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Help-Teaching a Grandchild to pedal.

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Help-Teaching a Grandchild to pedal.

Old 02-13-17, 08:25 AM
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since6 
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Help-Teaching a Grandchild to pedal.

Grandchildren are a wonderful means to re-explore the world. So it was with some anticipation that I took my soon to be 5 year old grandson and his 20" bike with training wheels out to a big deserted school playground to ride and learn how to use his coaster brake and single front wheel hand brake.

All did no go as anticipated, again they help you re-explore the world. He would push down with the pedal, but then either stop at the bottom of the pedal stroke, or, as it rose up back pedal and then lock his coaster brake. Adjustments were made to seat height, but no go. As our mutual frustration mounted I remembered a basic rule - make it fun-and we stopped for the day to go throw his foam airplanes and play on the play ground equipment, but with much praise and that we would "try this again another day". So no harm was done.

But, I had forgotten that just like learning to walk, there is indeed a process in learning how to pedal, so the title to this thread.

What am I missing?

What tricks, ideas, suggestions can you offer to help us both get pass this momentary road block?

Thanks for your help.
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Old 02-13-17, 08:41 AM
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Try the balance bike method;
You want him to learn the balance aspect of riding a bike first.
Remove the training wheels and the crank(or at least just the pedals, but the entire crank is best)
Set the seat height so that when he is sitting on the seat his feet are flat on the ground.
Then have him use the bike as a balance bike, pushing it along with his feet on the ground, and lifting them up to coast when he feel comfortable doing so.
Then take him to a very slight incline, and have him go down it on his bike, pushing with his feet, and lifting them to coast. He can put his feet down at any time to stop, or keep his balance.
If you have to you can demonstrate using your bike so he gets the idea.
It won't take long for him to learn the balance and what it feels like. When he feel comfortable, put the crank and pedals back on. Leave the training wheels off, he doesn't need them, he knows how to balance, they will be a step backwards.
You'll be surprised at how fast he will learn to ride his bike, just go at his pace.
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Old 02-13-17, 09:22 AM
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Lift the rear wheel an inch of the ground. Ask your grandson to grab the NDS pedal with his hand and "Make Circles". Help him become familiar with the concept that "Making Circles" makes the wheel go around. Emphasize that it isn't a "Left push-right push" thing like walking, it's a circle thing. The goal is spinning that rear wheel, not moving the bike. Try to get his attention on how well he can make the rear wheel spin.

Then have him sit on the bike. With your hand under the saddle, lift the rear wheel an inch off the ground and ask him to make circles. The focus should be on making that rear wheel SPIN, not propelling the bike forward. Once he's figured out how to make that wheel spin.....you know what comes next.
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Old 02-13-17, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by since6 View Post
What am I missing?

What tricks, ideas, suggestions can you offer to help us both get pass this momentary road block?

Thanks for your help.
With my kids, I actually moved their feet on the pedals with my hand to get them to feel the motion.
The tough thing about coaster brake bikes and little kids is at the top of the stroke, the foot needs to pivot so the toe goes up a bit. This allows the crank to continue forward. There are a couple inches of 'play' in kids coaster cranks, so if the foot stays level with the ground when it reaches the top, and pedaling was slow, then its easy for the foot to then move backwards a bit due to the play and engage the brakes.
Teaching the foot/ankle movement for the foot thats at the top of the stroke is something that both my kids didnt just naturally know. I would guess with your grandson's age, he will pick up on that pretty easily after a few tries.



