Riding a Bike Can Change Your Girl's Life
For many girls, riding a bike is their first small taste of freedom. There’s nothing like the exhilaration of wheeling a bike out of the garage on a cloudless summer day to cruise around the neighborhood, hair whipping in the wind and streamer handle bars fluttering.
But when your girl rides a bike, it’s more than just a fun way to pass the time—a bike is actually one of her first teachers. Achievements like learning to ride a two-wheeler and retiring her training wheels become lessons in not only balance but also tenacity and grit; a way for her to see the benefit of falling down and getting back up again. Navigating her way a few houses down on her bike teaches street smarts and the importance of personal safety.
From ages three to nine, boys and girls ride bikes at about the same rate. But the bad news is that by age 10, girls’ bike riding drops off considerably. By adulthood? Women make up only about 25 percent of bike riders.
And when girls start hanging up their helmets, they’re getting left in the dust, both literally and figuratively. The exercise and outdoor time that bike riders experience boosts moods, fights obesity, and increases overall health. Plus? A recent study showed girls who either bike or walk at least 15 minutes to school scored higher on cognitive tests. Who knew getting her on a bike could help her be healthier, happier, and smarter?
But beyond that, turning her back on bike-riding can stunt your girl’s confidence and independence. Without bikes, girls have to rely on parents, siblings, or older friends with cars to get them from point A to point B instead of being in charge of their own transportation. That seemingly little glitch can take her confidence down a notch and make her see herself as less capable—not exactly what anyone’s wishing for their girl.
A recent study cites several reasons for the attitude shift, ranging from a lack of confidence when riding alone to the fear of traffic to the more superficial, like not wanting to wear a helmet. The study also points to a more concerning change in thought processes: worries about being sweaty in public, not seeming “cool” or “feminine,” and how she looks when she’s exercising. Another factor? Parents are often more cautious with their girls than boys when it comes to physical activities, telling their boys to have fun while they tell their girls to be careful.
But here’s how to help your girl gain the confidence she needs to keep riding! The younger you get her hooked on bike riding, even if it’s just in the driveway, the better. It turns her into a stronger, more confident biker. Riding as a family and taking the time to teach her the rules of the road and bike safety will give her a sense of confidence, too. Your girl also might benefit from joining a riding group or biking meet-up in your area—especially one that’s just for girls. Look online to see what resources are available in your neighborhood. Simple encouragement might just be the key to keeping your girl riding off into the sunset, or at least down the street to her best friend’s house for years to come.