Starfish Therapies

October 12, 2009

Bike Riding

Bicycle and tricycle riding are a great activity for kids of all ages.  It’s fun and is an excellent source of exercise.  Besides the obvious cardiovascular exercise there are some other benefits that you may not be aware of.

(Just an FYI I am talking about your children in this post although a lot of the benefits are just as applicable to adults!)

In terms of leg strengthening (which is the most obvious), it will help to develop stronger calf muscles, quadriceps (or thigh) muscles and gluts (see ‘Buns of Steel‘ for why this is important).  It also engages your child’s core trunk muscles, and their arms.  When they are having to really work to pedal, for example when they are going up a slight incline, they really grip and pull on the handlebars with their arms to counteract the increased leg movement.  This causes their abdominals, including their obliques (those elusive muscles that we do twisting situps to workout), and their arms to kick in.

Bike riding will also work on your child’s posture.  Its really hard to ride a bike while slumping.  Its a little easier to ride a tricycle in a slumped position but that’s only if the child is being pushed.  When they are doing the pedaling they are almost forced to sit up straight!  I have watched one of my kiddos who normally sits in a slumped low tone posture, literally straighten up and stay up straight the minute he starts pedaling his bicycle.  Since posture muscles need endurace, bike riding is a great way to increase their endurance so it will carry over into other activities.

The reciprocal (alternating) motion of the legs used for pedaling also engages both sides of the brain.  In addition to this, it reinforces a great movement pattern that is essential for walking, crawling, and ascending and descending stairs.  In addition, for children who have increased tone (hypertonia), the continuous motion of the pedaling can help to regulate the tone.

The most versatile tricycle I have seen for teaching your kids how to pedal is the Little Tikes 3-in-1.  It gives different support options as well as the ability to lock out steering and provides assited pedaling.  If you have ever attempted to teach a child to ride a tricycle without the locked out steering and assisted pedaling you will be amazed at how much easier it is on you with these options!  Once they master the tricycle the little mini two wheelers are great.  It changes them to a more upright position which is actually easier to pedal with than the typical recumbant position on a tricycle.  Check out Motor Smart Toys and Tips for how to use a jump rope to save your back while teaching bike riding!  The Skuut or pedaless bike (there are other brands and designs now that function the same way) is also great for working on balance that can translate over into bike riding without training wheels.


  1. For any parents or therapists who are attempting to teach bicycle riding on a two wheeler there is an excellent article that I posted on my blog a few months ago. Definitely worth a read for steps to take when teaching a child to ride a bicycle. It offers recommendations on pedaless bikes, use of training wheels, age levels and more. It is entitled Teach Your Child to Ride. It can be found at

    Comment by Your Therapy Source Inc — October 17, 2009 @ 6:33 pm | Reply

  2. […] Bike Riding offers several ideas for wheeled toys for your children.  Along with the ones mentioned in there I have a few more suggestions.  For kids who need increased support and assistance with bike riding check out Freedom Concepts Tricycles.  For those that need some help and aren’t able to use a typical tricycle at this time but have some trunk control there are the Me Too Trikes.  In addition to the Skuut there are a multitude of other pedal-less bikes out there.  For scooters I like Radio Flyer or Razor (which both come in all different levels). […]

    Pingback by Holiday Gift Guide « Starfish Therapies — December 7, 2009 @ 7:07 pm | Reply

  3. […] 9.  Bike Riding […]

    Pingback by Top 10 Blog Posts of 2009 « Starfish Therapies — January 4, 2010 @ 10:31 pm | Reply

  4. […] it!  Myself and the therapists I work with are big fans of bike riding (see our prior post ‘Bike Riding‘) because of the way it impacts and improves motor planning, strengthening, balance, […]

    Pingback by Gyro Bikes – aka ‘The Magic Bike’ « Starfish Therapies — July 7, 2011 @ 7:51 pm | Reply

  5. Hi! I have a 4 year old daughter who has Down syndrome. I wanted to ask you whether I should teach her how to bike using a tricycle or a pedal less bike.
    Your response will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

    Comment by Abeer — August 6, 2013 @ 8:58 am | Reply

    • I think there are benefits to both. The pedal less bike will help her with her balance while the tricycle will help her with the motor planning of how to pedal. I would try to do a combination of both if you are able to. If not, which one do you think she will enjoy more?

      Comment by Starfish Therapies — August 6, 2013 @ 2:06 pm | Reply

      • My son had difficulty with motor planning and balance at 4 years old. I found that a big wheel was the way to start. This positions the body closer to the ground.

        Comment by senseshoppe — August 6, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

  6. […] Here is an old blog post of ours on bike riding! […]

    Pingback by Free Wheelin: What Does Your Child Need to Learn to Ride a Bike? | Starfish Therapies — March 26, 2017 @ 12:00 am | Reply

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