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  1. #1
    Senior Member va_cyclist's Avatar
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    Teaching my daughter to ride

    This season I've decided it's time for my 6-year-old daughter to learn to ride a two-wheeler.

    We bought her a kids' bike with training wheels a few years ago. Aside from a few short trips through the neighborhood, she never showed a lot of interest in it.

    Last year, however, we got a trail-a-bike, and she and I did extensive riding together last summer, including a 40-mile organized ride together.

    Now, my daughter is pretty timid when it comes to physical activity, and she was very afraid of falling off the bike while learning to ride. So I explained to her exactly how we were going to do it: remove the training wheels, remove the pedals, and lower the seat so her feet could be flat on the ground. I would not push her -- she would provide all the power by "scooting," and could go as fast or slow as she liked. I think the scooting idea appealed to her, and she agreed to give it a try.

    So a week ago Saturday we tossed her bike in the back of my car and headed over to the elementary school, which has a large grassy field and a crushed-limestone running track. We got the bike set up, and started out first on the grass. The field was bumpy, and she couldn't get up any speed, but I think she felt reassured that she wasn't going to fall over easily.

    Then we moved on to the track, which has lower rolling resistance. I actually got on her bike myself and did some scooting to show her how to push off and lift up her feet. She was reluctant to try this, but was willling to let me push her slowly around the track while she steered. I held on very loosely so that she could feel the side-to-side motion, and helped her steer through a few turns.

    After a lap or two around the track, we moved to a grassy slope to try some free-rolling, but again, she was afraid to roll down with any speed. But she gave it a few tries, and managed again to stay upright. Her riding skills weren't really improving yet, but her confidence was growing by leaps and bounds.

    Finally we moved to the parking lot, and I let her try scooting on the pavement. Wow, what a difference. Any fear of the hard surface was completely overruled by the ease of rolling on the smooth blacktop. So I just let her scoot around, pushing off and rolling for a bit, then dropping her feet and stopping whenever she felt like it. She didn't roll more than 5-10 feet at a time, but all the while she was gaining confidence. By the end of our training session she was really excited to tell her Mom about her progress.

    That was the previous weekend. This past weekend we repeated the trip to the school, unloaded the bike, hooked up the helmet, and started out right on the pavement. She began again with very short scoots, just regaining the feel of the steering. Then I told her we were going to play a game, where I would start counting when she started rolling, and I would stop counting when she put her feet down. We would see how high a number we could reach.

    The first few rolls she made it to a 2 count...then a 3 count...then up to a 5 count. After about 15 minutes of practice, she got up to a 30 count, which was taking her the entire length of the parking lot (which has a very gentle slope). She was so proud! And I'm really proud of her -- this is a kid who's afraid to try anything new, so to see her trying and succeeding is just huge. It was so cool to see her take off, steering to correct her leans, getting the feel of the bike. There's just no explaining how we ride a bike, but once a kid learns that feeling, they'll have it for life.

    I figure one more session without pedals, and then she'll be ready for self-propulsion.

  2. #2
    Newbie RF99's Avatar
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    Last year I taught my daughter ride by taking off the pedals. She went back and forth on the sidewalk for a week. After that I put the pedals on and she took right off. Good luck.

  3. #3
    Senior Member va_cyclist's Avatar
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    This story has a happy ending. This weekend I took my daughter back to the school for her third outing. After a couple of tentative minutes without pedals, I asked her if she wanted to try it with the pedals on, and she said "yes!". So the pedals went on, the seat went up, and she mounted the bike. After a very brief push, she was off and rolling, zooming around the parking lot like she'd been riding her entire life. I couldn't believe it, but I guess I should have. So there you go. Thanks to everyone on this site who was a proponent of the "pedals off" school of teaching bike riding -- it really does work.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Stor Mand's Avatar
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    My daughter finally did it this past week. I was having her use a scooter and when I finally saw her balancing and coasting for a decent length, I had her get on her bicycle. We are now officially riding a two-wheeler. It was very exciting. Now I need to find her a bike at a yard sale or something (not spending a couple hundred on a bike to outgrow)
    Last edited by Stor Mand; 05-08-06 at 02:52 PM.

  5. #5
    Urban Biker jimmuter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stor Mand
    My daughter finally did it this past week. I was having her use a scooter and when I finally saw her balancing and coasting for a decent length, I had her get on her bicycle. We are now officially riding a two-wheeler. It was very exciting. Now I need to find her a bike at a yard sale or something (not spending a couple hundred on a bike to outgrow)
    Just have more kids and pass it down

  6. #6
    Senior Member Stor Mand's Avatar
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    Well, my daughter loves riding and her free, beginner bike needed relacing. So, after perusing several yard sales (10+) with no luck, I broke down and got her a Raleigh Mojave 2.0 with an extra small frame (very nice bike) and it will likely fit her for a ling time to come. She was afraid of the size at first but took to it quickly. She is getting used to the hand controls and shifting niely. I have taken her on a couple moderately hilly 5 milers and she did okay. It has been very hot here lately so we have bot been on any long rides ... just going aroung the block to get some riding in. I must say that I enjoy the time we have riding together.

  7. #7
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    Coaster brakes are terrible for beginner cyclists, because you want your feet down as you come to a stop, but you have to keep a foot on the pedal to stop. On the other hand, hand brakes are often too hard for small hands. I tell beginners before they start, that when they want to stop they must first decide which foot to put down, then make sure they use the other foot to apply the brake. After a while they dont have to think about it; Its just like getting used to clipless pedals.

  8. #8
    Potatoes al dente Bibi's Avatar
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    great ideas. my 6 year old will pedal like rasmussen up the steep hill to our house (he likes to "dance on the pedals" - maybe we watch too much TdF each July), but walks the bike down and refuses to let us take off the training wheels. maybe we'll give the pedal-free way a try later this month...

  9. #9
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    i never thought of taking off the pedals, that's a great idea.

  10. #10
    On the big ring deanp's Avatar
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    My daughter also completed the leap. The coasting thing is a great idea. She loved it. When I aksed her if she was ready for the pedals she immediately said yes. First try she was off down the sidewalk. Great feeling for both of us. She already wants to work on hills so she can ride over to a friends house!

  11. #11
    Mmmmm potatoes idcruiserman's Avatar
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    Excellent. I'm going to try that with my 5 year old son. He loves riding his bike, but he prefers training wheels.
    Idaho

  12. #12
    DoB
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    I taught both of my older two girls to ride without training wheels before their 4th birthdays. The trick was to have them ride a 10" bike with fixed gear. These are really common cheapo Walmart bikes that come with training wheels. The control of the fixed gear and the short height make them rideable by 3 year olds, and yes any 3 year old can balance a bike if they can reach the ground.

    Sidewalks on your block where you can teach them work well too.

  13. #13
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    My 4 year old son learned to ride this summer after spending a year with training wheels learning the rules of the road. I took his bike away and gave him a two wheel Razor scooter for a month while I rode around the neighborhood with my 3 yr old daughter on training wheels. Once he was able to keep up with us on his Razor. I gave him his bike back without the training wheels and he just took off riding. Next 2 days were spent teaching him how to start and stop without falling. Both my wife and I were amazed at how simple it was for him to learn.

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