Uh oh! The 10 most common mistakes for kids on bikes
While there's nothing better than embarking on a two-wheeled adventure with your child, there are a few critical things to consider before pushing on the pedals and heading out!
Is their saddle positioned too high, their clothing too restrictive, or have they perhaps outgrown their bike? Depending on the issue, the fun factor could end up being severely compromised! This article doesn't only contain a list of the ten most common no-gos when it comes to cycling, we have also highlighted practical steps to make sure that you and your child will not fall victim to these mishaps.
#1 – Your child's bike is in need of some TLC.
In the interests of your child's safety, you need to maintain the upkeep of their bicycle. Give it a safety check before every single bike ride.
Screws – Brakes – Air
- Are all of the screws and clamps securely tightened? The most important screws and clamps are found on the handlebar stem, on the wheels (either a quick-release or requiring a hex key), and on the seat post (with a clamp or quick-release lever).
- Check that the front and rear brakes are working perfectly. Spin the wheels and give a few practice pulls on the brake levers. You will be able to determine if the brakes are able to deliver enough stopping power, or spot if they are rubbing.
- Take a good look at the tyres and wheels for any visible signs of damage. Check that the tyres are sufficiently pumped up to go for a ride.
In this article and accompanying step-by-step video, we highlight the parts of your bike that need checking most regularly.
#2 – The saddle is at the wrong height.
Incorrectly positioned saddles are a pretty common sight! Don't underestimate the importance: if your child's saddle is too high, they may struggle with a lack of stability on the bike – this is naturally worse for inexperienced children. If, on the other hand, their saddle is too low, your child will be unable to transfer sufficient power onto the pedals, which means they are likely to fatigue much faster.
What you're looking for is a saddle height that allows your seated child to place both feet on the ground without having to excessively shift their weight around. For more experienced bikers, the aim is to reach the ground with their toes. Complete beginners will certainly benefit from a slightly lower saddle height; knowing that they can quickly and easily place their feet on the ground will lend them a valuable sense of confidence.
In any doubt about the correct saddle height for your child? Don't worry; check out this video for our guide.
#3 – The handlebars are too close or too far away.
If the bars are so close that your child's knees are almost bumping into them, and their arms are bent at right angles, they are likely to have problems steering and making it safely around corners. What you are looking for here is a slight bend at the elbow as they outstretch their arms to hold the handlebar grips. This position means they will be able to steer with precision at all times.
#4 – Their bike is the wrong size.
Put a child on a wrong-size bike and they are likely to find the whole experience fairly arduous and it is unlikely to instil that familiar love for cycling. It only takes a quick glance to determine if your child's bike is the correct size.
- If your child struggles to place the tips of their toes on the ground with the saddle at its lowest position, you can certainly argue that the bike is too big.
- Noticeably bent legs throughout the whole pedal stroke, or knees that are virtually scraping the bars, are the two tell-tale signs of a bike that is too small.
There's no need to compromise when it comes to bike size; there's the right-size bike out there for every child! Have a look at this article to discover why a correctly fitting bike is so important, and what to consider when picking the size.
#5 – Pedal power – or lack of!
What else do your child need to do but place their feet on the pedals and push off? Sounds incredibly simple, doesn't it? In fact, the positioning of a rider's feet on the pedals is one of the commonly made mistakes – but it is one that is easy to fix. If your child positions their feet too far back and uses their heels to push on the pedals, they will find this quite hard work and will tire rapidly. At the other extreme end of the scale, some kids may place the underside of their toes on the pedals, which results in a lack of stability and difficulty when it comes to exerting force. To get the most effective position, you want the balls of your feet over the axle of the pedal.
#6 – The seat post's quick-release lever is sticking out.
Quick-release levers are incredibly useful when it comes to rapidly adjusting saddle height without the need for any tools. However, make sure it is not just closed fully, but tilted in such a way as to rest flat against the clamp. This is to ensure that your child won't catch any stray items of clothing on the lever.
#7 – The quick-release levers on the wheels are not flush to the frame.
If the bike wheels are tightened with quick-releases, you need to make sure that the levers are lying flush against the chain stays and fork. They should point upwards and slightly back – around the 1 o'clock line. If the levers accidentally end up facing forwards, there's a risk that they could catch on branches or other obstacles.
#8 – Your child's helmet is wonky.
It's critical that your child wears a correctly fitted helmet on every bike ride. To ensure optimum protection, make sure that the helmet sits safely – neither too far forward, nor too far back. Ok, that sounds fairly vague! You are right. Here's a more precise tip:
- To determine if the helmet is sitting correctly, you want to fit one-to-two fingers between their eyebrows and the lip of the helmet.
- You can then use the size adjustment dial at the rear to make sure the helmet has a secure fit around the circumference of your child's head. Note: if you have turned the dial to maximum tightness and more than a finger's width of space remains between your child's head and the helmet, then it is too big.
- Make sure that you also tighten the chin strap sufficiently. Remember: as tight as necessary, as loose as possible. As a general rule, you shouldn't be able to fit more than one finger between the strap and their chin.
We strongly recommend checking out this video for guidance on how to select the right size helmet for your child.
#9 – Clothing that flaps or limits movement.
Whether they're clocking up the distance on their bike or enjoying a mid-ride break at the adventure playground, what matters most is that your child's choice of outdoor apparel makes them feel good. They need to wear something that won't restrict their freedom of movement. However, a certain tightness is necessary – loose skirts or baggy trousers could get caught in the spokes or other moving parts on their bike. Such clothing presents a safety risk for your child. Pay attention to laces that are untied or tend to go rogue, scarves, and long hair for that matter.
#10 – Their equipment isn't fixed correctly.
For the final pre-ride check, make doubly sure that any additional equipment is securely and correctly fixed to your child's bike. This is just as important for your child's safety. If there is a rear rack mounted on their bike, check it regularly for stability. When your child is transporting anything on their bike, it's important to make sure that their steering and balance are unaffected by the cargo. Check that there are no loose straps that could get caught in the rear wheel. If using a handlebar-mounted bag, make sure that the steering is not affected and that the bag has not trapped their brake cables or gear cables.
Once you're certain that you haven't fallen prey to any of these ten mistakes, there's nothing stopping your child from having a blast on their bike. But don't worry if you do make a mistake from time to time. In the words of James Joyce: 'Mistakes are the portals of discovery.' After all, it's a constant learning experience when you've got kids – we get it!
And on that final note, if you are looking for a suitable helmet for your child, check out our KIDS Helmet. It's not only comfortable but also looks very cool (win-win!).