wirecutter reviews the LittleBig bikes

Parents often ask us the best way to get their child started on their bike. Like a chick who’s learning how to fly from the nest, some kids will take to a balance bike straight away, whilst others may need more help and encouragement. This guide works for all kids bikes out there, not just the LittleBig bikes. Here’s our top ten tips that will get your little one started in no time:

1 – Location, location, location

An open area free from distraction will ensure your child is focused on the task at hand and provides a safe learning environment. Avoid parked cars, steps, open water other obstacles. Tarmac or short dry grass will ensure your child can get enough momentum to balance safely.

Correct position on the balance bike2 – “The mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools”

They say a bad workman always blames his tools, but really a bad bike can make it much harder to cycle and may put your child off. A decent lightweight bike will give your child the tools they need to start cycling in earnest. Check the tires are pumped up, wheels are spinning freely, handlebars turn easily and brakes (if the bike has them) are working correctly.

3 – Good tailoring is everything-make sure your bike is the perfect fit

Riding an ill-fitting bike is awkward and frustrating. While sitting on the saddle your child should be able to touch the ground with the balls of their feet, with a slight bend in the knee. The handlebars should be within comfortable reach without being cramped so your child can steer easily. Handlebars on proper bikes can be rotated backwards or forwards and moved up or down to get the right fit.

4 – No stabilisers are the key to perfect balance 

If your child has ridden a balance bike, do not fit stabilisers (also called training wheels) when they’re ready to pedal as this will un-do all their good work in learning to balance. It’s like giving a crutch to a child who’s learning to walk, it will actually counter their development and would be a big set-back.

5 – How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Practice! Even a few minutes every day can see dramatic improvements and the better your child gets, the more they’ll want to go out and ride their bike.

Kids practicing on their balance bikes6 – Get padded up

To ensure that a gentle fall doesn’t knock your child’s confidence, it’s best to be kitted up properly. A well fitted helmet is strongly recommended along with sturdy shoes and robust clothing, like jeans and a soft padded jacket. Avoid loose clothing or shoe laces that may get caught in the wheels.

7 – Find a gentle hill

In order to get your child coasting along easily, it’s best to find a very gentle downhill which will help in picking up speed, just make sure there’s a good run-off at the bottom!

8 – Learning to brake

Most kids will intuitively use their feet to stop while using the balance bike, at least while they’re getting started. Once your little one gets faster they’ll need to start using their brakes. It’s best to teach them to use the rear brake first, then also using the front brake as they get more confident. You may wish to run alongside them with your hand on their back in case they need to stop.

9 – Patience really is a virtue

Balance is normally mastered quite quickly but the nuances of pedalling and braking can take longer.  If your child is reluctant to start riding it’s best to put the bike back in the shed for a few weeks until they’re ready. Fitting some jazzy accessories like bells,  stickers or a basket could help entice your child to get on their bike.

10 – Monkey see, monkey do

Your child will try and copy whatever you do so try to let them see you riding bike as much as possible. If they have a brother or sister who rides a bike then all the better as you can then go out and ride as a family, and that’s what it’s all about!