Some of the best childhood memories feature bikes as perfect companions for all of our adventures. Once the summer and vacations began, bicycles would quickly become our favorite means of transport. Perhaps in autumn and winter our two-wheelers would get somewhat abandoned, but every once in a while we would still hop back on the saddle.
We saw many of our cycling idols climbing mountains on TV. Minutes later we would get on our bikes trying to be like these great champions and dreaming that one day we will also climb those steep slopes.
Bicycles and cycling have been part of our early years and, although times have changed, they are still a vital part of children’s lives. Perhaps not as much as before because until 2020 bicycle sales figures were not encouraging, but Covid-19 has changed everything and perhaps the newly found passion for cycling among young and old alike is here to stay.
We have already mentioned the positive effects of cycling for adults in previous articles. Now let’s talk about the benefits it has for kids, from the time they start riding on balance bikes until their teens:
Body and mind
Like any other physical activity or sport, cycling is a very healthy habit.
Along with a healthy diet, it helps to strengthen children’s bodies by reinforcing their muscles and bone structure.
The joints are well protected as cycling is a low-impact sport, unlike soccer or athletics.
Cycling boosts the immune system as it requires being outdoors. Properly dressed and well equipped, children enjoy both cold and warm weather just as much as we do.
Cycling also means they get more physical activity, which is good both for children who are not very active, as well as for those who just can’t sit still. Give them a bike and you’ll be surprised with their creativity!
Riding a bike improves cardiovascular health, promotes a well-functioning respiratory system and reduces the likelihood of obesity, one of the major issues affecting children in recent decades.
On a motor-skill level, it improves coordination, balance and concentration. Just look at those kids on their balance bikes racing through parks as if they have been doing it all their lives. Next, they learn to pedal with training wheels, and then without them, and they get their balance and coordination right in no time!
As they learn to ride and handle the bike, accomplishing more and more small goals, their self-esteem and confidence grow. Remember the first time you managed to ride your bike without training wheels or when you were able to take your hands off the handlebars?
Children’s mood also improves thanks to cycling – it’s not only an adults’ thing, the little ones also suffer from stress and anxiety. And there’s nothing better than a family bike ride to release tension and clear your mind!
Competition and respect
The vast majority of kids are born with the competitive gene as a matter of course. It may be more or less noticeable, but almost all of them like to compete and, of course, win. Cycling is all about competition, a constant race. You can get angry if you lose, and celebrate victory if you win, but neither of these two things guarantees another triumph. Therefore, not only does cycling teach you to compete, to win and lose, to value victories and defeats, but it also encourages effort, perseverance, companionship, teamwork and willpower.
As a green means of transport, bicycles are a great tool to raise children’s environmental awareness. If possible, take them to school, go shopping or do any other activity on a bike to show them that cycling is the most natural thing in the world and they will end up cycling on their own.
At the same time, they can learn how to get around the city by familiarizing themselves with traffic rules and all the other unwritten rules of co-existence and respect towards other cyclists, people doing sports, pedestrians and drivers.
Cycling in the city enhances kids’ concentration as they have to pay constant attention to their surroundings, and at the same time teaches them to be patient and tolerant, both very important factors in their education and development.
Mountain biking or cycling around green urban areas encourages children to conserve and appreciate nature. It is a good opportunity to teach them that they have to respect the environment, do not litter or disturb wildlife, and leave the smallest possible footprint so that they can return to the area and so that others can enjoy it too.
Kids want to spend time with their parents, grandparents and the rest of the family. They love to feel free while being with their loved ones, which makes cycling with children a great family leisure activity. We just need to find the right route adapted to our children’s skills, and use different accessories to help them enjoy the ride – pedaling or not. There are chairs and trailers for the youngest ones; tow ropes, tow bars, and tag along bikes for those who know how to pedal on their own but are not physically and technically ready yet. Take baby steps: nobody wants to get back on a bike if they have had a hard time on the saddle from the very first moment. That’s why it’s important to gradually increase the difficulty and set goals for the little ones so that they can face their first challenges. This will improve their self-esteem, confidence and mood.
Spending time with their peers is equally as important for kids as being around their parents. This way of socializing is essential for their development. The youngest children share and exchange their push bikes in the park without “almost any” problems. The older ones, practically teenagers, are slowly leaving the nest and moving around on two wheels. Bikes are a great way for all of them to meet new friends outside their family circle and to foster relationships with people who share the same interests. And all this whilst engaging in a healthy physical activity!
If your children are going to ride a bike or practice cycling, they must have fun doing it. The bike should not become an obligation but rather a plaything that forms part of their development, a way to learn, an excuse to spend time with mom and dad. Therefore, if you are a cyclist and you are passionate about bikes, you should never force your kids to practice the sport just because you do. If you really want them to get hooked on cycling you must teach them and always be there for them whenever they need your support and encouragement. If you do it with your cycling buddies, why wouldn’t you do it with your children?
Finally, think of children as small adults. When adults buy a new toy, they want it in their size and to their liking. The same goes for children: they need a bike suitable for their age or height, and they must love the way it looks to enjoy it. If you do not know what size your little one needs, take a look at our article on how to choose the right bike size where you will find a short size guide for different ages and heights. And if they want to start pedaling on Peppa Pig, Pocoyo, SpongeBob or a Disney character, remember Oscar Wilde’s quote: “The best way to make children good is to make them happy”.