How Should You Teach Braking to Your Kid?
Biking is fun and exciting, but it can also cause harm. Your child who’s just learning how to ride a bike can hurt himself and other people, and even damage properties. That’s why you must teach your kid braking first.
Why Teach Your Kid Braking First
Most kids often get caught up in the excitement of learning how to ride a bike. They tend to forget that braking can avert accidents. Braking isn’t just about stopping the bike; it’s also the only way to prevent the bike from crashing into another person or a property.
From colliding with other bikers to colliding with cars, and crashing into another object, cyclists can prevent such accidents by being able to brake quickly. This is one of the important skills that your child should be able to master.
It can be argued that kids will have to learn how to pedal first before they learn how to brake. However, teaching them the importance of braking, and how to properly do it, would go a long way towards making them a disciplined and responsible biker.
Teaching Your Kids How to Brake
It goes without saying that your kid should be able to reach the brake levers first. You can also give him the chance to squeeze each brake first even before riding. This can be done by pushing the bike along while he is dismounted.
Your child doesn’t have a grip as strong as yours. Thus you should not expect him to be able to press the brake lever that easily.
One way to know if the brake lever needs to be adjusted for your child’s use is to try controlling it with your little finger. If you can’t press it with your little finger, then you might have to adjust it. If it feels just right, then you don’t have to adjust the brake levers.
Using Rear and Front Brakes
There are two brakes in bikes-- front and rear brakes. Children are usually taught to use the rear brake, despite it being less powerful or effective in stopping the bike.
In fact, it is said that up to 80 per cent of braking power comes from the front brakes leaving just 20 per cent to the rear brake. But why are children taught to use the rear brakes instead of the front?
That’s because there’s a tendency for the front wheel to lock up and cause the child to go over the handle bars. Also, children don’t really bike that fast so the rear brake should be enough to stop the bike.
However, as your child grows older, you might have to teach him to use the front brake instead.
Most experienced riders use the front brake when trying to stop the bike. Children may also be taught to use both brakes although this isn’t always effective. The rear wheel, after all, produces very little braking effect.
Preparing to Brake
You should also teach your child how to prepare for braking. You must teach your child to have his hands on top of the handlebars, where he can grip the brake levers to stop the bike right away.
There should be one or two fingers of each hand resting over the brake levers. Having the fingers ready to ‘brake’ is important during several circumstances.
The first one obviously is during an emergency. With your child’s fingers resting over the brake levers, he can brake as soon as a car drives in front of him.
It is also useful when he rides in a bunch, or when riding with other bikers. He will be able to brake if the bike before him starts to slow down.
Braking in Certain Situations
You should also teach your child how to put the brakes in certain situations, like when cornering and descending. Your child must also know how to brake in wet weather.
Teach your child that he has to slow down when going around the corner. He should avoid braking hard because the tendency is for the bike to straighten out. This makes it harder for him to go around the corner.
Instead, you should tell him lightly press the brake levers. This should slow down the bike before it enters the turn. He can then turn with minimal braking. When descending, the usual reaction is to press both brake levers.
However, it may be difficult for your child to do so especially if his grip isn’t that strong yet. You might have to teach him to press the front brake slightly to wash off his speed. Then release the lever before pressing it again.
While you don’t want your child to be biking when it’s raining, there will come a time that he will have to deal with this situation.
Bike brakes are less effective when the roads are wet, hence you should prepare your child for this scenario. You should teach him that in wet weather, he should slow down gradually.
You can practice your child’s braking skills by playing a simple game. You can put a safety cone about 20 feet ahead on the ground. Ask your child to bike towards the cone, and then stop before hitting it.
Or you can play a simple red light, green light game. When you say green light, he should be pedalling his bike. When you say red light, then he must immediately brake. You can then vary the distances. Or make the stops faster.
While most parents and guardians would naturally teach their kids how to find their balance on a bike, they should not overlook the importance of braking. Definitely, braking is the skill that can save your child from getting hurt, or hurting other people. It’s one of the more important skills that he should master.
Teach your child how to brake properly. From instructing him to place his fingers on the brake lever to teaching which brake to use, there are many ways for you to inculcate in him the importance of brakes.