It’s a well-known fact that cycling can help to improve our fitness levels and maintain it for the long-run. Just a few of the benefits of cycling on a regular basis include boosting your cardiovascular endurance, strengthening your legs and core muscles, improving full-body coordination and being able to walk up a flight of stairs without requiring a 15-minute nap afterwards. Jokes aside, the benefits adults experience from cycling are nowhere near as significant compared to what children stand to receive.
Children in their formative years, categorized by Unicef as 0-8 years of age, stand to gain much more from cycling than just improvements to their physical attributes. Aside from strengthening their bodies, cycling will also aid in developing motor skills, balance, coordination and situational awareness. Going through the process of learning how to properly ride a bicycle also allows children to develop mental fortitude and self-confidence as they learn to ride independently.
As parents, we have a constant desire to best prepare our kids for what lies ahead in life and for this purpose, the benefits of cycling are too significant to ignore. Luckily, choosing a bike for a young beginner does not require any knowledge of complex mechanics or understanding of technical jargon often associated with high-end road or racing bikes. So, with that in mind let’s have a look at the basic components of a kids’ bike and the accessories available as well as what to look out for when acquiring a bicycle for young, aspiring cyclists.
There is an abundance of information regarding the relative merits of different bicycle designs, components and features on the internet. If you’ve spent any significant amount of time researching topics related to cycling, you’ve probably seen realised that the world of bicycle technology, technical specifications and mechanics can be incredibly complicated. However, I believe that there are only 3 key elements to prioritize when choosing a bicycle for your child and the components of the chosen bicycle should serve these key elements.
The age old saying “Safety First” should also apply to cycling as there is no point in taking up an activity for its benefits only to be injured after a few minutes of trying it. Small children will almost definitely crash or fall off their bikes the first few times they try to ride it which is why the bike itself should be as safe as possible to avoid any unwanted injuries. The basic things to look out for here are the bike’s design, weight and component health. Firstly, the design of the bike should not incorporate sharp edges or protrusions which can puncture the skin in the event of harsh contact. Secondly, the bike should be light enough for the rider to comfortably maneuver, making riding it easier, hence reducing the chances of falling over. A lighter bike will also be less likely to injure the child while also being easier for the child to lift if a fall does occur. Thirdly, the mechanical components contributing to the bikes acceleration and deceleration must be kept in good working order to ensure the rider is able to control the bikes movements at all times. This can be done by simply checking that the chain wheel rotates smoothly, the chain is able to rotate without coming loose, the front and rear brakes are able to firmly grip the wheels to stop the bike and the tires are in good condition with no visible damage or puncture. It only takes a few minutes to check on the health of the bike before allowing the child to take it out for a ride. With that said, a child should only be allowed to ride under adult supervision.
A good bike should always allow the rider to be comfortable riding for extended periods of time. For a child, an average cycling session may be anywhere between 15 to 90 minutes and the child should not feel uncomfortable sitting on the bicycle for that amount of time. In order to achieve this, the bike should be chosen and setup specifically for the rider. There can be large differences from one bike to another such as the bike’s size and weight, seat height, handlebar angle and crank arm length, among others. The child should be able to sit comfortable on the seat, with their feet reaching the paddles and their hands gripping the handlebars and then be able to turn the handlebars from left to right with ease. This will ensure that the bike acts as a tool to benefit the child’s growth instead of being a hindrance to the child’s progress.
Arguably the most important element to consider is whether or not the bike is able to make rider excited to ride it. This is even truer with children as the child will be more motivated to ride the bike and take care of it if they view it as something to take pride in and show-off to their friends. The best thing to do when buying a bike for your child is to bring them to the shop and allow them to choose the bike that they want to bring home with them. Parents should only guide them towards making a good decision, however the final choice should be theirs. This also extends to the safety gear and accessories. It’s amazing how a something as simple as cool looking helmet can make a child so much more excited to ride their bike.
In summary, getting our children started with cycling is not a complicated process and there’s so much they can gain from it. Help them pick out a bike that is safe, comfortable and excites them to continue cycling long-term and they will grow up healthier than a large majority of the population.