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Thread: Fear of biking

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    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    Fear of biking

    I've been trying to establish a tradition of family biking, but my 7-year old daughter just isn't taking to it. She won't ride her bike with training wheels because she is terrified that she's going to fall over. I've repeatedly tried walking/running along with her as she rides, but if the bike leans even a little bit she freaks out.

    I thought maybe I could get her over this by hitching a tag-a-long to my bike and having her ride with me, but we rented one today and in less than five seconds (literally) she was screaming for me to stop. She was afraid because I was going too fast (~6 mph). After stopping, I couldn't talk her into getting back on the bike.

    Is there anything I can do to help her get past this?

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    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Take off her training wheels. Take off her pedals. Lower the seat so she can put both feet on the ground and
    move the bike with her feet. Leave her alone on the side walk.
    She will soon balance and want the pedals back on.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
    I've been trying to establish a tradition of family biking, but my 7-year old daughter just isn't taking to it. She won't ride her bike with training wheels because she is terrified that she's going to fall over.

    Is there anything I can do to help her get past this?
    Ask her what is scaring her (and no, for this just falling over isn't specific enough ). There are a lot of very reasonable fears she could be experiencing. If you know what is scaring her, you can help her find solutions. If her fear is an unreasonable one, you can provide emotional support. Often, kids find it easier to face unreasonable fears if they know they've got a safe adult who will be there for them.

    At a guess, I think she's scared of falling and hurting herself badly. If that is what she's afraid of, it would be good to teach her how to fall. If she learns that she can fall and not get hurt, the bike will be a lot less scary.

    She might also be afraid that going fast means she *will* fall. And well, that's a great example of an unreasonable fear. If she understands that you will be there to keep her safe, and that you will stop when she needs it, then she will gradually get over the fear.

    (And I'm sure there are lots of other options. Kids come up with all sorts of stuff that might seem crazy to an adult.)

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    Senior Member st0ut's Avatar
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    If you have cousins that are near and the same age or a bit older...
    go to a park for a picnic and all the kids bring bikes.

    dont force her to go on her bike. just let the others rider thier bike in a safe area and she if she decided to join in with hers.

    might motivate her.
    Cars make you weak.

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    Just my lowly opinion in this situation, but I have a 5 year old who is in the same boat/bike. She won't even entertain having us take her training wheels off. I was more than a little stressed by this, since it's one of my dreams that we all bicycle together. Then, I expressed this to one of the fathers in the neighborhood. His daughter is in the Gifted and Talented class at school and seems to excel at everything. He quickly pointed out to me that his daughter wasn't "independent on a bike, until she was eight years old." Needless to say, I'm much less stressed now. It will happen when it happens. My daughter loves her bike....with training wheels....for now. It will happen eventually. It's like potty training....no one goes to college having that issue! :-D Hope this helps!
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    Take off her training wheels. Take off her pedals. Lower the seat so she can put both feet on the ground and
    move the bike with her feet. Leave her alone on the side walk.
    She will soon balance and want the pedals back on.
    That's an interesting technique. I'll probably give it a try, but I don't think the problem is primarily with ability to ride at this point. I'll definitely try that when she's open to it though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Torrilin View Post
    At a guess, I think she's scared of falling and hurting herself badly. If that is what she's afraid of, it would be good to teach her how to fall. If she learns that she can fall and not get hurt, the bike will be a lot less scary.
    Thanks for the very helpful reply. So, what would this entail? Maybe taking the bike into the back yard and having her fall in the grass a few times?

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    Quote Originally Posted by st0ut View Post
    If you have cousins that are near and the same age or a bit older...
    go to a park for a picnic and all the kids bring bikes....might motivate her.
    You'd think so wouldn't you? Her older sister and other girls in the neighborhood ride around in front of the house all summer. Last year, her choice was to run along beside them on the sidewalk.

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    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    My 8 year old (she's a little one) just started riding without training wheels today (woot!) and I also got the tag a long hooked up so I could take her out on longer rides, get her used to spinning the pedals more smoothly, and help her work on balance.



    My 10 year old daughter is really apprehensive about riding and must have picked up some bad genes from her mom but I'm not worried and expect her skills to improve pretty quickly.

    The boys were tearing it up at 5 and 6...

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    Quote Originally Posted by DynamicD74 View Post
    It will happen eventually. It's like potty training....no one goes to college having that issue! :-D Hope this helps!
    Thanks, that does help. But I want to go on family rides now! Darn kids, never keeping to my timetable....

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    Senior Member st0ut's Avatar
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    My son who happily is a bike nut at 6 is in martial arts where he learns to get thrown, roll and protect his head. Gymmastics is helpful as well.
    get her some pads knees elbows and gloves so she feel protected.
    I wouldnt suger coat it though you have to let her know that she will fall. but that its OK.
    Cars make you weak.

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    Is she an overly cautious child by nature?

