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  1. #1
    Je pose, donc je suis. gcl8a's Avatar
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    Teaching a Child to Ride and Trail-A-Bikes

    When I learned to ride, I was a natural -- not gifted, but a natural. I was sitting on my brother's bike, holding on to the fence and pretending to ride when my step-dad grabbed the bike and pushed me down the street. It was easy.

    Unfortunately, my daughter seems to have gotten her mother's genes in this regard...

    Now, my daughter (almost six) has been riding a 'ride behind' for well over a year now. When we bought it, my rationale was (aside from being an easy way to travel) that she could learn to pedal and lean into corners. But now I wonder if it wasn't so good in the long-run, as she has absolutely no concept of how to 'steer into the lean'. She's not the most coordinated in other things, so cause-effect is not easy to establish.

    So now I'm reduced to running along side her, holding onto the bike as loosely as I can to let her get the 'feel' for it but tight enough to keep her from crashing every 10 feet. I could get training wheels, which would allow pedalling + turning, but I'm hesistant to 'enable' more bad habits.

    Questions for the bowry:

    -- Training wheels? Yea or nay? Seriously, she can't go ten feet without crashing.

    -- If I continue to break my back assisting her, how long might I expect this phase to last? OK, you have no idea how long it will take for us, but how long did it take for you and your child?

    -- Ride behind: good idea or not (with regards to learning to ride)?

    I have another child who's two and a half, but much more coordinated than her older sister, so maybe she'll turn out like the three year old across the street who rides a 12" bike around the neighborhood unassisted!

    Thanks.

    PS. If you care to endulge my shameless self-promotion, there are some funny-ish pictures of the bike and test-ride here: http://www.mip.sdu.dk/~glewin/sydsnyecykel.html

    PPS. Sorry, there aren't any garages in the neighborhood, more or less ones with white doors.

    PPPS. Yes, I made her read Helmet Head's thread on "What Makes a Bike Turn", but it didn't help.

  2. #2
    Moto gp dokie's Avatar
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    wow, maybe our wifes are related...i think if you are getting frustrated then go with the training wheels, but take em off every now and then and try and teach her with running with the bike, if it is not frustrating or she is satisfied with only riding when you are teaching her i would do it that way to get her cordination in as early as possible

  3. #3
    . Namenda's Avatar
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    I haven't tried this yet with my daughter (though I may, if she doesn't show improvement soon), but I've heard that by removing the pedals, and letting the kid propel the bike around by foot on grass or dirt is a good way to learn balance without so many bumps and bruises. Worth a shot, anyway...and better than breaking your back.

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    Yep, sounds like my story. My daughter couldn't ride her own bike until 7. She still dosen't ride very much. By the time she was 7, we had 1500 miles on a trail-a-bike. She's 8 now and we've upgraded to a tandem.

    I did what Namenda suggests. Remove the pedals, lower the seat all the way down to she can put her feet flat on the ground. Let her spend some time using her bike like that, tell her it's like riding a scooter, only you get to sit. She'll giver herself some big pushes with her feet, then raise them up and coast. My little girl had the pedals back on and was riding on her own in about an hour.

    Good luck
    Shayne

  5. #5
    srp
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    I'm a 4 time veteran of teaching my kids to ride. With #1, I learned an important lesson. Balance is more important than momentum. Hook her up with a helmet, knee and elbow pads and gloves. Walk, don't run behind her holding the seat. Allow her to reach her balance. When she does, gradually let go and let her ride solo for a few feet then grab the seat and help her rebalance.

    Also, don't try to learn on the sidewalk. Kids associate soft grass with safety and will steer toward it. Teach her in a parking lot or on a little used side street.

    Try a bribe too. With #1, I promised her a cage and bottle if she could start, ride and stop. Once she got it, her first real ride was 5 miles.

    Most important, keep laughing and don't let her see your frustration.

    Have fun

  6. #6
    Road, MTB and SS Rider spdrcr5's Avatar
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    Ok, here is the simplest and what I found to be the easiest and fastest way to teach my Niece and Nephew to ride a bike. I used to Rollerblade quite a bit so I just wore those instead of running with them! I didn't get tired, could do it all day long plus I could roll in behind them if they got out of control or were headed in the wrong direction, etc.

