When Do Kids Learn To Ride A Bike? Start now!

Parents often ask me “when do kids learn to ride a bike?” The answer is right now.

It’s never too early for a child to start on a balance bike. Toddlers can start scooting around as young as 12 to 18 months old. That counts as riding a bike!

If we’re talking about riding a pedal bike, every kid is different. If your kiddo starts riding a balance bike at a year old, it’s not uncommon for them to start pedaling at 2.5 or 3 years old. (My son did).

That said, the average kid will probably learn to ride a pedal bike around 5 or 6 years old. There’s no need to wait that long, however.

Here are some tips to get started regardless of how old your child is.

young child on the 14 inch woom 2

Start With A Balance Bike

Whether your child is 2 years old or 10 years old, the best way to start is with a balance bike. If your child is on the younger end of that spectrum, I’d recommend buying a dedicated balance bike. If they’re older and you’ve already bought them a pedal bike, convert it to a balance bike.

You can do this by removing the training wheels if the bike has them (I don’t recommend training wheels), and unscrewing the pedals. Lower the seat until your child can sit comfortably on the saddle and touch the ground with flat feet or nearly flat feet.

Tada–you have a balance bike! Now your child can practice scooting, gliding, and balancing on the bike.

muna balance bike

For some kids, they’ll get the hang of this in a day and you can add the pedals back to the bike. For other kids, it might take a year or more of using the bike as a balance bike before getting the hang of pedaling.

It doesn’t matter how fast your kid picks this up. Every child is different. The key is that you keep having them ride the balance bike over and over. They are slowly learning “how to ride a bike” each time they do.

Slowly Introduce Pedaling

Once your child is confidently cruising and gliding on the balance bike, you can add pedals into the mix. Even with pedals on the bike, encourage them to start out just like they would with a balance bike–using their feet to gain speed and momentum. Once they’re gliding along, ask them to put their feet on the pedals and give it a few cranks.

Again, every kid is different. Some kids will get this in under 5 minutes. Others will take weeks or months of practicing. Keep it fun, be patient, and they WILL get it eventually.

For more tips, read our guide on how to teach your child to ride a bike.

woom 5 in action

Braking And Shifting

Remember that learning to ride a bike involves more than just learning to pedal a bike, and that some of these skills will take longer to learn. After pedaling, braking is the next skill your kiddo needs to pick up pretty quickly.

Some balance bikes have hand brakes which is ideal because your child can start learning how to brake early on. Using a hand brake does require a good deal of coordination, but most kids can start getting the hang of this around 3 years old.

When your child first starts pedaling, braking can feel overwhelming. Don’t be surprised if your child puts their feet down to stop–just make sure they have a good pair of shoes on.

Start working with them on their braking. Set up a cone or other obstacle and ask them to stop before they get to it. Practice this over and over so that they can stop confidently when it really matters.

childs hands on the guardian 24 grip shifter

Shifting gears is even more difficult, which is why smaller pedal bikes don’t have any gears. You’ll see a few 20 inch bikes with gears, but they become most common on 24 inch bikes.

If your child’s bike does have gears, but they’re just now learning to ride, put it in an easier gear for them, and just treat the bike like a singlespeed for now. Learning to pedal, brake, and shift all at once is way too much for most kids.

What Happens If Your Child Just Isn’t Getting It

So many parents I talk to feel frustrated that their child isn’t riding a bike yet! As I already mentioned, the first thing is to either give your child a balance bike or convert their pedal bike to a balance bike by removing the pedals. Then, let your child go play around (for days, weeks, or months).

They key is to make sure your child thinks the bike is FUN before trying to get them to pedal. While there are some kids who legitimately struggle with the physical part of riding a bike (these are usually kids with special needs), most kids are only struggling with the mental part of it.

One of the best ways to encourage your child to ride is to get them around other kids on bikes. A little peer pressure can work wonders!

For more ideas on how to help a reluctant rider, read my article on how to motivate your child to ride a bike.

pello rover on pavement

More Stuff You Might Like

About Us

The Rascals are a family of three. Kristen (mom), Blair (dad), and Parker (kiddo). We started Rascal Rides when Parker was born and we didn’t want to give up our passion for biking. As we learned, we shared. Over the years, we’ve tested hundreds of kids bikes, helmets, bike trailers, and more.

Kristen is a USA Cycling certified coach and loves to share her passion for biking with other families. Blair is a bike geek, mechanic, and mountain bike junkie. Parker is our resident tester and inspiration.

If you see us out on the trail, make sure to say hi!

Leave a Comment