The other advice on balancing, mentioned earlier, is really true. Once the pedal stroke is down, balancing is best learned without pedals. Feet on the ground and coast down a slight decline. This can be on the current bike with pedals removed, or on an acutal balance bike like Strider, or a spare bike.
Craigslist is typically great of a used balance bike or a spare bike for cheap to turn into a balance bike.
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Old 02-13-17, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by leob1 View Post
Try the balance bike method;
You want him to learn the balance aspect of riding a bike first.
Remove the training wheels and the crank(or at least just the pedals, but the entire crank is best)
Set the seat height so that when he is sitting on the seat his feet are flat on the ground.
Then have him use the bike as a balance bike, pushing it along with his feet on the ground, and lifting them up to coast when he feel comfortable doing so.
Then take him to a very slight incline, and have him go down it on his bike, pushing with his feet, and lifting them to coast. He can put his feet down at any time to stop, or keep his balance.
If you have to you can demonstrate using your bike so he gets the idea.
It won't take long for him to learn the balance and what it feels like. When he feel comfortable, put the crank and pedals back on. Leave the training wheels off, he doesn't need them, he knows how to balance, they will be a step backwards.
You'll be surprised at how fast he will learn to ride his bike, just go at his pace.
This is what my friends who are in the bike industry suggest.
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Old 02-13-17, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by leob1 View Post
Try the balance bike method;
You want him to learn the balance aspect of riding a bike first.
Remove the training wheels and the crank(or at least just the pedals, but the entire crank is best)
Set the seat height so that when he is sitting on the seat his feet are flat on the ground.
Then have him use the bike as a balance bike, pushing it along with his feet on the ground, and lifting them up to coast when he feel comfortable doing so.
Then take him to a very slight incline, and have him go down it on his bike, pushing with his feet, and lifting them to coast. He can put his feet down at any time to stop, or keep his balance.
If you have to you can demonstrate using your bike so he gets the idea.
It won't take long for him to learn the balance and what it feels like. When he feel comfortable, put the crank and pedals back on. Leave the training wheels off, he doesn't need them, he knows how to balance, they will be a step backwards.
You'll be surprised at how fast he will learn to ride his bike, just go at his pace.
That's what I think too. I think that training wheels do nothing but delay the process of learning to ride a bike.
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Old 02-13-17, 11:20 AM
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Toe Clips?
Biking shoes + Cleats + Clipless Pedals?

Ok... my guess is that it will just take practice. Try again, and he'll get the pedalling (with normal pedals) down.

My nephew was a little uncoordinated with learning to bike, and I towed him around on an Ally Cat Shadow (one of many trailer bikes). I think the pedals simply coasted in reverse (brakes back there would have been bad). Anyway I think the Allycat shadow helped with pedalling and getting ready to learn to bike.

I've never tried the balance bike idea, perhaps the next kid I train to ride a bike.
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Old 02-13-17, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by leob1 View Post
Try the balance bike method;
You want him to learn the balance aspect of riding a bike first.
Remove the training wheels and the crank(or at least just the pedals, but the entire crank is best)
Set the seat height so that when he is sitting on the seat his feet are flat on the ground.
Then have him use the bike as a balance bike, pushing it along with his feet on the ground, and lifting them up to coast when he feel comfortable doing so.
Then take him to a very slight incline, and have him go down it on his bike, pushing with his feet, and lifting them to coast. He can put his feet down at any time to stop, or keep his balance.
If you have to you can demonstrate using your bike so he gets the idea.
It won't take long for him to learn the balance and what it feels like. When he feel comfortable, put the crank and pedals back on. Leave the training wheels off, he doesn't need them, he knows how to balance, they will be a step backwards.
You'll be surprised at how fast he will learn to ride his bike, just go at his pace.
Friends of mine went thru this, and essentially followed this plan. They got a cheap, simple 'balance bike' when their son was 4 or so, let him get used to that, and then bought a kids bike (a fancy one with belt instead of chain). He was riding it immediately, and even able pedal tight circles on a narrow road without a problem. Within a month he was doing fairly long rides (up to 8 miles) with his parents. Never used training wheels.

I can still vaguely remember using training wheels as a kid. As I recall, training wheels require you to NOT treat the bike like a vehicle that requires balance. I think it's counterproductive to learning to cycle.
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Old 02-13-17, 11:25 AM
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Wish I could help you. Got my grandson a bike for his 5th birthday. Now he's 6 1/2, the training wheels are still on it and the bike is in his backyard rusting. He just wants to play video games.
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Old 02-13-17, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
That's what I think too. I think that training wheels do nothing but delay the process of learning to ride a bike.
I don't agree. The kid has to learn both and it doesn't really matter whether the balancing or the pedalling is learned first.

