This weekend was a huge weekend for riding bikes in the Tucson Velo family.
As you can see from the video, my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter is riding her own pedal bike. She still has a hard time with the starting and stopping, but she’s nailing everything in between.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I learned to ride a bike. I was about six and won a bike from my school for selling the most tickets to a chili cook-off fundraiser.
Until that that time I was riding a bike with training wheels. I really wanted to ride the new bike I won, but it did not have training wheels.
To teach me, my parents took me and the new bike to the top of a “gigantic” hill. I should note, my memory is probably a little biased on the actual size of the hill. Anyway, I am at the top of the hill and they tell me to pedal as they start pushing me down it. It worked and that is the moment riding a bike clicked.
I’ve been working with Luci for the last year on riding a bike. Here are a 6 tips for teaching kids to ride a bike that I learned teaching my own daughter.
1. Be patient
This was certainly the hardest part for me. I’m not a patient person and I was excited to get Luci riding a bike, but she just wasn’t ready. Trying to get her to do it before she was ready only frustrated us both.
2. Balance bikes rock
I’m a balance bike believer. The idea behind a balance bike is that it gives kids the opportunity to learn how to balance without having to worry about the pedaling too. The other great thing about the balance bike it allowed her to “ride” with the family and join us on our walks to the grocery store.
3. Tag-a-longs and tricycles help teach pedaling
Luci’s school has tricycles, which is where she really started to learn to pedal. The advantage of the tricycle is that kids don’t have to worry about balancing while learning to pedal. The tag-a-long we started riding began to combine a little balancing with pedaling.
4. Skip the training wheels
If at all possible, skip the training wheels. They become a crutch. Essentially, all training wheels do is teach kids how to pedal, but don’t teach them how to balance, which is the more difficult skill to master.
5. Weight matters
Often we pay a lot of attention to the weight of our own bikes, paying hundreds to shave a few grams here and there. When you factor the weight of the adult rider with the bike’s weight, a few grams is pretty insignificant.
Children’s bikes on the other hand are heavy. Really heavy. They are made from cheap and heavy materials designed to be virtually indestructible. When we were gifted Luci’s first pedal bike, it weighed almost as much as she did. Imagine trying to pedal and steer a bike that weighs as much as you do now and imagine never having ridden before. It’s daunting.
We found a Specialized Hotrock on craigslist.com. The Hotrock is one of the lightest kids bikes on the market. This was the bike that Luci hopped on and started riding.
6. Make it fun and be proud
I’m not sure what made Luci happier, being able to ride her bike by herself or seeing how proud we were when she did it. If your kid is having a good time and you encourage them, they’ll be excited and want to keep doing it. We literally had to drag Luci inside long after her bedtime because she wanted to keep riding. Nothing makes me happier than that.
Do you remember how you learned to ride a bike? Leave a comment telling us or offering your own tips for teaching kids how to ride a bike.