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  1. #1
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    Teaching Kids to Ride: Popular BF method.

    My daughter is pushing 6 yrs old and it is time she learns to ride. So last night i had her in the drive way trying the whiz-bang method that everyone here at BF and other places on the web swears by. This method involves lowering the seat way down so the child can straddle the saddle flat footed and also involves taking the pedals off.

    I worked with my daughter in the driveway for about 45 minutes last night. I was at the top and my wife was at the bottom of our sloping driveway. What I learned after that time is what i already knew. There is no such thing as a "whiz-bang" method of teaching your kid to ride.

    Learning to ride a bike takes about 3 seconds actually. But getting to that critical 3 seconds seems to be the problem. There is a 3 second window in everyones past where they finally realized what they had to do to keep the bike upright. The trouble is that it takes a LOT of courage to trust the bike enough to give yourself that 3 second chance.

    That is where we were last night. She could push herself down the driveway for a month and I don't think it will matter. You still have to get to the magic 3 seconds. I think i got there by somebody just pushing me and watching me crash a few times.

    That method isn't PC anymore and I really have no desire to watch my daughter eat the pavement. I tried the tougher method with my son (now 8) and he bit it hard one day. It took him awhile to want to learn again, but he did hit the magic 3 seconds when he was 6 and has been riding ever since.

    But I just want to share that i think the pedal off-seat down method is less than thrilling to me. Sure nobody gets hurt, but I don't see my daughter riding any time soon. I know that sometimes it just takes time, but I also think it is important to emphasize that some kids "just struggle."

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    She'll get it in her own time. No hills are required. Both of my daughters learned out on the city sidewalk...just playing with their bikes. One learned in a few days...the other took a few weeks, and they're twins. Just leave the pedals off and let your child glide around for several days, at her leisure. The beauty of this method is no parental intervention/stress/presure on the child is needed. One day, you'll look up and see your child gliding thru turns like a pro, that's when you put the pedals on. Remember when she learned how to walk, I'll bet she did it on her schedule.

    Best of luck !!!!!!!

  3. #3
    I'm so much cooler online eriksbliss's Avatar
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    We got my daughter riding fairly quickly, and the only real key was to minimize the "ouch" for the falls we knew she would take. We have a community park close to our house with a football-sized grass area that has about a 1% grade, and which they never mow too close. We put her on the bike at the top of the grade and told her to ride down it. She fell frequently, but not at much speed and onto a forgiving surface (because she was riding through and falling onto the grass). When she got to the far end, we carried her bike back "up" and did it again. After a few (combined) hours she was flying around the grass. And, as every cyclocrosser will tell you, since it's harder to peddle and steer through thick grass, when she hit the pavement she was even more confident because the bike moved easier and stayed in a straighter line. She was four at the time, and she has always been a tough kid -- more interested in keeping at the playing than crying about a boo-boo -- but I would recommend this somewhat homemade method to anyone.

  4. #4
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    Here's what we did. It worked for us, ymmv...

    We first got her on a Razor scooter. My theory was that the balance "feel" was about the same as riding a bike. After a few weeks on the scooter she was riding it all over the place and able to keep both feet on and turn and all that good stuff. Then we got the bike out. Used what sounds like the BF method except we didn't take the pedals off. We just had the seat low enough so she could "scoot" on the bike. I had her scoot and then slowly start picking her feet up. It took about 10 minutes and she had her feet on the pedals pumping away. She has not fallen once (except trying to dismount and getting hung up once).

    Like I said. Worked for us. YMMV.

    Good luck!!

    BTW...the fact that she got mobile on the bike is what made me buy one after about 23 years of not riding. I'm loving it!! Been riding now for about 2 months and I did a fairly hilly 35 miles last Saturday and thinking about doing a 42 mile organized ride this weekend...

    It's amazing what kids will get you back into!!


