Learning How to Ride a Bike for Kids With Disabilities

For many kids, learning how to ride a bike is a right of passage. It’s one of the most enjoyable ways to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. In fact, about one billion people in the world ride their bike every single day. Plus, biking riding is chock full of mental, physical, and social benefits—there’s no wonder it’s such a common activity!

5 Benefits of Biking for Kids

  1. Independence: Bike riding gives kids a greater sense of independence and freedom, because they don’t have to rely on someone else for transportation. They can bike to school, parks, or other community locations. The neighborhood is their oyster!
  2. Self Esteem: Learning a new skill helps kids gain confidence in their abilities, which can boost their overall self esteem.
  3. Inclusion: Once they master the two-wheeled bike, they can ride alongside friends, neighbors, and family members. It’s a great way to develop social skills and never feel left out of the fun!
  4. Health: Bike riding promotes a healthy quality of life. It builds physical endurance, increases focus, and can be used as an outlet for de-stressing.
  5. Fun: Whether biking with peers or by themself, taking a ride on a nice, sunny day is one of the most pleasant ways to appreciate the outdoors.

With seemingly boundless benefits, bike riding is an excellent activity for everyone, including people with physical or intellectual disabilities. However, the typical learning process for riding a bike doesn’t account for accessibility, so kids with disabilities are significantly less likely to participate in bike riding. For example, individuals with autism often experience difficulty with coordination and balance, which can make getting on a bike for the first time challenging, and often overwhelming. Overcoming that initial hurdle of fear or frustration can be discouraging for the child and their family members.

Yet, thousands of people with disabilities from around the world have proven that it’s possible to ride a bike. All it takes is some practice and perseverance!

Need some help getting started? Keep reading to learn a few tips on how to introduce bike riding into your child’s life!

Learning How to Ride a Bike

If your child is struggling to learn how to ride a bike, perhaps they need a little bit of extra support or encouragement. Just remember: don’t give up when things get hard. It will all be worth it in the end!

6 Bike Riding Tips

  1. Safety First: Before anything, make sure your child is wearing a helmet. Find a wide, open space such as an empty school parking lot or a cul-de-sac. There should be as few obstacles as possible.
  2. Start Small: Try to recount the first time you tried balancing on a two-wheeled bike. It feels a bit unnatural and takes a while to get used to. So, just take it step by step. Perhaps a new rider begins with training wheels or a training handle attached to their bike. Or, you can hold on to their handlebars to help them get acclimated to steering and balance.
  3. Positive Reinforcement: Offering positive reinforcement to your loved one will instill confidence in their abilities. If your child is fearful, have them repeat these affirmations: “I am brave. I am strong. I can learn new things.” If the rider is surrounded by positive energy during their learning process, they are more likely to succeed!
  4. Practice Makes Perfect: Make practice part of your daily routine. For example, set a plan to go outside for 15 minutes every evening to bike in the driveway. Little by little, you will see the newfound confidence grow as all this practice pays off!
  5. Family Fun: Get the whole family involved! Plan family bike rides that you can all experience together. Encouragement from loved ones might just be the motivation your child needs.
  6. Adapt and Overcome: From repositioning hand brakes to a rider’s dominant side, to adding duct tape to the pedals for foot security, modifications can be made to bicycles to make them more accessible to your child’s needs. There are also plenty of adaptive bicycles on the market, such as the balance bike for children with autism, down syndrome, and cerebral palsy. These bikes are made to compliment your child’s abilities, so they don’t have to miss out on the many wonders of biking!

For more information on adaptive activities for your loved one with a disability, read our blog, How to Get Started in Adaptive Sports.

First Time Rider? Come to the iCan Shine Bike Camp!

As a nonprofit organization that is devoted to fostering growth in individuals with disabilities, Covey cannot wait to gear up and ride into another year of our most anticipated event, the iCan Shine Bike Camp!

Over the course of this 5 day camp, individuals with disabilities (ages 8 and up) are not only taught how to ride a bicycle, but also taught that they can accomplish any goal that they put their mind to! The iCan Shine Bike Camp is one of our favorite events of the year, because our clients beam with a new sense of accomplishment and greater independence.

We are still looking for volunteers for this year’s iCan Shine Bike Camp! Seeing our clients’ growth from day 1 to day 5 is truly one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences!

This year, the camp is taking place from August 22-26 at the Boy’s & Girls Club of Menasha, Wisconsin. We would love to see you there! For more information, visit https://covey.org/bike-camp/.