Bike riding is more than just a personal passion for me; it’s a transformative experience. With six different bicycles for various purposes, my love for cycling knows no bounds. From commuting to work and weekend rides with my partner to mountain biking to get the adrenaline pumping, racing BMX, or catching up with friends on a road ride, nothing compares to the freedom I feel when I’m on two wheels.
The Importance of Learning to Ride for All Children:
I firmly believe that learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage for all children. It grants them the opportunity to explore their surroundings and experience the liberation that comes with it. As a child, I have fond memories of jumping on my bike and embarking on thrilling adventures with friends. Beyond being an enjoyable activity, bike riding imparts essential skills that last a lifetime. Not only does it encourage physical activity in a world consumed by screens, but it also offers mental health and learning benefits.
Research has consistently shown that children who can ride to school independently are more focused and prepared to learn compared to those who are driven or bussed. As a paediatric physiotherapist with over twenty-five years of experience in various healthcare settings, I have seen firsthand the positive impact that bike riding can have on children’s physical and mental well-being.
Addressing Kids with Special Needs:
In my line of work, I specialize in working with children who have special needs, primarily NDIS participants. Over the years, I have noticed an increasing number of children older than six struggling to master the skill of riding a bike independently. Some face challenges with motor skills, including pedaling, while others get stuck using training wheels, eventually giving up. I’ve found that the older the child is when attempting to learn, the more anxious they tend to be. With various diagnoses such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Developmental Coordination Disorder, or Cerebral Palsy, these children often struggle with balance, coordination, and muscle control due to low tone and hypermobile joints.
The Impacts and Benefits of Riding a Bike with Special Needs:
Children with special needs often find it challenging to participate in physical education classes and sports like their peers due to these difficulties. Consequently, their sedentary lifestyles put them at a higher risk of mental health issues and low self-esteem. Learning to ride a bike can be an empowering experience for them, allowing them to exercise and socialize with their peers. By counteracting the secondary challenges associated with their conditions, bike riding becomes a gateway to improved physical and mental well-being.
The Vital Step: Learning to Glide:
I strongly believe that learning to glide, whether with feet in the air or resting on the bike’s footrest, is a crucial prerequisite to riding a pedal bike independently. In my efforts to assist more clients in acquiring this skill, I stumbled upon the Kidvelo Rookie during an online search aimed at helping a client with mild cerebral palsy. Unlike traditional bikes, this lightweight and adaptable bicycle offered the perfect solution for a child stuck between standard sizes due to muscle weakness. With my recommendation and the support of the NDIS core budget, this young boy experienced incredible progress. Starting as a balance bike, he soon transitioned to using pedals with ease, ultimately enhancing his overall balance, endurance, and strength.
The Ease of Transition: Balance to Pedalling:
Having integrated the Kidvelo Rookie balance to pedal bikes into my collection of bikes, teaching children with special needs to ride has become more efficient and effective. Its lightweight frame, along with the seamless transition from balance bike to pedal bike, has simplified the learning process. The presence of two handbrakes on the Rookie allows for early instruction on braking, eliminating the need to tackle coaster brakes. As they progress to geared bikes, the transition becomes remarkably smooth. While some children may take longer than others, witnessing their immense pride and self-mastery when overcoming what they once thought was impossible makes every moment worthwhile.
Learning to ride a bike holds immeasurable value for children with special needs. Facilitating physical activity, social interaction, and improved mental well-being, empowers them to conquer both physical and emotional barriers. As a passionate advocate for cycling, I am dedicated to using my expertise as a pediatric physiotherapist to help children with special needs discover the transformational power of embracing life on two wheels. Let’s enable every child to experience the freedom, confidence, and joy that comes with learning to ride a bike.
CYCLING WITH A DISABILITY?
Check Out our Safe and Easy Learn-to-Ride Special Needs Bikes for Kids and Adults of All Ages and Abilities.
ROOKIE 12 BALANCE BIKE
Our lightweight balance bikes are the best training tool to teach toddlers to ride a bike without having to use training wheels.
ROOKIE 14 BALANCE TO PEDAL BIKE
This revolutionary balance bike converts to a child’s first pedal bike with an attachable pedal kit once your child learns to balance.
ROOKIE 18 BALANCE TO PEDAL BIKE
This revolutionary larger balance bike converts to a child’s first pedal bike with an add-on pedal kit once your child masters balance.
ROOKIE 24 BALANCE TO PEDAL BIKE
The Rookie 24 Balance Bike with add-on pedals is exactly what they need. Let them learn how to balance properly with this fun balance bike!
Jan has been a physiotherapist working in paediatrics for the past 25 years in Tasmania, Victoria, and Canberra. She is also a passionate cyclist and loves teaching children to ride independently.