Teaching kids to ride

Not that anybody asked, but I’m getting dangerously close to blog abandonment again. So, here’s a short description of how I taught my two kids to ride bikes, one at age 6, the other at 5:
0. Don’t push too hard! They’ll get it. If they’re not interested, don’t force it. Eventually they’ll want to. You don’t get any upgrade points for getting your 4-year-old onto a two-wheeler.
1. Both of mine rode training wheels for about a year first. I don’t think training wheels are all that great, and in the unlikely event I get to do this again, I might try a like-a-bike or weebike instead of a 12″ or 16″ bike with training wheels. I’m not sure it would make a whole lot of difference, though. In the end, the kid has to learn to pedal and balance. Learning them one at a time simplifies things. I’m not sure the order is all that important.
2. Make sure the bike fits, but realize that even the little bikes are heavy relative to the kid. A 12″ or 16″ bike might weigh almost half as much as the typical 5-year-old, making balance that much more difficult. Imagine riding a bike that weighed 50% of what you did. You’d steer like Harvey Wallbanger, too.
2. Initial balance sessions should be short, and on grass. I found that the kid has a “whoa” feeling the first time out and won’t want to practice too much the first time out.
3. For real balance practice, find a park with a gentle grassy slope. We’re fortunate to have one not a block from our house. Soft surfaces and no curbs let the kid focus on keeping the eyes up and the bike going straight, with low penalties for deviating from the intended path. The slope counteracts the higher rolling resistance of riding on grass.
4. To help the kid balance, grab the back of the saddle, not the handlebars. It’s uncomfortable to reach that far down, and I’m not all that tall. Pick out a landmark for the kid to focus on (the bike will go where the eyes go), give a little push, steady the bike from the saddle, and gradually let go as the kid picks up speed.
Both of mine only needed a couple of 15-minute sessions to get the hang of balancing. Starting and stopping takes a little longer, as does turning. And the 5-year-old is OK in the park but not ready for the sidewalk yet. She might be by next week, though.
I wish I could still pick stuff up that fast…

One thought on “Teaching kids to ride

  1. that first #2 got a full chuckle out of me…
    105 pound bike… wow, no kidding that would be a pain…

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