    With my Niece she wasn't able to ride with training wheels for more than a few days because I decided that I wanted to try her new bike out with the training wheels! lol I bent them beyond repair and instead of buying her a new set I decided to teach her how to ride instead. She was on her own that day, a little wobbly but riding nonetheless. I used to take her to MUP's and I stayed on the 'blades just in case. She felt safer, more confident, etc. I even helped some of her friends whose parents just couldn't keep up with them.

    It really makes it so simple because you literally hang on to their seat so they can feel your hand, but allow them to balance and pedal, etc. I made it fun by rolling in behind and grabbing the handlebars and taking them for a fast ride to show them how safe it was. They both really enjoyed it and it gave them confidence in me that I wouldn't let them fall as well as show them they couldn't pedal so slow to maintain balance, etc.
    Larry

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by gcl8a
    Questions for the bowry:

    -- Training wheels? Yea or nay? Seriously, she can't go ten feet without crashing.

    -- If I continue to break my back assisting her, how long might I expect this phase to last? OK, you have no idea how long it will take for us, but how long did it take for you and your child?

    -- Ride behind: good idea or not (with regards to learning to ride)?

    I have another child who's two and a half, but much more coordinated than her older sister, so maybe she'll turn out like the three year old across the street who rides a 12" bike around the neighborhood unassisted!
    Using the methods from Bicycling Magazine below, I taught my 6 yrs old daughter to ride in about an hour.

    "4 to 6 years

    To wean your kid from training wheels, use this method, developed by bicycling, that in our experience helps children learn to ride on their own in less time and with fewer spills than the run-beside-the-bike method most of us learned with.

    Unbolt the training wheels from your child's bike and lower the saddle so that it is easy for her to sit on the saddle with both feet flat on the ground (illustration 1, below). Head to a smooth, grassy field that has a gentle downslope 30 to 50 yards in length. Be sure that it's not too steep, is wide enough to allow for unplanned weaving, and has grass short enough to allow the bike to roll freely. Before setting your young one off, walk the hill looking for holes, debris or other unexpected hazards.

    Stand halfway up the hill and have your child straddle the bike with her feet on the ground while you place one hand on the handlebar and one on the back of the saddle. After a final pep talk to remind her what the brakes are for, where she should try to steer, and how to fall, have her lift her feet a few inches off the ground but keep them off the bike's pedals (illustration 2). Once she's ready, give her a slight push and let the bike coast down the hill. Because she's on grass, the bike isn't likely to pick up too much speed or feel out of control. If you can't resist running along, stay behind, not beside, so she can accomplish this feat on her own without distraction.

    Have your child roll down the hill until she doesn't waver or fall, then have her roll down the hill with her feet on the pedals, making sure to keep them parallel to the ground (illustration 3). When she can coast with her feet on the pedals, have her begin to pedal slowly as she rolls down the hill, so she feels the sensation of balancing while pedaling. You'll also be able to raise her saddle to a height at which her leg is extended to roughly 80 percent of its overall length. Last step: Have a cold drink and maybe a celebratory ice cream cone--it's been a big day for both of you."

    If the pedals are in a way, you can also remove them at first as some have suggested.

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    Same situation as x 2. Both daughters rode a trail-a-bike and skipped training wheels. Both learned to ride in 10 minutes. Take the pedals off. Find a very small hill or slight slope with a grassy surface and no traffic. Let your daughter coast downhill a few times to get a sense of balance (which they lack because of the trail-a-bike). Then put the pedals on and let her coast down a few more times but using the pedals to brake. Finally, have your daughter start pedaling and gently turning as she rides downhill. Guaranteed success. Good luck.

  9. #9
    Je pose, donc je suis. gcl8a's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=srp] Kids associate soft grass with safety and will steer toward it. [ /QUOTE]

    So that's why she keeps ending up over there!



    Quote Originally Posted by srp
    Most important, keep laughing and don't let her see your frustration.
    This is so very hard. Parents will understand

    Thanks.

  10. #10
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    The Bicycle mag method sounds great.