The advantage of sidewheels is that the kid can go places before he really knows how to ride bike. Especiallly if there are other kids in the neighbourhood who already know how to ride it will encourage and enthouse the kid to ride with them. He will learn about balance doing so but without the need to be able to balance the bike fully.
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Old 02-13-17, 12:38 PM
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Interesting that most responses to a kid not knowing how to pedal have been for the kid to only use a balance bike. That teaches balance and not pedaling. A kid wont learn how to pedal by removing the pedals(and crank).

As mentioned, a balance bike is excellent...for learning to balance.
And yeah, training wheels limit balance development. But training wheels are fantastic for allowing younger kids to be free with the older kids. You can see this in any neighborhood where kids play with one another outside at a young age.
Balance bikes then allow the kid to work on removing the training wheels when a parent is around to help with the practice.


But in the end- balance bikes dont teach a kid to angle the foot toe up at the apex of the stroke. This is what typically keeps beginners from being able to pedal a coaster brake.
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Old 02-13-17, 12:48 PM
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After getting pretty good pedaling with training wheels, kids are given an upgraded bicycle without them, and usually learn ballance in an afternoon.

Perhaps BOTH training wheels and a balance/push bike would help.
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Old 02-13-17, 01:36 PM
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Both my kids started on a strider bike and were able to switch to a pedal bike at about 3 years old with very little effort and no training wheels. Seriously like ten minutes to figure it out.
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Old 02-13-17, 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by leob1 View Post
Try the balance bike method;
With my son, he got a razor-type scooter for Christmas one year and enjoyed riding that thing around. I noticed that he got to where he would often push with one foot and then ride the scooter around with that foot off the ground, so I knew he would make an easy transition from scooter to bike. I think it only took like 5 minutes between taking the training wheels off and him being able to ride without them.

My daughter is currently 5 but I think she's a bit scared of her bike because it was a bit big for her last year. She fits on it now but can't reach the ground with her feet, so she's a bit hesitant to ride it. She still prefers her tricycle but I want to get her riding her bike at least with training wheels, but may try the balance method if she's willing.
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Old 02-13-17, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by SquidPuppet View Post
Then have him sit on the bike. With your hand under the saddle, lift the rear wheel an inch off the ground and ask him to make circles. The focus should be on making that rear wheel SPIN, not propelling the bike forward. Once he's figured out how to make that wheel spin.....you know what comes next.
Let go of the seat and see how far he goes...
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Old 02-13-17, 02:10 PM
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Here's what I did when it was time for my daughter to learn. No training wheels. I would run along side (it's good exercise) while getting her up to speed as she pedaled. Then I let go but stayed right beside her if she started to lose her balance. Over time she would be able to start without me and go for longer distances without me beside her. Eventually she was free to fly. The process took a couple of months. This was done on a nice soft grassy field. I was hoping the cycling would stick, but she hasn't ridden a bike since 15 yo.
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Old 02-13-17, 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Milton Keynes View Post
Let go of the seat and see how far he goes...

If he gets the back wheel spinning super fast, when you drop the bike he'll rip a big old wheelie.

Not sure we are at that stage yet, though.
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Old 02-13-17, 02:14 PM
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Tricycle taught my kid pedaling, and a mentioned above, Razor scooter taught him balance. Step to bicycle was a piece of cake from there.
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Old 02-13-17, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Stadjer View Post
I don't agree. The kid has to learn both and it doesn't really matter whether the balancing or the pedalling is learned first.

The advantage of sidewheels is that the kid can go places before he really knows how to ride bike. Especiallly if there are other kids in the neighbourhood who already know how to ride it will encourage and enthouse the kid to ride with them. He will learn about balance doing so but without the need to be able to balance the bike fully.
I think it does matter which is learned first. Learning to ride with training wheels is pretty much the same as learning to ride a tricycle, except that it's much easier to tip over on a bike with training wheels, and much harder to turn. It's a fundamentally different experience , and a frustrating experience. You do not turn the bars or lean the bike in the same way with the training wheels. And if the little tyke gets going with any speed and tries to turn, a painful fall often results.

