How Do Training Wheels Work?

By Renee Miller
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Training wheels are an aid to help your child learn to ride a bicycle. Learning to ride a two-wheeler requires a combination of balance and confidence, and training wheels provide the first step toward mastering both. Riding a two-wheeler is a major, but scary step for many children, and training wheels provide a safety net so that your child can practice riding safely.

Balance And Confidence

Training wheels can be mounted so they’re flush with the rear wheel of your child’s bike at first. This doesn’t teach your child how to balance, but it can build confidence by helping your child get used to steering and sitting on the bike with a minimum amount of wobbling. As your child becomes more confident on the bike, the training wheels can be raised gradually. When they’re raised, your child must learn to balance to prevent the bike from tipping. The presence of the training wheels at this stage prevents fall-overs, which may scare a child and may reduce his confidence. When you see your child balancing without the training wheels touching the ground, he’s ready to learn to ride without them.

Installation Tips

Training wheels vary in design, but most are installed in a similar manner. Place your child’s bike on a level surface to begin the installation, and then assemble the training wheels. Loosen and remove the nut on the axle bolt that runs through the bike’s rear wheel tires with a crescent wrench. Place the mounting holes at the upper end of the bracket, which is typically flat, over the axle bolt and reinstall the nut to secure it, but don’t tighten. Adjust the height of the wheel by moving the bracket up or down, until the wheel is flush with the back tire or so that it is about 1/4 inch off the ground. Installing the wheel slightly above the ground helps your child learn to balance, while installing it flush to the ground ensures the bike doesn’t wobble at all. Tighten the nut and repeat to install the second wheel on the other side of the bike.

Riding Without a Safety Net

Once the training wheels are removed, many children have difficulty balancing the bike because their safety net is gone. Your child may ask you to put the training wheels back on, but be patient and encourage him to keep trying. Choose a location that is quiet and open, such as an empty parking lot or a quiet street or trail, to limit distractions and to ensure your child’s safety while practicing his two-wheeler skills. It will take a few attempts, but your child will regain his confidence and the balancing skills that he had practiced when the training wheels were on his bike.

Two-Wheeler Buying Tips

The type of bicycle you choose for your child will affect how fast he learns to ride. When kids start learning to ride, both with and without training wheels, they don’t need anything fancy. Choose a bike that is simple in design, with pedal brakes or a combination of pedal brakes and handbrakes, but forgo the gears. The more features the bike has, the more things your child has to learn, and this is distracting when they’re learning how to ride. Don’t buy a bike that is too big. Your child may grow into it eventually, but it won’t be safe and your child won’t build confidence trying to ride it. Choose a bike that your child can stand over without the frame touching his body and that is low enough to allow your child’s feet to touch the ground when seated on the bike.