    BTW, first born is often times the slower learner, mostly because they have no siblings to model after and to provide competitive insentives. Everybody learns to ride sooner or later, does it matter whether it is 4 or 8 yrs old? As long as the family is having fun together, that's all that matters. My first boy just turned 5 and he:

    1. Rides his bike with training wheels up and down the driveway when he sees the next door neighbor's kids ride theirs.
    2. Tried the trail-a-bike one time, says he likes it, but...
    3. ...Prefers to cram in the big trailer with his little brother when we all go on family rides.
    4. Likes to drives his electric powered Jeep when we go for walks with his little borther in a stroller.

    I offer encouragement and praise when he tries new things, but I rarely push him to learn. He will be ready in his own time. And when he is ready, he will wake me up 5AM on Saturday and make me teach him.

  11. #11
    Je pose, donc je suis. gcl8a's Avatar
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    Thanks, everyone! I'll keep you updated.

  12. #12
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    The Bicycling method works great. Two trips to a park with a long hill and she had it. I have these disks/cones that I use to coach soccer and they were really helpful in getting her to go in a straight line. I just told her to try and run them over. Later I would make gates that she could slalom through to help teach steering.

    Don't use training wheels. It just gives them a false sense of balance and they end up causing more crashes than anything.

    A few additional tips that worked:

    Get a scooter and encourage to ride it everywhere. It really helps with the balance issues.
    Get them in the habit of using their hips to balance the bike not their upper body.
    When learning to steer encourage small turns or corrections and have them look where they want to go, not at what they are trying to steer around.

    As mentioned earlier don't let the kid see your frustration, which is easier said then done.

  13. #13
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    I've taught my first two kids to ride the week of their 3rd birthday. The method I used was to keep raising the training wheels until they weren't ever touching. Once he or she gets comfy with a given height, give them a week or two, and raise them 1 cm (bend the arms or re-drill holes if you have to).

    Then, have a $15 craiglist bike handy w/out training wheels. Let them try it w/out the trauma of seeing their own bike w/out the training wheels.

    Also, offer a kit for learning to ride w/out training wheels. You have to have a good shop around to have shorts and jersey that fit a skinny 3-year-old girl...

    My goal is to get my youngest off training wheels before he turns 3, but I'll let him determine if that's going to happen... as it is now, he LOVES trikes, bikes, and scooters -- so the interest is there.

  14. #14
    Senior Member air king's Avatar
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    Some friends of mine bought a LikeABike for their daughter. Works on the same principle as discussed above. Learn to balance first, pedal second.

    I watched my 4 y.o. nephew coast down a grassy hill on one of those small bikes that come with training wheels (he was without training wheels) several times. After that, we put him on his bigger bike that he was afraid to ride and pedal at the same time, and it made a world of difference. All he had to do was pedal, he already had the balancing figured out.



    LikeABike

  15. #15
    Trying to keep up ericcox's Avatar
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    GCL8a -- thanks for starting this thread. I am now working on removing the training wheels off of my 3 year old's bike because they have taught him bad habits. We ride together a lot, but sometimes have battles because he is so accustomed to the training wheels catching him. This morning that led to a crash & tears as he jerked the handlebars too hard... He was mad the rest of the ride because his elbow hurt. Being my son, he stayed mad, complained his elbow hurt, but didn't want to ride home.

    I am going to try the grassy hill method later. He expresses interest in removing the wheels, but gets frustrated that he cannot do it on his own. Rather than bad balance from mom, he seems to have inherited a certain need for control.

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    Senior Member flaco's Avatar
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    Sheldon Brown has some pointers on his website too. One thing he suggests is holding kiddo by the shoulders, not the bike, so he is responsible for some of the balancing. (Not actually working so far with my 3 1/2 year old...)

    I agree that training wheels are counterproductive.

  17. #17
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    I just got my 3 year old training wheels this week. Given some of the suggestions here, I think I'll take them off. The hills and pedal-less suggestions are wonderful. Thanks!

  18. #18
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SesameCrunch
    I just got my 3 year old training wheels this week. Given some of the suggestions here, I think I'll take them off. The hills and pedal-less suggestions are wonderful. Thanks!
    Training wheels got my kids off training wheels right when they turned three... and they asked me to take them off. Just keep raising the wheels so they learn to balance it.

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    Had 4 new kids at our Kids Saturday bike Club last week, ages from nearly 4 to 5. Used "pedals off" method from 11am. All were riding by break time at 11:30am.