  5. #5
    sarcasm meter: jerk mode santiago's Avatar
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    A week ago last Sunday my 6-year-old daughter was riding like this:


    That following Wednesday I took the training wheels and pedals off and told her to scoot along the sidewalk with her sister. On day one she was walking the bike and by Sunday she was scooting 4-5 sidewalk squares. She kept asking me to put the pedals on.

    I did last Sunday. I went around the crescent in front of our place with her for about 3 laps with one hand on her shoulder to give her confidence. I let go a few times and she was excited to be going on her own even though she was a little fearful.

    Until this point I had only tried taking off the training wheels one time but she had picked up a terrible habit of leaning that she kept losing her balance. I had started looking into buying a bike that allowed the cranks to be taken off when it was brought to my attention that I could just take the pedals off.

    Last Sunday this is what she was doing:


    Here's the thing, though. I let her "scoot" around. We scooted over to her friend's place 2 streets over and she never had any pressure to put the pedals on. Even when I had put them back on and she was feeling scared I told her that I'd take them back off. Scooting was just something to do outside and nothing more.
    First Class Jerk

  6. #6
    Senior Member Fibber's Avatar
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    I'm in the throws of it also. My little one is only 4.5 yrs old, but wants to ride with the family. She is a peanut, so I picked up a 12" tire bike at a yard sale ($4), took off the pedal crank and chain, and lavishly covered every sharp part with duck tape. I have here wear her rollerskate attire (helmet, gloves, knee & elbow pads), and have been letting her coast up and down the lower section (35' x 75') of our drive. It has a gentle slope to the ends, lowest in the middle. She can go 10-15' with her feet up, and I bet she could balance further if it was not for the diminished speed.

    I firmly believe that she will teach herself, she is that motivated. Don't be so quick to give up!

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    Senior Member littlewaywelt's Avatar
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    I believe Bicyling magazine suggests the gently sloping grass field method.
    That's what I intend to employ in the next couple of weeks.
    One Less Car
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    Senior Member rule's Avatar
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    Yep...that's what I did, with seat down, pedals off and with knee and elbow pads for my five year-old son. For a start, we worked on him just coasting down a short hill and teetering over in the grass. He actually liked that part the best, mostly because he had pads on to take the punishment.

    We didn't push the process. We did that for a couple of weekends off and on when he felt like it or if I was out grilling burgers. If he only made a couple of runs at it, that was fine. He had better luck when we didn't force things. Once he got the feel of keeping his balance we moved to a longer hill. He was pretty much hooked from there on out on his own. He liked the speed and feeling the wind in his hair! After a few tries, he got to where he was staying up and coasting to a stop. On went the pedals for a few goes so he could get the feel of keeping his feet moving. Next day we were up on the road and he was riding. It took about a week of road practice after that to get him squared away.

  9. #9
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    My kid'll be 6 in 2.5 wks (need to get cracking on the party...). He had a great run the 1st day w/ no training wheels (I know, not supposed to have training wheels...), w/ me running behind him on grass but hasn't been able to recover that. I've spoken to other people who had that false dawn effect too, a good run early on, but takes a while to recover it. Meantime, we try to work on it on weekends, but just let him ride w/ training wheels to/from school. It seems like being happy on the bike is the most important part. Though it does get frustrating to his posse (me) staying down around 2mph.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnKScott
    Here's what we did. It worked for us, ymmv...

    We first got her on a Razor scooter. My theory was that the balance "feel" was about the same as riding a bike. After a few weeks on the scooter she was riding it all over the place and able to keep both feet on and turn and all that good stuff. Then we got the bike out. Used what sounds like the BF method except we didn't take the pedals off. We just had the seat low enough so she could "scoot" on the bike. I had her scoot and then slowly start picking her feet up. It took about 10 minutes and she had her feet on the pedals pumping away. She has not fallen once (except trying to dismount and getting hung up once).

    Like I said. Worked for us. YMMV.
    +1 on the Razor scooter. I think a factor in the success is that with the Razor it's easier to go fast, and the kid quickly learns that speed = stability. We skipped the "scoot" step.

