My four year old started riding a pedal bike a few days ago, and thanks to his balance bike took to it like a fish to water; he's going up and down the street or park like a pro already.

He sometimes is able to push off to start, particularly downhill of course, but on straightaways he gets frustrated sometimes. I've taught him to adjust the pedals to the optimal starting spot (about 1 or 2 o'clock position, right?) and to try to get a little speed with his off foot, but sometimes it's just too hard. He's used to the balance bike, and can get plenty of speed there, but just doesn't seem to 'get it' with the regular bike.

If it's relevant, he's on a 16"/40cm wheel bike with the seat in the lowest position, and is about 44"/110cm tall; the balance bike he used was a 12"/30cm wheel bike with the seat at the highest position. When he's on the seat his feet reach the ground, but I'm not sure if they get completely flat to the ground.

Is there a proper way to teach a young child to push off? Anything I can do to help him other than just letting him keep trying? He's fairly persistent fortunately, so 'keep trying' is entirely reasonable, but if there's a better technique to teach I'd love to get him started right.

  • 5
    This is one of the last things that all 3 of my kids figured out. If they get too frustrated, just give them a little push so they can continue on their way. I think you are doing the right thing with getting himto put the pedals in the right position. If his knees are too high you might want to lift the seat a bit, even if he can only touch the ground with his toes. I don't have anything else to add other than stick to it and he will get it eventually.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 17:46
  • Hmm, what's "too high" for knees? He seems to do okay at pedaling once he's going. I think he doesn't fully have his foot on the ground as it is, maybe half the foot reaches normally.
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 17:48
  • Too high can be subjective, but if the knee is beyond 90 degrees than it may be too high. Kids bikes can be trick to get them to fit right. Between the short legs, the feet touching the ground on the seat, and the length of the crank arms, it can be difficult to get a bike with an efficient pedaling position. Also, without gears, they'll have to push harder (relatively) than an adult would on a bike with gears to get going. But they often lack the strength and balance to stand on the pedals which would be required to get going from a stop.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 18:07

2 Answers 2


In my experience, kids don't realise that they have to push hard at the start.

It seems obvious (even "intuitive") to us, but not to them.

On the balance bike, one can just push along gently, but this new bike is bigger and heavier, and the gearing makes it harder.

So my advice is to encourage him with an enthusiastic "push hard" call. Or go further and tell him to stand on the pedal.

I solved this problem in a different way: I built my son's bike with a gear cluster at the back (no derailleur) with the chain on the easiest gear. As he got stronger, I gradually moved the chain across one cog at a time.

The main thing is to have fun with them.

  • 1
    I think this was probably his real problem. He figured out that he had to push hard today, and I think now he's basically figured it out.
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 1:20
  • 1
    Good to hear that we have a new cyclist among us :-)
    – andy256
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 10:13

I actually just taught my 5 y/o niece to ride without training wheels last weekend.

First thing was that coming from training wheels she wasn't able to take off from being on her feet, rather the balance of the training wheels (which is easy).
So baby step one was to hold her balanced on the bike during take off.
My philosophy is/was just keep her mind off of the harder parts and the instinct of her knowing how to ride on training wheels will take over.
Once she figured out how to actually ride without me holding her and she was more comfortable (which only really took an afternoon) the rest just came to her throughout the weekend. Next was stopping, and eventually she just started to take off on her own too.

I don't think there is really a right or wrong answer to this, but this is my 2 cents.
I did as you did and got her feet @ the correct position and told her that's how to start, and once she gets on just to GO and don't think about it!

Starting from standing to taking off, hold the seat, then hold it less and let her feel the balance shifting, continue to hold it some more as she gets a feel for the resulting weight differenced, then ultimately just let her do it solo.
Again there really isn't a sure fire way, just how the kid feels imo.

  • This more or less describes what I did to get him to the point of riding on his own, but pushing off is sort of a separate issue, I think.
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 1:19

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