    Other useful tips:
    1. If you can find a slope leading onto level ground, let them roll down it - this allows them to get up a decent bit of speed when they've developed the confidence to roll down from the top.
    2. never push them using the saddle - this makes them go where you're pushing, which might not be quite the same direction that they're steering. Place hand on their lower back instead.
    3. If using the slope method and they've developed some confidence, place a small stone or two in a line and encourage them to steer round it/tem
    4. Refit pedals and they're away. Now you can really start worrying

    Good luck

  20. #20
    Senior Member bvfrompc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Volfy
    The Bicycle mag method sounds great.

    BTW, first born is often times the slower learner, mostly because they have no siblings to model after and to provide competitive insentives. Everybody learns to ride sooner or later, does it matter whether it is 4 or 8 yrs old? As long as the family is having fun together, that's all that matters. My first boy just turned 5 and he:

    1. Rides his bike with training wheels up and down the driveway when he sees the next door neighbor's kids ride theirs.
    2. Tried the trail-a-bike one time, says he likes it, but...
    3. ...Prefers to cram in the big trailer with his little brother when we all go on family rides.
    4. Likes to drives his electric powered Jeep when we go for walks with his little borther in a stroller.

    I offer encouragement and praise when he tries new things, but I rarely push him to learn. He will be ready in his own time. And when he is ready, he will wake me up 5AM on Saturday and make me teach him.
    Too bad we live so far apart, our boys would be best friends Mine just turned 5 as well.

  21. #21
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Great thread. My 3-year old boy loves his bike and can ride it for miles (yes, literally twice around the park equals 2 miles!), but he's afraid of riding without the training wheels. I think I might just secretly raise them a couple of milimeters each week and then surprise him with a new craigslist bike.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  22. #22
    Senior Member dagna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gcl8a
    Watch out, if the OCP guys see her outfit, it could start a whole new cycling fashion trend . Next year's Assos catalog: stripey socks and flowerdy shorts!

    Actually, she looks amazingly cute, and the helmet is the perfect finishing touch.

  23. #23
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    I got my daughters bikes when they were 3. Training wheels up to age 5 for the older one (younger is only 3.5 now). And we did the "raise them a little bit each week" trick, that does seem to help. We may take them off sooner for the younger one.

    I am going to argue against the grass theory. Adults and kids alike may understand that it's softer to land on, but for a small kid, it is a lot harder to start rolling and stay moving. We tried it, and with the session about to end in utter frustration for Mom, Dad, and kid alike, we gave it a shot on blacktop, with immediate and resounding success. We did have to grab her to keep from falling over when she stopped, but you should've seen her face light up when she realized what she'd done. Every training session after that was on blacktop. She's crashed more than a few times, but now knows to get up and get right back on it.

    At 5.5, she competed in her first "race" last weekend, with 20" wheels, no problems at all; even steered around a kid who had crashed right in front of her.
    Can you pass the test?
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  24. #24
    Trying to keep up ericcox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericcox
    GCL8a -- thanks for starting this thread. I am now working on removing the training wheels off of my 3 year old's bike because they have taught him bad habits. We ride together a lot, but sometimes have battles because he is so accustomed to the training wheels catching him. This morning that led to a crash & tears as he jerked the handlebars too hard... He was mad the rest of the ride because his elbow hurt. Being my son, he stayed mad, complained his elbow hurt, but didn't want to ride home.

    I am going to try the grassy hill method later. He expresses interest in removing the wheels, but gets frustrated that he cannot do it on his own. Rather than bad balance from mom, he seems to have inherited a certain need for control.

    Kids are awesome. I'd been feeling bad about my son's little crash, and how mad he was about the bike the whole time I was at work. I got home, and he was on the bike with his helmet on waiting for me to go on another ride. His little brother jumped in the trailer, and we were off.

    On the raising the training wheels a little at a time, we have done this. They are at their highest level. My son now uses them to do some pretty interesting tricks. I've got a few days off next week; we might give it another go.

  25. #25
    Je pose, donc je suis. gcl8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dagna
    Watch out, if the OCP guys see her outfit, it could start a whole new cycling fashion trend . Next year's Assos catalog: stripey socks and flowerdy shorts!

    Actually, she looks amazingly cute, and the helmet is the perfect finishing touch.
    Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), she dresses herself.

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