...from an interview with the Wichita Eagle
Learning how to ride a bike, says owner Bob Holliday, doesn't have to mean scraped knees for the child or frayed nerves for the parent. "A lot of times, parents just don't work the process through in their brains," said Holliday, owner of the Bicycle Pedaler in Wichita. With more than 25 years in the bicycle business, he has advised countless parents and children through the bike-riding process."Children learn things in steps,"
he said. "Before they ever walk, they stand. Then they hold on to something. Then eventually, they start walking." Many parents use the "get on and go" approach, Holiday said, spending hours hunched behind a nervous child who is struggling to balance and pedal at the same time. But there's an easier way.Here is Holliday's step-by-step guide to teaching a youngster how to ride:
First, make sure the child is ready. A clear sign? He asks you to take off his training wheels." Usually it's a peer pressure kind of thing," Holliday said. "Maybe a kid in the neighborhood recently got his training wheels off. "Older brothers and sisters often act as catalysts, too." But "a child shouldn't be pushed into something like that," Holliday said. "It shouldn't be something he feels he needs to do to please a parent, or anybody else."
Think safety. Whenever he rides--with or without training wheels--a child should wear a helmet and shoes that won't slip off. Also, a beginner's bike should have a foot brake instead of--or in addition to--a hand brake.
Find an open, paved area with a slight incline. A parking lot with a slight grade works best, Holliday says, but even a driveway on a cul-de-sac is OK. You don't need lots of room, but you'll want to avoid traffic and other distractions. Take the child to the top of the incline and have him coast to the bottom with his feet dangling. At this point, the child should not try to pedal. If he feels like he's about to fall, he should simply put his feet down to stop the bike. "The child gains confidence doing this," Holliday said. "They get a feel for the balance that's needed." Repeat this step until the child can coast down several times with his feet an inch or two above the ground.
Next, have the child coast down the incline with his feet on the pedals (but not pedaling). Repeat until he feels secure.
Finally, have the child pedal the bike once or twice on the way down, to get the feel for balancing and pedaling simultaneously. That combination is the tricky part for most children, Holliday said.
"As adults, we think about riding a bike as just riding a bike. We don't look at all the different things that have to happen together." A step-by-step approach that lets a child balance on a bike before trying to pedal makes the process less overwhelming, he said.
Learning to ride can take less than an hour or several days, Holiday said. Just remember that it's supposed to be fun
. "You're outside spending time together, so that's a good thing. Just enjoy it."