    Kotts
    Riding the Ohio MS Central Ohio Challenge tour, July 12th.

  11. #11
    Senior Member littlewaywelt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by littlewaywelt
    I believe Bicyling magazine suggests the gently sloping grass field method.
    That's what I intend to employ in the next couple of weeks.
    Did this over the weekend. Worked beautifully. He's now riding laps in the front yard. Amazing how quickly they get it. He's having trouble getting going and needs a push, but in about fiive minutes he pretty much had the balance and pedaling thing figured out.

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  12. #12
    fixed for the long haul 40 Cent's Avatar
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    OK, here's my method. It worked on my 2 boys (who were having the darndest time getting it) as well as a couple of neihbor kids. Now I tell everyone:

    Hold the kid, not the bike!

    I was initially holding the back of the seat and the handlebars and letting go. The kids never got the balance and then crashed, over and over again. Scrapes. Tears. Stomping. Frustration. And that was just me!

    Then I went to the grass and held right under their armpits and ran along side, releasing my hands - first for 2 seconds, then 3, then 10 -- from their body but keeping my hands in place to grab them quickly when they were about to fall. It worked within about 15 minutes and this was after weeks of trying other methods.

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    Quote Originally Posted by littlewaywelt
    Did this over the weekend. Worked beautifully. He's now riding laps in the front yard. Amazing how quickly they get it. He's having trouble getting going and needs a push, but in about fiive minutes he pretty much had the balance and pedaling thing figured out.
    You could try getting the LBS to put on a larger rear sprocket to overcome this. when he's developed the strength and co-ordination sufficiently, try putting the original sprocket back on.

  14. #14
    Senior Member littlewaywelt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by atbman
    You could try getting the LBS to put on a larger rear sprocket to overcome this. when he's developed the strength and co-ordination sufficiently, try putting the original sprocket back on.
    great idea. I can't believe that never occurred to me.
    One Less Car
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  15. #15
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    I'll have to try that scoot method. I know if my daughter (turned 5 Sunday) falls and gets a boo boo, it'll be all over for a while. We live in the country so the roads are a bit scarey for me with her so I take her to a Church parking lot a few blocks away. She could scoot all over the place there. My wife wants to ride also and get a trailer for our one year old, but I'd love to get her sister riding. Not sure what it would be like to haul 65 - 70 lbs. around in a trailer. I just got back on the bike myself. I'm 44 and figure it's something we can continue to do together for some time.

  16. #16
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    For me, the key is not to pressure, and keep the size of the bike/height of the seat low enough and the speed slow enough so that the child can learn to balance at his/her own pace without suffering all the bumps and bruises.

    I remember when I learned to ride. There were no small scooters then (or they were not available in my area). We had no sidewalks, so I had to learn on a bike that was too large for me on a cinder covered drive way. I had plenty of space to ride - and there were no cars around, but training wheels were out of the question - wouldn't roll in the cinders - and the inevitable falls were out of the question.

    I remember that I finally learned how to stay on the bike, but, would have a terrible time getting off - just could not quite master the technique of slowing down and breaking my fall with my legs. I was forever plowing into bushes or just plain falling off to stop.

    There were many painful falls. As much as I loved riding, I dreaded having to come to a stop.

    When I taught my kids, I was not aware of any BF recommendations (internet was pretty primitive back then), but I was determined to eliminate as much of the fear and unpleasantness of the process for my kids as possible.

    Really small bikes were available, and that is what I bought.

    I doubt either of my kids would have tolerated not being able to pedal right away - they were products of the hot wheels trikes - and my son was particularly impatient and stubborn - so, I left the training wheels on for quite a while. But, when they came off, both kids sailed away on their own without a single fall - and, for the most part, the process was enjoyable with both kids.

    Obviously, some learn faster than others. My daughter was easier to teach than my son - he tends to be strong headed and tough to teach - she is more compliant, trusting, and more readily accepts and follows instructions.

    Above all, try to enjoy your role as a teacher and do not let the apparent slowness to catch on frustrate you.

