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Teaching your child to change gears

If your child is riding confidently and has mastered balancing, braking and steering, it may be time to introduce gears.

We equip Islabikes with twist-grip shifters because we believe they are far easier to understand and use than thumb shifters, especially for young children. Studies have shown that the range of hand strengths among five year olds is incredibly wide. This means that your child may not have the hand strength required to change gears initially but with time, gear-changing should develop naturally.

Our intelligent and holistic design approach enables us to create a better gear changing experience for children. The twist-grip shifter is just one of a range of components that makes our Beinn range so nice to ride. The chainring and wide ratio cassette provide a very easy bottom gear. We specify SRAM derailleurs as they require less force to change gear. And of course, all Beinns come with Islabikes’ unique custom-made parts, such as size-specific brake levers, handlebar, stem, saddle and exclusive lightweight wheels.


Here are our 5 tips for supporting children to change gears:

1. How to change gears

The child needs to be holding the grip shifter firmly and ideally have a straight forearm and wrist. They will need to rotate their wrist forward or backwards until they hear one click. It is important that your child gets into the habit of changing gears one at a time from an early age. After every gear change the child needs to return their hand to the original position.

2. Learn the mechanism

It can be a lot easier to know how and when to change gear if you understand how the mechanism works. While your child watches, stand by the non-drive side of the bike and lift so the back wheel is off the ground. Push the pedals forward with your hand and ask your child to use the shifter to change gears one at a time as above. You’ll both notice the chain moving up and down while watching the cassette. Once you’ve done this a couple times, trade places with your child and ask them to push the pedals.  They’ll feel the resistance in the drive chain as it becomes easier or harder to push the pedals around. It can be helpful to explain which gears are suitable for cycling on flat, downhill or uphill routes.

3. Remember to pedal

For smooth, bike friendly gear changing, ensure the child is pedaling forward. It’s good to practice in a large, open area so they can move up and down the gears without worrying about obstacles or cornering.

4. Which gear is best? Practice makes perfect

Different gears are better suited to different situations. As your child develops they will begin to gain an understanding of which gear is comfortable at each stage. With more practice and varied cycling experiences your child will become more adept at changing gears. A fun game you can play with your child is to call out a gear number for them to change to as you ride alongside them.

5. Keep it clean and lubricated

But don’t forget, parents can also play a part in making sure your child’s bike works as well as possible. Regularly inspect the gear cables and clean the bike so that it’s free from the mud and muck that will make shifting trickier. Periodically having cables replaced as part of a service will ensure optimum gear changing performance. If the bike is regularly used in muddy or wet conditions, you may need to change them more regularly.

For more information and advice please read our shifting guide or call our expert customer service team at 503 954 2410.