Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bikes! (and Making Bike Rides Easier for You)

When I was a kid, I wasn't all that concerned with learning to ride a bike without training wheels. Our house was surrounded by evil dogs in the front (which prevented me from playing in our driveway), two families that our family hung out with in the back, and a neighborhood park with mature trees, a fabulous sledding hill, and a playground on the side. There wasn't really a need for me to ride a bike. There was no place to go.

One day, my sister (younger than me by a year and a half) came home from spending the night at a friend's house. She asked to have the training wheels taken off of her bike. I still clearly remember standing on the sidewalk as she jumped on the bike and rode down the sidewalk.

She had the nerve to learn to ride a bike at her friend's house while I sat at home completely unaware.

I, being a ridiculously competitive person, couldn't stand for my younger sister to be able to do something as momentous a thing as ride a bike while I stood on the sidewalk watching. As soon as she stopped, I grabbed the bike and took my turn.

It wasn't pretty.

It wasn't straight.

But I rode that bike without falling on my face.

Unfortunately, my kids didn't learn how to ride their bikes at a friend's house nor on their own to prove their worthiness. I had to teach them. 

Recently, we had Turken out for the first time without training wheels. I basically do what these people say to do.

Start by getting the feeling of trying to balance

Practice balancing while coasting downhill

Start trying to pedal while coasting downhill. This is the step that includes some falling.

Impatient parent scraps the plan and goes with helping child to balance/choke the child.

Go back to original plan.

He managed to ride all the way down the hill by himself several times.

And moved on to trying on flat ground. He's almost got it!

What I want to help you with, though, is how to avoid becoming a crazy person when you go for a walk and let your new bike rider ride his bike.

You know, the crazy person who runs behind the bike rider screaming, "SLOW DOWN!" and "WAIT FOR ME!" and "FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, STOOOOOOOP!"

The rules are simple.

1. I give the kids a landmark where they must stop. Examples are the second mailbox, the purple flowers, or the driveway with the red car.

2. They ride ahead as fast as they want to go.

3. They reach the landmark and stop.

4. They wait for me to get to the landmark or ride back to me.

5. When I get to the landmark, I give them another one.

6. Repeat steps 2-5 until you make it back to your house.

The first time you do this, and you watch your child pedaling off away from you, your heart will be thumping in your throat. You will probably be praying the entire time...Please stop. Please stop. Pleasestoppleasestoppleasestoooooooop!

And then he will.

Stop, that is.

I have been using this...this...strategy?...for 13 years, and not just with bike riding. When we hike, play at the playground, leave preschool, or do anything in which the kids want to run ahead, we do the landmark thing. In all of that time, through 6 kids, they have always stopped. Even before they were old enough to ride a bike. (Every once in a while, they get a bit confused by the directions and stop at the wrong thing, but they always stop.) And so have their friends.

Just make sure you explain it to them and practice it in a safe area. Perhaps on a sidewalk or the park.

If you try it, let me know how it goes!

How did you learn to ride a bike? How did you teach your kids?

Have a lovely day!


  1. I'm 62 and can still remember vividly the wonderful feeling when you realise you are actually cycling! There were no such things as training wheels in my day (or if there were, I never knew about them). I didn't have a bike of my own but rode my older brothers' bikes everywhere. Happy memories. Thanks for reminding me!

    1. I spent so much of my childhood on a bike. It was especially fun because we had a bike path through our neighborhood (and we were allowed to roam free from age 7 on) with lots of hills to go down. Flying down a hill on a bike is just awesome.

      I'm glad the post brought up good memories for you.

  2. "For the LOve of ALL THAT IS HOLY STOP!!!!" I wish I was that calm when I screamed that! ahhahahahha!

  3. Yes, memories. The scars on my knees have all but disappeared; they can be discerned among the wrinkly skin. I love riding my bike NOW, and I can't wait until the weather gets a bit better.

    1. I don't ride a bike much anymore. Living in the country, it's a lot more dangerous to go for a bike ride. Cars don't always pull over, even when they are going 50 miles per hour. It's one thing I don't like about living here. My kids can't just get on a bike and roam.

  4. My parents didn't see the point of getting me a bike when I was a small kid as I would eventually grow out of it and need another one, so they waited until I was ten then got me a full-size ladies bike which could be adjusted down to suit me and adjusted up again as I grew. No such thing as training wheels, my dad ran along behind me holding onto the seat until I got my balance - and the feeling when I realised that he'd let go and I was actually riding the thing all by myself was fantastic!