    Caruso

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    The Bf method worked wonderfully for my son . He has used training wheels for a long
    while . I removed the pedal and lowered the seat . Being patience is the key and trying
    to explain what he is to do . I let him roll around for a week and he was starting to caost quite
    good with his feet up. He asked me to put the pedals back on. I left the seat down still .
    I was getting my bike out and was asking if he was ready to try . He was already gone
    with a big grin on his face. That was one of my most happiest moments since having kids.
    I don't have the best skills and temper when trying to teach a kid something to do and translate it
    to him . This Bf method works wonderful just give it time and patience.

    Dynodan

  18. #18
    Senior Member Fibber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fibber
    I'm in the throws of it also. My little one is only 4.5 yrs old, but wants to ride with the family. She is a peanut, so I picked up a 12" tire bike at a yard sale ($4), took off the pedal crank and chain, and lavishly covered every sharp part with duck tape. I have here wear her rollerskate attire (helmet, gloves, knee & elbow pads), and have been letting her coast up and down the lower section (35' x 75') of our drive. It has a gentle slope to the ends, lowest in the middle. She can go 10-15' with her feet up, and I bet she could balance further if it was not for the diminished speed.

    I firmly believe that she will teach herself, she is that motivated. Don't be so quick to give up!
    I wanted to add / update progress since I posted this. Annie can now "Flintstone" to speed quickly, then coast with her feet up for quite some distance. When she slows and begins to wobble, she kicks back up to speed and continues. If we have a car parked in the center of our 'basketball court', she can steer around it and go round and round. Bottom line is that she has the balance and steering thing pretty much nailed.

    So with much fanfair, I brought up the box with her new 12" tire bike from Target on Sunday ($29, purchased about a year ago), and together we built it. She was so excited.

    I put on the pedals but not the training wheels, hoping that her balance skills would immediately transfer. It didn't work. Getting started, even when using the downslope, was more than she could handle. Several times she pedaled backwards, locking up the coaster brake. We needed to master basic pedal skills first. So at mommy's urging, I put on the training wheels. Within an hour, I began to slowly move the training wheels up along their slotted holes so that she could add in some balancing. As of last night they were up about 1.25" on both sides.

    On straight runs she keeps the bike up on the tires, and the training wheels barely ever touch the ground. Turns are a problem, however, as she is now leaning outward. The presence of the training wheels is oddly counterproductive, as she is relying on them rather than working the balance she showed when Flintstoning on the other bike. More than once she almost rolled it, going too fast. For the rest of the night, I had her go back and forth between the two bikes in hopes of combining the skills.

    The saga continues.....

  19. #19
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    Our experience is that they spend a lot of time wobbling twenty feet at a shot, day after day. Then, they suddenly "get it" and reach a pretty good level of proficiency in an afternoon. You just have to be patient and work to keep the learning process fun.

    Paul

  20. #20
    Je pose, donc je suis. gcl8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 40 Cent
    OK, here's my method. It worked on my 2 boys (who were having the darndest time getting it) as well as a couple of neihbor kids. Now I tell everyone:

    Hold the kid, not the bike!

    I was initially holding the back of the seat and the handlebars and letting go. The kids never got the balance and then crashed, over and over again. Scrapes. Tears. Stomping. Frustration. And that was just me!

    Then I went to the grass and held right under their armpits and ran along side, releasing my hands - first for 2 seconds, then 3, then 10 -- from their body but keeping my hands in place to grab them quickly when they were about to fall. It worked within about 15 minutes and this was after weeks of trying other methods.
    I did something similar -- well, a combination of this and the 'whiz-bang' method -- in that I couldn't find a suitable hill nearby, so, after taking off the pedals and lowering the seat, I pushed her along by pushing on her back and running alongside.

    Which brings me to the OP: if your hill isn't steep enough, or long enough, then the child will just 'walk' the bike along without ever gaining enough momemtum to have the epiphany you're anticipating. Push her along so she can pick her feet up a bit.