And they actually cannot 'go anywhere' -- the small-radius training wheels catch on every imperfection in the sidewalk or driveway.. There's nothing intuitive about it. Further, once a child has learned to ride a bike with training wheels, they have to unlearn all their riding technique except the pedaling part.
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Old 02-13-17, 04:43 PM
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I taught all three of my kids to ride. The training wheels didn't help at all I found. If anything, it seem to prevent them from getting the concept. I find that often with kid bikes, it isn't easy to pedal because they have to bring their knees up very high at the top of the stroke so it's important to get them comfortable balancing first so you can use a bike that isn't too small.

With my third, I bought a cheap kids bike, removed the pedals and crank and let him scoot around on it when we walked to the park. When he was ready, I had him wear a backpack with handle at the top and ran beside him with my hand on the handle while he pedaled. He was riding before the age of 4. I used a bike with training wheels for my first child and she couldn't ride until the age of seven.

I gave the bike to my cousin when it was time for him to teach his son.
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Old 02-13-17, 05:06 PM
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I started on a tricycle. One with direct-drive to the front wheel. My first fixie! Maybe that's what the kid really needs.
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Old 02-13-17, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
I started on a tricycle. One with direct-drive to the front wheel. My first fixie! Maybe that's what the kid really needs.
Exactly. The fixed gear aspect of the tricycle teaches the pattern best.
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Old 02-13-17, 08:25 PM
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I started my son with a tricycle. He was 1.5 yrs old. I put his feet on the pedals and held my hands over his feet and together we would spin the pedals around. He got it pretty quick. I like the idea of showing them off the bike, pushing the pedals with their hands to see the wheel move...

I tried a balance bike first but he did not like that at all. So we just skipped it.
He got his first real bike, with training wheels, shortly after age 2 I think. He took to it just fine with the pedaling of course...not so much with the coaster brake. That part took a few days. He never pedaled backwards on his trike, and didn't think to pedal backwards on the bike...didn't seem to like that he needed to. I did the same thing though, and showed him with my hands on his feet.

He would keep forgetting and throw his feet down to stop though. So, I made the game "Red light, Green light" into a bike game. Fun for him, practice to me lol. We played it for about a week, every time we would go out riding. He was not allowed to use his feet to stop...he would "lose" the game. He hates nothing more than losing a game...Very, very competitive lol It worked great. Could work in your case for both - green light - pedal forward, red light - pedal back to brake.

ETA - My son will be 5 this May. Since he has become so good with the coaster brake, hills, etc. I have decided to move on to the balance part, and have lifted his training wheels as high as they can go. He took notice right away and had a couple spills but has become much more aware of the need to balance. I would've liked to have started with a balance bike, but he would've rather of not ridden at all lol Kids will learn either way, as they always have, if they want to.

You could certainly pick up a balance bike (or remove his pedals, etc.) and start from there. Maybe he will like that and it will move along more quickly, in the end.
I'm just imagining if he is anything like my son though, that wouldn't fly with him after already having experienced his first real bike lol Worth a shot though if that's something that would help in the end...though that doesn't help with learning to pedal either.

Last edited by Hardrock23; 02-14-17 at 04:12 AM.
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Old 02-13-17, 11:25 PM
  #24  
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+1 to all the balance bike suggestions. Training wheels teach steering that must be unlearned, and the little pedal-less bikes that the kid just pushes around are brilliant. My first used training wheels, the next two a balance bike and it was night and day. Feet are the best training wheels.
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Old 02-14-17, 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Milton Keynes View Post
With my son, he got a razor-type scooter for Christmas one year and enjoyed riding that thing around. I noticed that he got to where he would often push with one foot and then ride the scooter around with that foot off the ground, so I knew he would make an easy transition from scooter to bike. I think it only took like 5 minutes between taking the training wheels off and him being able to ride without them.

My daughter is currently 5 but I think she's a bit scared of her bike because it was a bit big for her last year. She fits on it now but can't reach the ground with her feet, so she's a bit hesitant to ride it. She still prefers her tricycle but I want to get her riding her bike at least with training wheels, but may try the balance method if she's willing.
This is the best way to learn balance on two wheels, even for adults who never learned to ride as a kid.
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