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  1. #1
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    A 9 Year Old Who Can't Ride

    I'm mentoring a 9 year old boy, and overall we get along quite well, and he enjoys spending time with me. The only thing that gives me pause is that he doesn't have, nor does he know how to ride a bike. It's especially frustrating because he lives maddeningly close to the bike trail. His mother is the same, so she's not of much help. My question is, assuming for the moment that he has a bike, how can/would/should one teach a 9 year old how to ride a bike? Would he need training wheels of some sort, or is he old enough that it wouldn't be necessary? Of course, as much padding as possible would be good. Having ridden bikes all my life, I have no idea what is innate about it, what comes as you get older, and what's truly learned behavior.

  2. #2
    Now with racer-boy font! Moonshot's Avatar
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    First, thanks for being a mentor to this fatherless boy.

    Especially at his age I'm not sure training wheels are helpful.

    I would lower the seat until his feet can touch ground while he's seated. Then, remove the pedals and let him scoot around for a day like that. The next day put the pedals on and see how he does.

  3. #3
    Senior Member granularus's Avatar
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    I have a nine year old who can't ride - my older kids learned at about three when we lived on quieter streets. It is a much slower process at nine - I'm basically just running along behind him with my hand on the back of the saddle. Problems - he wants the saddle too low, he stops pedaling etc. He thinks it would be easier if he had clipless pedals like me. I'm getting there, but it has taken weeks. I guess the other thing that I'd suggest is practice on grass because he is going to fall.

  4. #4
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    There is a possibility that the mother may be instilling some fear because she does not ride a bike.. My sister is very afraid to swim and my niece was so fearful of drowning..

    It took baby steps to get her into the pool, but now after sometime she swims quite well.. My sister still shakes her head as to how her daughter can swim, meaning the fear is still there...

  5. #5
    ride like theres not 2mrw chris_pnoy's Avatar
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    Don't force him to ride. At that age, its a behavioral thing. Show him you like riding bikes and tell him that you two could ride together if he wants to learn. Assist him so he doesn't fall the first few times and give a few techniques. Bring your bike too so he can watch. You two should be at it in no time...

  6. #6
    Burn-em Upus Icephaltus Gojohnnygo.'s Avatar
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    Find a tandem(bike built for two) and let him be the stoker. So he can see how easy it is to ride thru the wind.
    Sick BubbleGum

  7. #7
    Senior Member kf5nd's Avatar
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    NO TRAINING WHEELS! NO TRAINING WHEELS!

    You start a turn on a bike by turning (subconsciously, subtly) the bars in the opposite direction of your turn, and then you fall in the direction of your turn. It's called counter-steering, it's how a bike corners.

    With training wheels, it's like a car. Turn right, go right. That's why the transition is so hard for kids.

    They have to UNLEARN what they've learned, and relearn the opposite.

    My advice: remove the pedals from the bike, put the seat really low, and have the kid use the bike like the old "boneshakers" from 200 years ago, just straddling it and riding it like some kind of a scooter. He has to feel how it is to turn on a bike. Starting & stopping can come later. He needs to be able to coast at a pretty good clip, and keep it upright, and feel confident in doing so and ready to advance.

    Riding a Razor scooter is not bad practice for cycling either; same physics. Faster than walking, too. Trail would be good for a scooter.

    Good luck!
    Peter Wang, LCI
    Houston, TX USA

  8. #8
    Old School Rad mtnbiker66's Avatar
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    Id say just take it nice and slow and let him learn at his own pace.The problem I had with my son was he pulled his bike on top of his slide when he was 4. He was going to use it as a roll in,he said he saw it on the X-games. What you are doing is a great thing *big pat on the back*
    Like a circus monkey on a stolen Harley......

  9. #9
    Marathon Cyclist MediaCreations's Avatar
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    I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 16. I've made up for it since by riding across Australia 5 times, throught the Rocky Mountains in Canada, and two cycling trips to India. On top of that I cycle commute and look for every other opportunity to get out and ride.