  21. #21
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    Just please, please don't do what my parents did to teach my to ride w/o training wheels.

    My parents removed the training wheels. Told me I was to ride on the sidewalk infront of our house and the houses on either side of us (for a three house length total distance). Then they basically went inside and told me I wasn't allowed back in until I could ride. I fell over so many times and got so frustrated, but they wouldn't let me quit until I finally got it after who knows how many attempts and falls. Yup, not the best way to teach IMO, though it did work in the end.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadrider63
    SNIP
    My wife wants to ride also and get a trailer for our one year old, but I'd love to get her sister riding. Not sure what it would be like to haul 65 - 70 lbs. around in a trailer. I just got back on the bike myself. I'm 44 and figure it's something we can continue to do together for some time.
    May I suggest a tandem (or two) to get something your entire family can be involved with? You might want to visit the Tandem portion of this forum.
    NewbieIATandem
    Big Team on Trek T900

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fibber
    I wanted to add / update progress since I posted this. Annie can now "Flintstone" to speed quickly, then coast with her feet up for quite some distance. When she slows and begins to wobble, she kicks back up to speed and continues. If we have a car parked in the center of our 'basketball court', she can steer around it and go round and round. Bottom line is that she has the balance and steering thing pretty much nailed.

    So with much fanfair, I brought up the box with her new 12" tire bike from Target on Sunday ($29, purchased about a year ago), and together we built it. She was so excited.

    I put on the pedals but not the training wheels, hoping that her balance skills would immediately transfer. It didn't work. Getting started, even when using the downslope, was more than she could handle. Several times she pedaled backwards, locking up the coaster brake. We needed to master basic pedal skills first. So at mommy's urging, I put on the training wheels. Within an hour, I began to slowly move the training wheels up along their slotted holes so that she could add in some balancing. As of last night they were up about 1.25" on both sides.

    On straight runs she keeps the bike up on the tires, and the training wheels barely ever touch the ground. Turns are a problem, however, as she is now leaning outward. The presence of the training wheels is oddly counterproductive, as she is relying on them rather than working the balance she showed when Flintstoning on the other bike. More than once she almost rolled it, going too fast. For the rest of the night, I had her go back and forth between the two bikes in hopes of combining the skills.

    The saga continues.....
    I always started with the pedals and training wheels to acclimate the child to the propulsion/braking skills.....then I removed the pedals and training wheels and waited for the balance to kick in. The I put the pedals back on and ...away they went.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by 40 Cent
    OK, here's my method. It worked on my 2 boys (who were having the darndest time getting it) as well as a couple of neihbor kids. Now I tell everyone:

    Hold the kid, not the bike!
    I'm sure that he was just ready yesterday anyway, but when I focused on him rather than the bike last night, it really did result in pedalling independence that he carried through to this morning. I stayed running with him. The first time, he was panting, panicking at being cut loose when I let go of his shoulders, and then I could just touch his back and that calmed him down, he knew I was there, and he got on w/ the business at hand. Now he can pedal indefinitely, but starting is still rough for him. I don't mind helping him get going, I want his pedalling fun/starting work ratio to stay around like 9:1 for now. Will boost the work on starting as the week progresses, hopefully he will be independent in time to ride to school.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Fibber's Avatar
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    Mission control reports we have successful liftoff. Liftoff at 7:25pm EDT. The one kid crew reports all systems are normal....

    Last night when I got home Annie, now 4yrs 7months old asked me to take off the training wheels. I asked her to demonstrate that she could 'flintstone' on her other bike (the one stripped of crank), and she glided along with her feet up at will. So off came the training wheels of her new bike. I also took off the pedals and had her flintstone that one for a bit. While they are the same size, I wanted to make sure that her balance would translate to a slightly different frame geometry. Within a few minutes, she figured out how to balance on it, so on went the pedals, and a gentle push start. Off came my hands, and she pedaled away with me running hard to keep close enough to rescue her if necessary! It was a great first night.

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