Thinking back the other day to the fond memories of my father teaching me to ride my bicycle showed him in my mind, younger, with darker hair (and more of it), running behind me and holding on to my seat as long as he could before letting me go. I would wobble along for a couple dozen feet before trying to steer into the grass and wipe out. I can distinctly remember the fear of breaking my arm when I fell, but my dad stuck with me and together we managed to keep me balanced on that two-wheeled contraption. Amazingly, something must have stuck because I still ride a bike to this day.
Many years later, fatherhood has rewarded me with a new perspective on big-boy-bike mastery. I realize now that my dad was probably just as worried as I was by the possibility of my arm being fractured, perhaps even more so because he was paying the medical bills. On top of that, he must have become pretty winded and his back could not have felt good after several hours of running along and holding on to my bike seat. As I dig deeper into the recesses of my memory, I’m sure I can remember the beads of sweat on his forehead and the distinct sound of frustration in his voice as he tried his best to sound encouraging. I also recall the dirty looks and sass he would receive from yours truly due to my own frustration with the process.
I have to apologize to dear old dad because I realize now that it never had to be that way. There is a sure fire technique that teaches kids how to ride their two-wheelers without all the work on a parent’s part. What’s more, they’ll learn to ride faster than they ever would with you holding on to their seat. So start chilling your beer and set up a chair on the front lawn for I shall reveal to you the four easy steps I used to get both my sons riding their two-wheelers while I watched in comfort.
Step 1…Where you remove the training wheels and, while you’re at it, remove the pedals.
This is the key to the whole process. Training wheels ultimately promote a lack of balance. They allow a child to lean to one side without consequence. Your kid will look cooler without them on his or her bike anyway.
Step 2…Where you challenge your child to balance in place.
Have your child stay in one spot, sit on their bike seat and lift their feet off the ground while remaining balanced. Make sure the seat is low enough so that once they start to tip over they can put their feet down (after all, we are not barbarians. The point is to keep them from hitting the ground as often as possible). Challenge them to try and stay balanced for longer and longer with each attempt. Go ahead and employ a stopwatch and keep a chart if you are an aficionado of raw statistics.
Step 3…During which you let them push the bike with their feet.
Again, the seat will have to be low enough for your child’s feet to touch the ground while on the seat. Have them push the bike along with their feet and let them do this all day for as many days as they need to feel comfortable (this is where the cold beer and lawn chair come in handy). Before you know it, they will be gliding along with their feet off the ground for longer and longer stretches of sidewalk. That’s when you know they’re ready for.
Step 4…When you finally put the pedals back on and appreciate the results.
You’ll be able to tell when they are ready and once you put those pedals back on, the confidence with which your son or daughter takes to riding their two-wheeler will bring a tear to your eye. The ease and speed of the whole process will make you wonder why it had stressed you out so much as a kid.
That’s all. Yes, it really is that easy. No skinned knees, no aching back, no dirty looks form your six-year-old. Now you have no excuse not to get out there and enjoy spring. I’m sure there’s a bike trail near you that is just begging to have your family ride on it. Good luck.