    Maybe she's fallen off something or has been pushed by an older child, and that's where the fear originated.

    You could get her into some tumbling/gymnastics classes if she was interested. You could find a hill and teach her how to roll down it sideways. You could get on some grass, and pretend to be old west gunslingers and take turns dying and falling on the grass. Any number of things. Just leave off the bike for awhile.

    If there's an ice cream shop nearby, you could later announce a ride for ice cream. Doubt it would be long before she'd want to hop on that bike.

    Finally, those training wheels are tippy as I recall. Can they be made flush with the ground level so there's no side to side wobble?

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    My youngest daughter tells me the most important thing about learing how to ride is how to crash...

    She got the good cycling genes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
    Thanks for the very helpful reply. So, what would this entail? Maybe taking the bike into the back yard and having her fall in the grass a few times?
    What I did as a little girl was go out and practice for hours. I'd ride around the cul de sac, and on each loop, I'd "fall" on a patch of gravel into a neighbor's yard. I remember asking a parent about it (probably my dad) and whichever one I asked thought it was a good idea. I knew from gymnastics that if I "fell" and wasn't tense that falls didn't hurt much, but doing it with a bike was a bit different than in gym or dance classes. I would have been about 8, maybe 9. (up until I was 8, we lived on a high speed road where it would not have been ok for me to ride alone until I was *solid* on the rules of the road... so I didn't learn to ride a bike until relatively late)

    For your daughter, it really might not be fear of getting hurt. That's why I said to ask her . She may not have words right away, but if you listen and are patient she'll figure it out. It's really ok if she has training wheels on for what feels like forever. Mine probably stayed on for most of 2 summers.

    I was (and still am) easily startled and fairly cautious by nature. So I'd see scary things all the time, or imagine up ridiculous results from doing something perfectly safe. I had really supportive parents who listened to my fears and helped me face them, so I ended up pretty fearless as an adult. And if I wanted to do something "dangerous", they let me.

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    We talked about it over dinner tonight. At the safety of the dinner table, it was a bit hard to get her to pin it down precisely. It seemed a bit like the answers I would give if someone asked me why I'm afraid of bees. She finally did say she was afraid of getting hurt. We talked about how when her sister crashed her bike last year she didn't get hurt very badly -- just scrapes. I think she's knows that it's not really dangerous, but I know that doesn't always make it less scary. She's a lot like you said you were as a child, Torrilin -- always seeing the negative possibilities. I guess some combination of patience and tumbling is in order.

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    I've got a 7 year old with similar issues - he can ride a bike, he just doesn't want to. I offered to get a tandem, and he leaped at that. The BikeFriday tandem seems perfect: http://www.bikefriday.com/familytand...eExternalId=11

    The smaller wheels let you adjust the stoker seat and handlebars way down, so you don't need the clunky crank extenders you need with a regular tandem with larger wheels. We're actually going to get the triple version - the older son got jealous and wants to ride on it also. The really nice thing is that since it is designed to take apart (it is not a folder), you can actually take the middle stoker position out and the result is basically the tandem. Lots of flexibility, with room to grow. Check out Diablo Scott's blog for a quick review:
    http://diabloscott.blogspot.com/

    He updates his blog a lot, so it's pretty far down the page.

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    Andy K

    I go along with the "lower the wheels and remove the pedals" solution. At home, it worked for our 2 daughters. The success was more evident in the case of my oldest daughter because she would learn by literally crawling on the bike. After 2-3 days, she made longer and longer steps (still at 2 km/h), and after a week, when I installed the pedals, she would ride in an almost straight line at a very low speed. It took her a few weeks to gain speed.

    As for training wheels, I remember that back in my youth they were fairly stable (I don't think I ever fell with them), but the training wheels that were on my oldest daughter's first bike were so unstable that I removed them immediately. The slightest movement and she would fall sideways over the training wheels. In other words, they didn't inspire confidence.
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    I think training wheels are counter-productive. I agree that you should lower the seat, remove the pedals, and just let her play with the bike in a non-threatening way. She'll get there eventually, but you know, she might just not want to ride a bike.

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    Did I have the worst parents in the world? (wait, I think it was all my older brother's doing)
    They left me to try to walk on my own. I fell down. Go figure.
    They sent me down a hill on a bike and of course I fell. Over and over again. I did it until I DIDN'T fall...
    They threw me in a pool ... I didn't drown.

    Was this their early attempts at making me a triathlete?
    Point is don't coddle these children, let them fall, scrape their knees.
    We have band aids and kisses.
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    My eight year old called me at the shop last night to tell me she had been riding her bike without training wheels... which translates to "I was riding my bike".

    First thing this morning she had to tell me how she was riding her bike and tell me how much she wants to go riding with me after school... we're going to go the park with her mtb (she has 3 bikes) and let her do some riding on the grass.

    I don't like training wheels as they are akin to a crutch and make it hard for kids to learn those essential balance skills and there can be a lot of trauma when you take away the crutch.


