I have decided that this is the year to teach my daughter how to ride a bike. I tried a few years ago when she was 4, but for some reason she just couldn’t understand the concept of peddling.
Now my little girl is 8 1/2 years old … And her PE class has just completed a course in roller skating. I feel that this is the perfect time to teach her how to ride! She is old enough to understand basic instructions, short enough that it won’t be too far of a fall to the ground, and small enough that I can help her a bit with balance.
To train with wheels, or not to train with wheels?
The first difficult decision that came with teaching my 8 yr old how to ride a bicycle was whether or not I should purchase training wheels. … Most kids use them. So they must have some benefits. But big kid bikes don’t come with training wheels. And the training wheels in the store are only for up to about 50 pounds. (average six year old size)
I decided that she should learn the same way I did. … With a few minor adjustments for safety’s sake.
How I learned to ride a bicycle
When I was almost 9 years old, I got tired of watching my cousins and friends have fun, riding their bikes without me. So I let my cousin, who had just turned 10 years old, teach me.
My cousin would push me up the hill of the circle drive at our babysitter’s house and tell me to pedal. Once I got to where I could coast a few feet, she took me around the drive so we could try downhill.
It took a couple of weeks, but once I knew how to ride a bike I was SO happy! It was a skill that brought years of enjoyment. Finally able to have “my own set of wheels” and take my own self to friends’ houses down the street.
Special thanks to Nikki for all your hard work in the spring of 1991. … p.s. I suggest that next time you teach a kid to ride a bike, you make sure they understand the concept of braking BEFORE you send them hurdling downhill toward the street lol, I thought I was gonna run into my grandpa’s truck and get a spanking!
Picking the perfect bike
It was still winter when third grade finished their unit on roller skating. In a way I knew that learning to ride a bike was a spring time activity. But my daughter had just finished the skating unit at school. She was still in that whole balancing on wheels mindset/mode. I didn’t want to delay.
So, I grabbed my wallet and we drove down to Walmart for a couple of brand new bicycles. Against the advice of my significant other, I selected a cheap, slightly undersized bicycle for Cheyenne. The theory was that if she was going to learn how to ride without the aid of training wheels, both of her feet needed to easily touch flat on the ground. I also read on other websites that it helps to have a low center of gravity.
When we got home from WalMart there was 6 inches of snow on the ground. (the most I have EVER seen in my life!) I knew we would have to reschedule the actual riding lessons for another day. But the sun shines big and strong in Texas. The streets were clear and it was a nice day to go over the basics of bicycle safety and care.
My daughter practiced putting on and taking off her helmet, walking her bike across the street, and parking it in a safe location. (standing up, with the kickstand down, out of the way of cars)
Riding is harder than it looks
For her first lesson, we took my little girl to a field with both asphalt and grass available – each going slightly downhill. I showed her how I could take long steps while sitting on my bicycle seat, both feet in the air for a few seconds between steps.
I warned her that it would take practice. But with my votes of confidence in mind, and the soft grass at her feet, Cheyenne was eager to jump on her new bicycle and start coasting!
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as well as expected. The pedals kept hitting her in the shins. And every time she tried to take it nice and slow, us grownups told her that you have to get up a little speed before you can balance. … Very discouraging.
Bye bye pedals
With all the bruises that were appearing on my little girl’s shins, I decided it would be best to temporarily get rid of the pedals. Wasn’t it enough that we expected her to watch for cars, try to find some balance, and steer? Keeping her feet out far enough to avoid kicking the pedals was just adding an unnecessary awkwardness to our task.
Before we went through with removing the pedals, I checked on the internet to see if anybody else has had successfully trained their kid to ride a bike this way. I learned 2 things… #1, my ideas on how to teach a kid to ride a bike were not as unique as I thought they were. And #2, the left pedal is reverse threaded.
Youtube had some good videos on how to change bicycle pedals. Once we figured out which way the pedals are threaded (which way to unscrew them), our next problem was finding the tools to remove them. My assistant came up with an interesting arrangement of slightly wrong sized wrenches, screwdrivers, and attachments that gave him enough leverage to get the job done!
Practice, practice, practice
Over the next few weeks, Cheyenne took advantage of every opportunity she got to practice coasting. There were a few falls, scrapes, and bruises, nothing serious enough to break out the Littlest Petshop Band-Aids. I was impressed with how good her balance was getting. We went down bumpy hills. One time she ran over a soccer goal and didn’t even fall! (although, she did have a sore bottom for the rest of the week)
One day as we were leaving our practice field, she asked if she could have her pedals back. “Mom, I feel like I should be peddling my bicycle – not walking it.”
The pedals came back!
As requested, we put the pedals back on my little girl’s bicycle. She got off to a great start going downhill! Uphill was more of a challenge. She was almost ready to give up. But she finally got the hang of it. J
Would I do it this way again?
Yes! Even though it took over a month to teach my daughter to ride a bicycle without the assistance of training wheels, I will definitely try this method with any kids I teach in the future. I think it would have gone much faster (maybe a 3 day or 4 day process) if we didn’t have to take so many breaks for bad weather.