Braking

Once your child is confidently balancing on their balance bike, coasting and turning independently it may be time to get them onto a bike with pedals. The amount of time this take will vary greatly between children, dependant on their capacity, their particular additional needs, how much practice they get and their personality. Up until now, if they have been using a balance bike, to stop they have simply had to put their feet down to stop. Making the transition to a pedal bike should begin with learning how to brake.

If you have opted for a bike with calliper brakes, try starting off with your child walking alongside the bike. Have them squeeze the brake levers so that they can see what happens when the brake is engaged. Initially they will squeeze quite hard, but with a bit of practice they will learn how much pressure they need to apply to effectively stop the bike.

If your child’s bike has a back-pedal brake, then have them sit on the bike with their feet on the ground, slowly move the bike forward (you may have to hold the bike for them so that they don’t fall over) and have them engage the brake.

Keep it simple and stay close when they first try out the brakes whilst riding their bikes. Remind your child to put their feet down when braking so that the bike doesn’t tip to the side when they come to a stop. If your child responds well to visuals, it may be a good opportunity to introduce some of these around braking and stopping.

As your child gains their braking confidence, you can teach them the benefits of braking gradually (whenever possible) as opposed to braking suddenly (which might be required in the case of a sudden hazard).

It is also important to explain the different effect of front and rear brakes. Make sure they understand which lever is attached to the rear brake and which is attached to the front brake. Initially your child will probably use both brakes but in time it is important to teach them which brake is best to use at different times. Generally, the front brake is best for most situations, whilst the rear brake should really only be used if traction is poor or if your front tyre has blown. Sometimes a child may be nervous about using the front brake as they are concerned they will fly over the handlebars if they brake hard. This can happen, but if the child is taught to use their arms to brace against the deceleration, they are less likely to flip over the front.

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