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    Andy,

    There are certain kids and people that will always have this fear of the ground moving underneath them, but I think there are several good ideas that have been given here that you can use. If her seat cannot be lowered enough for her feet to be flat on the ground it may require a smaller bike or "Townie" style bike. Though you have to be careful not to force her too much so you might intensify her fears I think if you take the multi-angle approach you will be the most successful. I would get her some elbow pads and gloves and maybe knee pads and a good helmet and make her wear long levi's and maybe a Levi jacket or something while practicing. Train her to understand that she may fall but if she is properly dressed and in the safe areas she will not likely get hurt very bad.

    Then you could give her some kind of reward that she would really like for practicing 15 minutes everyday in a safe place. Something that would be motivating enough to help her forget her fear. Without the pedals at first and then gradually with the pedals. I think the idea of pedaling is too scary for some kinds until they know how to balance the bike a little. Also, it might be possible to set up a kids single speed with lower gearing so that they can pedal on the grass which if they fall will not hurt them much.
    Last edited by Hezz; 04-29-08 at 07:19 PM.

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    Senior Member Fibber's Avatar
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    This is the ugly training tool that I put together for my daughter last year. It began life as a $4 yard sale find, and was a 'whole bike' when I found it.

    It has 12" tires, so is close to the ground. I stripped off the pedals, crank & chain, then duct taped over every sharp surface. With the seat all the way down, my then 4 1/2 year old daughter could 'Flintstone' this 'scooter' all over our driveway. After a week, she could lift her legs, and glide until she slowed, then kick again to get back up to speed. The beauty of this approach is that you are not doing a thing! They teach themselves to ride.

    Two weeks later we assembled a brand new bike for her, and she never looked back. I did put the training wheels on the new bike for a day just so she could learn the pedaling part without having to concentrate on what she had learned about balancing as well.

    During the training, I had her wear full body armor (helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, & gloves from a roller skate kit), and long pants, long sleeve shirt, and sneakers. With this much protection, there were no tears on the few times that she did dump the bike. She hardly seemed to mind it at all, being that she was so very much in control on this creation.

    I've loaned this to friends, and the record so far is 4 days from delivery to return!
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    Last edited by Fibber; 05-04-08 at 07:43 PM.

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    Training wheels are supposed to be stable enough that the bike won't fall over, but a bit off the ground so as to allow the bicycle to be ridden while learning that it does in fact balance as you ride it. You just have to be patient and not force it before it comes. Not all children are ready for it at the same age. Personally though, having been there with 2 kids, I don't think a family ride is the way to learn. It's too challenging and intimidating. Too much performance pressure. If you are using training wheels, just let her ride on her own on the sidewalk near the house, or with other kids. It will just come eventually without the pressure of actually being forced to learn.

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    Children will always surprise you when you least expect it, they succeed on their own terms.

    Have had experience with 4 children and now working with grandchildren, with one riding, the others are to small, but do not expect issues with the nest, he is already trying, his sister will be more of a challenge I suspect, as she is little girl with attitude of what she likes and not.

    Motivation is one method, as rewards can obtain desired results. I recall my oldest daughter, trying to teach her to tie her shoes prior to kindergarten, after 6 months of no success, with three or more teachers, (mother, I and kindly neighbor), I tried reward technique, "you can get your ears pierced when you learn to tie your shoes" I offered as I left for office one morning. Twenty minute drive to office, received phone call, (pre-cell era), "Dad, I can tie my shoes"....

    Each child is different, training wheels are as well, we used could qualitiy Schwinn designed units, that had heavy brackets and quality bearing on the wheels, started with them adjusted about even with rear tire, so no tip, then a couple of days later, lowered one side, the non favored side, (if right handed, then the left, if left handed, then the right.), then a couple days more of riding, the longest was week, then lowered the other side, for more tip requiring them to adjust/shift weight. Then soon took off one side, then the other. This was all done on a used girls model bike when each were about 4 1/2. Their fifth birthday, the received their first bike of choice.

    If it was simple teaching them, then you would have no memories to share later as they are challenged by their own children. Of course they will remember differently

    As a parent, finding the right solution is the lesson life provides.

    Wish you all the best, suspecting this one may be, just maybe will your rider extraordinarie

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    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KirkeIsWaiting View Post
    Point is don't coddle these children, let them fall, scrape their knees.
    We have band aids and kisses.


    It won't require any skin grafts and after some rest and ice she was out riding her bike again.

    The force is strong with this one...

    Both my daughters are now tearing it up... having my 8 year old acquire the freedom to ride really inspired her older sister who can almost hold her little sister's wheel.

    My 8 year old and I rode nearly 10 km the other night and her skills are growing exponentially... she has been doing tight figure eights, hard stops with thge newly installed front brake, and crashed today when she was showing me how to mash on the pedals.

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