Looking to give your children a skill they’ll enjoy for the rest of their lives? Learning to ride a bike for the first time opens up a world of fun, activity, independence, excitement, adventure and sport. Once mastered we never forget how to ride a bike.
For 4 to 9 year olds, where I specialise, learning to ride a bike is a source of pride and achievement. Cycling is great fun, turning a trip to the park or shops into something even more interesting and exciting. It’s an activity that can be easily shared with siblings, friends and Mom and Dad too. Balance and coordination skills, to say nothing of muscle strength, are all increased and, as levels of obesity amongst children continue to rise, it’s a readily available and accessible source of activity. Not everyone is ‘sporty’ in the traditional sense, but everyone can ride a bike!
Herts Balance and Ride specialises in helping younger children, quickly and easily develop this valuable life skill. I work primarily with infant and primary schools across Hertfordshire, as well as with individuals, for whom holiday courses, weekend courses and private lessons are available.
Schools are in a great position to facilitate their younger children learning to balance and ride, something which fits in extremely well with a number of aims and initiatives they’re already pursuing.
If looked at purely from the PE/Sport perspective what better way of developing gross and fine motor skills, balance and coordination, with an outcome that is very tangible, lasts a lifetime and delights both children and their parents!
From a broader perspective too, helping children learn to ride a bike offers important benefits:
• It can help build confidence and a sense of achievement.
• It encourages participation in sport/activity, particularly amongst those who may not be very ‘sporty’ in the traditional sense.
Everyone can take part and succeed.
• It can be used as part of the school’s sustainability and road safety activities.
• It supports healthy living initiatives.
What we offer
Herts Balance and Ride delivers playground-based sessions at schools to help children learn to balance and ride. Principally aimed at children in Reception, Years 1 and 2 these sessions are normally an hour to an hour and a quarter in length. One Instructor works with a maximum of five children per session and each child is provided with a balance bike and quality pedal bike.
The majority of children will be riding after two sessions though for a small number it may take more. For optimal results we recommend a gap of one day between a child’s first and second sessions though up to a week is normally fine.
Year 1 and 2 children can be trained at any time in the academic year but for Reception age children the best results are achieved if training is delayed until the Summer Term.
The starting point is to ascertain how many children can’t yet ride without stabilisers and whose parents are interested in their child participating in the training. Experience suggests that the vast majority are very keen indeed! Draft parental consent letters are available to help in this process. Once the numbers are known dates can be scheduled in the diary.
Some schools fund the training through their PE and Sport Premium whilst others choose to pass on some or all of the cost to parents. A two-day course (20 children who each receive two sessions) costs in the region of £515.
At the end of the training you may like to invite parents along for a ‘showcase’ event where, at the end of the school day, the children show off their new found riding or balancing skills. This can be a very positive way of engaging with parents who, from experience, are absolutely delighted that their child can now ride and are extremely grateful to the school for organising this activity.
A short written report on the progress of each child is also provided at the end of each course as well as verbal updates during the course.
For those who can already ride I have a course, Developing Better Bike Control (DBBC) which focuses on the key control skills necessary to ensure safe riding. It can also be used as a follow-on course for those who have recently learned to ride, or as preparation for a Bikeability Level 1 course. Children can use their own bikes if they wish though it’s often useful to have a Dr Bike session in advance so that their bikes are in a roadworthy condition!
Lastly if the school wants to develop its own capability to train children I’m happy to provide training for school staff and/or provide balance bikes, pedal bikes and helmets. This is often the best approach for early years children, aged 2 to 3.5 for whom fairly intensive, one-off structured sessions aren’t always the best option.
If you’re looking to help your child learn to balance and ride or to bring a greater degree of control to their riding I offer a public schedule of courses as well as 1:1 sessions.
Launched in 2018 the public Learn to Balance and Ride (L2BR) courses have proved extremely popular and several hundred children have already learned to ride through these. One Instructor works with up to five children, each of whom is provided with a balance bike and quality lightweight pedal bike.
The well-proven methodology focuses on helping each child develop balance first of all, before they move on to the pedal bike and a structured progression to pedalling, which can be very quick. Although in a small group each child is treated as an individual. They are encouraged and supported to work hard and move on as quickly as they can but are not pressured into something they’re not yet ready for.
The Developing Better Bike Control Course (DBBC) is the follow-on course for those who’ve recently learned to ride or who just need to bring a greater degree of control to their riding. It is also useful as preparation for a Bikeability Level 1 course where children need to strengthen some of the core bike control skills, such as riding one-handed. Again one Instructor works with up to five children who can use their own bike or can choose to hire one.
Most children get on fine with the small group sessions but some may need the extra attention afforded by a 1:1 session. Balance bikes and pedal bikes are provided and sessions are 75 minutes long and cost £35 for one child and £60 for two. Give me a call on 07941 061717 or email me, Phil@Hertsbalance.uk if you’d like to discuss a private session.
Lastly whilst I specialise in 4 to 9 year olds the methodology I use is applicable to any age. So, if you have an older child who’s not yet learned to ride a bike, or you’re an adult, please give me a call. Everyone can ride a bike and it’s never too late to learn. I have trained people in their seventies and what a great way to stay fit and healthy!
In the majority of cases children attending two of our Balance and Ride sessions will be riding a bike unaided by the end. But in some cases it can take a little longer, particularly with younger children, i.e. under four years old. You can always book another session but in some cases it can be better for the child to practise on their own, away from others and the ‘pressure’ of a formal session. To support this I hire balance bikes for a few days or even weeks, which saves you having to buy a potentially expensive balance bike, that’s actually only needed for a short period of time.
Once a child has learned to ride most parents are keen to get them a bike, assuming they don’t have one already. But often an existing bike is too small or perhaps too heavy and it’s time to refresh and possibly upgrade to a lighter, better quality bike, which is easier and more fun to ride.
I can supply bikes from Raleigh, with whom I’ve worked for over 15 years. They have a great range of children’s bikes to suit most budgets and their quality and customer service is very good. Have a look at their children’s bikes web page here, https://www.raleigh.co.uk/bikes/kids.
Bikes are normally delivered within 48 hours and are assembled with care and passion, delivered to your door and fitted to your child. And if you’ve been on one of my courses you’ll receive a discount! I’m also very happy to buy back bikes I supply from the Raleigh Performance range when your child outgrows them, as well as Islabikes or Frog bikes.
Herts Balance and Ride is run by Phil Rowe, a long-time advocate of more people cycling more safely, more often. I started cycle training for Herts CC in 2002 before setting up my own cycle training and cycling promotion company in 2006. This grew to be one of the largest providers in the UK and delivered Bikeability training and other cycling promotion services for a wide range of local authorities in England and Wales. The company was bought by a major provider of driver education and road safety services in 2013 and I stayed on as Director until March 2016.
I continue to work as a Bikeability instructor for Herts CC and other providers and am also a City and Guilds qualified cycle mechanic. I am First Aid trained and have an Enhanced DBS.
My balance and ride training started in 2002 with the first of my two boys and since then I have trained hundreds of children and adults to ride a bike. I ride regularly in and around St Albans where I live, on my road bike, touring bike or on the tandem, with my wife Ingrid.