    1. We were fortunate to have found a tiny bike at a garage sale for $5. All the big kids used it to learn to pedal a bike when they were almost 3 years old. When they were a bit older, we got a bike big enough to grow with them for several years.

      The sense of accomplishment and freedom one gets when riding a bike for the first time is fantastic! I don't know of anyone who doesn't remember that first time riding alone.

  5. Love the part about what a crazy person is. I know a few of them! Cute story!

  6. Hey! That seems like some solid, sound advice! I've never remember having to teach anyone how to ride a bike (I have a friend who actually still can't), even my little brothers, but I know that panicky feeling I get when someone else's child peddles away to high hell and I swear I always think they will be hit by a car. I mean, they should be taught to stop at intersections, but come on, we know not everyone properly enforces that.

    I really like the landmark rule. Especially for young and new bikers. I am kind of surprised, though, you haven't had any rebels testing the boundaries...

    Oh right, little angels! :)

    1. Jak...Jak...I used to know someone with that name...

      I'M SO GLAD TO SEE YOU BACK! Just yesterday as I was scrolling through the A-Z list, looking for a post to catch my eye, I thought of you, seeing as how we met doing this challenge. How've you been??

      It is terrifying to see a kid go riding (or running) off ahead with little or no caution. Terrifying. It's why we came up with this "game".

      I guess I should have put that in here. My kids don't test these boundaries, because they know if they don't stop, the rest of the ride will be done right next to me. No more riding ahead, and that is just torture.

      No, not angels. Just kids who know there are consequences for breaking the rules. :)

    2. Thanks! I am glad you haven't completely forgotten about me! Don't mind me, I'm just tip-toeing through the shadows.

      The A to Z always brings me back to the Blogosphere, no matter how stressed out I get. I should be way way way towards the end of the list lol The Ladyfolk was kind enough to help me with a new site, apparently she has more faith in my writing ability than I have in myself. I have to at least keep up the charade to justify the costs... The A to Z should double enough for that >.>

      If only more people knew there were consequences to breaking the rules... Then again, they were meant to be broken, amirite?!

  7. I got mine started riding their bikes on grass. They moved slower, but it gave them the sense of balance with a softer landing. And of course when we graduated to pavement, I ran alongside quite a distance with one hand on the back of the seat! Congrats to your new rider!

    1. I have heard of people training on grass. I have never been good at riding in grass, so I never thought to have my big kids do it when they were first learning. It is so much easier to balance when going faster, and I just can't go fast in grass.

      I have run alongside plenty of kids, but more as a support. A couple of my kids were quite scared to just try heading off on their own.

      Thank you!

      And good to see you again. I'm sure you've been swamped lately. :)

  8. I pretty much learned to ride my bike by trail and error. My dad wasn't much for teaching anything. I managed. I did help my son though and a few of your steps I used.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  9. ACK! I came here on my phone at lunchtime, but I can NEVER seem to comment here from my phone. BAH!

    I learned to cycle on a little red bike with solid rubber wheels, with my grandad (maybe? or my uncle) running down the path behind me, holding the back of the saddle.

  10. Emma refused to learn to ride a bike. She didn't take to it immediately, and since she wants to be perfect at everything, she just said no. Besides, the helmet messed up her hair....

  11. We live in a very hilly area so any bike-riding meant going somewhere flat. J2 preferred to "tie up" his bike with string whenever we went to my parents' house (they lived on a flat street). So no teaching tips from me. :)

  12. It's a great feeling both as a parent watching it happen and as a child on a bike when riding the bike suddenly clicks. One minute they can't, the next they can.

  13. ...better than it was before. (My own experience was that the biggest kid that was available held the bike long enough to climb up on it, hold on the handlebars (I seem to remember that I could touch one pedal only, if I leaned to one side) and then he simply got the bike going as fast as possible. I did in fact learn to ride a bike, like I said, your method strikes me as a better approach for all concerned.

  14. I love your page. What a wonderful theme. You're very ambitious. I can't imagine having six kids but perhaps if I looked at it as having more help with dishes, I'd be okay. Great, thorough article on this right of passage. I look forward to reading more.


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