    When I was 16 I got my brother's old bike which was reasonably small for me, and started rolling down slight hills to get a feel for balance. We lived near a large shopping centre so on the weekends when there were no cars there, I would roll around getting the confidence I needed to be able to ride.

    I would definitely not put training wheels on his bike and I certainly wouldn't run behind holding the seat. Holding the seat gives the rider a false sense of balance and will slow their progress down.

    I'm sure this guy will soon be enjoying the freedom that comes with cycling.

  10. #10
    timbentdude
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    I have the same situation with my son, he is autistic which makes it even more difficult. He has sensory issues so his balence is harder to attain, he gets scared if he's not on solid ground. So I bought a pedal trailer to pull him on, this was the basis of my winning Biketown essay. Now I use the bike I won to pull him with. He is doing great with it, we did ten miles Monday and he had alot of fun. My plan is to do this all summer and towards the end of summer introduce the bike to him. If he doesn't learn by the start of winter no harm done we will start again in the spring. I think the key is to keep it fun and the trailer has been fun. If it takes years for him to learn (which I don't think it will) the main thing is we did it together.

    Tim

  11. #11
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    Go to Google and search on "teaching kids to ride bikes" and you will get lots of good advice. The following are just two examples.

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/teachride.html
    http://www.tnpc.com/parentalk/presch.../presch24.html

    If you can find a grassy mild slope to start on it will be a great benefit. It removes the danger and fear of falling. It should just take ten or fifteen minutes for the kid to get the hang of it. Strangely it take very much longer for an adault to learn, more like days.

  12. #12
    Junior Member tjocesq's Avatar
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    First, kudos for helping a fatherless young boy!

    my 9 y/o daughter just learned how to ride this past weekend. The bike does not have training wheels, she wore knee pads, elbow pads (both at her insistence) and the helmet (I let her pick it out and she thinks it is the coolest thing so she wants to wear it).

    Here's a concrete rundown of how the lesson went:
    We went to a softball field which has level, packed dirt (easier to ride on than grass, but less intimidating for her than asphalt). First: showed her where to put the pedals to start, where to put her feet (one on the ground in front of the pedals to push and the other on the upper pedal which is placed at 2 o-clock). I held on to the saddle and encouraged her to pedal, which she did and eventually let go. It took a number of tries but eventually she got the hang of it. For my daughter, at least, the toughest part was "starting" bike on her own so I would hold and push the saddle for a period of time and then would let go w/out telling her.

    One of the other things I told her that helped her: 1) keep your body center on the saddle (for balance); 2) look to where you want to ride and that is where you'll go.

    We are going on day three, and yesterday she rode on asphalt, turned to me and said: "Mom, you know, this IS kinda fun."

    Plus, rewards of ice cream or Del's lemonade worked (the treats were a suprise to her).

    Hope this helps!

  13. #13
    Senior Member rule's Avatar
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    Hey good on ya JJ! If your buddy enjoys being with you, my guess is that he will be like any other boy. If you ride a bike, he will want to ride along with you if you help him learn how. I just got through teaching my 6 year-old son to ride. As has been said, training wheels are really overrated. He had more trouble riding with those than he did riding on two wheels! About all that I can say for them is that they did allow him to get used to being on the bike, and gave him a chance to get the feel of peddling and steering.

    We used rollerblade/skateboard knee and elbow pads, which really really really helped. He never was scared of crashing. We started out completely on grass and as far away from other kids as was humanly possible. That way, he never was worried about looking like a **** either. That also really really really helped. Otherwise, I did with him what my dad did with me. I lowered the bike seat down so that it was easy for his feet to touch and I removed the pedals from the cranks so that they wouldn't be banging into his legs. I got him on a slight grassy incline and then as I held onto the bike (NOT HIM) I told him to lift his feet and stick his legs out and then started rolling him along down the incline. Next I got him to use his feet to just scoot his way along. The first day, that is all that we did. We didn't go for long just enough to give him the feel of the bike and riding.

    The next morning first thing he was after me to take him back and practice again. This time I did the same thing at first. Then we moved to a bigger incline with a longer run distance. I just aimed him down the run and gave him a slight push. He would go about 10-15 meters until he came off of the incline and began to slow down; he would put his feet down then and stop naturally as the bike slowed to a crawl. That is all that we did that day.

