Here We Go: Teaching a Child to Ride a Bike

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Though parenthood is a lifelong affair, each stage asserts its own lessons in despair, patience, happiness, and how to sign big checks with a smile. Depends. Some events are rites of passage, too. For instance, we're giving our 5-year-old daughter, Chloe, her first two-wheeled funmobile next week. Yep, she's getting a bike for Christmas, a real one with air in the tires, a chain, a basket up front, and a helmet. And I'm going to teach her how to ride the thing.

OMG, I'm going to have to teach her how to ride the thing . . .

Over the years she's seen me suit up and head out on a solo ride. Sometimes I'd talk her into riding along in the trailer, and sometimes we'd pedal our way to dinner or to get an ice cream cone. But, for the most part, I've preferred going solo to do a workout. But lately there's a new vibe in the air. Not long after my wife gave birth to our second daughter back in September, Chloe drew a picture of me riding my bike. I was a stick figure with a big helmet. "Now!" she added, "Now I'm going to draw you towing me and Shiloh in the trailer!"

This whole bike thing has churned along ever since. Last weekend, before I could think about going for a solo ride, my daughter came to me with her big blue eyes and asked if we could take a bike ride together, but that she wanted to ride her tricycle. That's what she has now, a little three-wheeler -- fixed gear, y'all. I said sure. I more or less coasted beside her as she whirled her legs around at 100 MPH making her little bike go. I expected her to give up by the end of the block. But she stuck it out, stoked the whole way, and we made it to the park three blocks away.'s as much a rite of passage for her as it is for me.Chloe's been learning how to write, and she penned a Christmas wish list. She wrote down for the very first item a "2 weeld bisikol" and the second item, as she says, a medium sized helmet. 

She's getting serious now.

I'm partly giddy, partly wigged out because I want her to love riding. But we're talking about bike riding, a magical brew of balance, steering, and peddaling that yeilds years of smiles, endless adventures and possibly broken bones. And teaching her about that magical brew is something I'm grabbing onto, so it's as much a passage for her as it is for me. She'll be putting a lot of trust into me; she has no idea that teaching her how to ride a bike is one step on the path to turning her into a big person. That is, she's not just learning how to ride a bike, but how to believe in herself. One day, she won't even need me at all, and it started with learning to ride a bike.

So the universe, it seems, has been preparing both her and I for the main event with these little murmurings.

For instance, when I scrolled through web pictures of little kid bikes, she pointed at the training wheels we found on many of them. She stopped me. "Uh, Papa." She pointed, disgusted. "I don't want those. I want a bike with TWO WHEELS." If she's anything, she's motivated.

So, if you've clicked in here looking for advice, tips, or some no-fail how-tos on teaching your grom to ride a bike, I don't have 'em. But I'm like you, I hit the internet looking for the goods and found this video from REI. When I was a kid, and the way I recall the spooky event, I learned to ride a bike by my dad shoving me down the street toward the certain death of a cul-de-sac and him yelling, "PDEALPEDALPEDAL! TURNTURNTURN!"

Contrarily, the video here shows a clever sequence of teaching kids to ride bikes. Watch it. As with many how-to videos, you have to get through the first obvious head slappers like find a big, open, flat, traffic-free area. But the first concept here seems like a good one: remove the pedals for a while to teach them about getting the hang of balance, turning and coasting. Then make it a game, coasting with feet up for 10 seconds, and so on. Then set up some cones to practice steering around things, and of course make that a game too. Then add the pedals, and so on. The video explains it all, except for how to get a grip on the idea that your kids will grow up and move out, leaving a bike-sized hole in your heart. 

Stay calm. I tell myself. Let's just try coasting for a while.


+4 / 0
# Lauren 2013-01-02 01:31
Great video! My Son has had a balane bike for a year now, so when we bought him his 1st bike with pedals for christmas this year I thought right this should be a doddle!........ Nooo! Although my son has the balance he;s never used pedals before! This video has given me some great tips for making the learning process nicer for both of us :o)
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+4 / 0
# John 2013-01-03 11:18
The no-pedals/balan ce bike thing really works. You can introduce those early (2+), as the kids can just walk the bike along if you get the height low enough, and then lift up their feet as they get comfortable. Our kids were riding with pedals before they were 4 years old, and we never introduced training wheels.
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