weather conditions will largely determine what equipment you need.  What’s more important is having the correct size bike and a helmet that fits.

And remember cycling is not just for children. If you as a parent are interested in learning to ride, getting back on your bike or taking part in a refresher course then now’s the time to do it. You might take some inspiration from the British Cycling team at the forthcoming Olympic Games!

For tips on how to build confidence when cycling please visit the British Cycling website here.

Photography: Mahender G @Flickr

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