    The next day, as soon as we got home from school and work, he was after me again to take him out. This time I put his pedals back on. I did the same thing on the grassy incline but got him to peddle instead of holding his legs out. After a few more tries of that I took him up to a quiet stretch of road where some houses were just going up and there was no traffic. At first I ran along beside him holding onto the saddle (NOT HIM) and let him get the feel for how much easier it is to ride when you are on a nice smooth road. From time to time I would tell him that I was going to let go of the saddle and that he would have the bike on his own. It only took doing that two times before he got the feel of it. The third time I just didn't even tell him when I let go. I ran along beside him and let him ride with me there to catch him if he needed it. I was honestly amazed when he didn't need any help at all and was chugging along just fine without me.

    The next time that we went out after that, we stayed on the road and all that we worked on was riding for balance while peddling and then adding proper braking. He wiped out about half the time at first but that is where the pads really helped. In the days that followed we worked on him starting from a stand still without me holding the bike or giving him a push. Doing that on a slight incline really helped until he learned how to push off of his own. Throughout we continued to work on proper braking. In about a week of that, I was working with him on how to watch and listen for traffic, check for cars coming, etc. The next weekend he was out for a short ride with me. Now he never misses one of my recovery rides and this Saturday we are doing a charity ride together.

    You can do it! And he will love you for it. Good luck JJ and let us know how it goes.

  14. #14
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    Good ideas so far, and thank you rule for your long explanation. The only problem I see with going that route is that I only see him once a week for a few hours at a time, so it's not like I can do a few hours one day, then a few hours the next, and so on. Food for thought.

  15. #15
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    wathced a couple down the street try and teach tehir 8 year old to bike.... it was a disaster... talkign to them later i told them never teach family to bike, drive ski ro swim...

    some of the neighborhood kids called Pisti out to play, they stuck him on his bike and said follow us... low and behold the kid was pushing him self round right of the bat, then later on, sg like 20 minutes later he started pedalling cos he couldn't keep up just using his feet on the ground.

    so, are there any kids round when you are with the youngster?

    and good on ya for helping!

    robi

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    There's a lot of good advice on this thread. I taught both of my kids to ride at about 6 and 7. Some are more balanced than others, and pick it up easier. My daughter picked it up after one try on a long trail. My son took a week or so, with lots of crashes (he was a little younger than my daughter tho). I know you don't have the luxury of repitition, but by 9, I'd say he should have a good center of balance and will probably pick it up faster than you think.

    Main thing is to be patient, give lots of encouragement, and most of all make it a fun experience. He will remember this time with you.

    PS: I've also heard that the scooter is a good way to get the same balance before biking.

  17. #17
    Senior Member kf5nd's Avatar
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    OFF-TOPIC BUT RELEVANT

    Make sure you're not alone with this boy; make sure that other adults and kids are around whenever you are working with him. For your protection maybe moreso than his.

    Tip from Boy Scouts Youth Protection training
    Peter Wang, LCI
    Houston, TX USA

  18. #18
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    Yes, very off topic, and irrelevant to my particular situation as well. This is through Big Brothers Big Sisters, and they actually want you to only have one-on-one contact with the child, at least until you've been together for 6 months to a year. That's bonding time, and the kid can feel left out or ignored if you do group activities, at least until you've gotten to know one another really well.

  19. #19
    Senior Member kf5nd's Avatar
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    Well... each organization has it's own guidelines, I suppose. I'm very surprised that one-on-one is allowed in this church abuse scandal era.



    Quote Originally Posted by JJakucyk
    Yes, very off topic, and irrelevant to my particular situation as well. This is through Big Brothers Big Sisters, and they actually want you to only have one-on-one contact with the child, at least until you've been together for 6 months to a year. That's bonding time, and the kid can feel left out or ignored if you do group activities, at least until you've gotten to know one another really well.

  20. #20
    scofflaw
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    BICYCLING Magazine had a great article see the attached url
    http://www.bicycling.com/article/0,3...ategory_id=364

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