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Teaching kids how to ride a bike.

Learning to ride a bike is a watershed moment for a child.  The instant a parent lets go of their child’s saddle and they wobble but don’t fall down freedom is born.  If you can remember that moment you might recall the shear exhilaration of knowing that for the first time in your life you were able to get from here to anywhere.  kid on bikeQuickly. The perception of distance and time would be forever altered, as would your parents’ anxiety every time you mounted up and turned a distant corner.

Teaching a child to ride, unfortunately, is postponed longer than necessary.  The use of  “training wheels” has been misunderstood since their invention.  Their original intent was not meant to train someone to ride but meant to train them to wait until someone taught them to ride.  There are many methods used to teach bicycle riding but the best I have found involves no pedals and no training wheels.

The original modern day no-pedal bike was the Like-a-Bike, a German manufactured miniature bike made from wood laminate.  It is a beautiful work of industrial design and has a price tag to match its one of a kind iconic styling.  Its concept was borrowed from the 1800’s Draisienne or hobby horse.  There are knock-offs, of course, but if you already own a bike and your child is able to put their feet firmly on the ground just take the pedals off.  This turns the bike into a two-wheeled walker without the pedals interfering.

Here’s the thinking and method behind this approach.  Training wheels don’t teach balance because the child depends on them to hold him up.  If the wheels are raised slightly to allow teeter then the child waits for them to catch his balance.  The key to balancing is learning the effect of weight on steering.  Using the bicycle as a hobby horse that you push with your feet you learn quickly that weight affects the direction of your bike.  As the steering and adjustment of weight is developed the glide length increases and before you know it — ba-da-bing — your child is balancing.  Pedaling is easily mastered after this.

So…stop waiting and let your child start learning because the sooner they start riding the sooner you’ll be able to rediscover what it’s like to be a kid again through the eyes of your child.

Reed Caster is an avid cyclist and the parent of two children who outgrew tricycles years ago. He owns and operates Caster’s Bicycles in Warwick, Rhode Island along with his wife Mindy. They will be opening a second location on the East Side of Providence the end of August.

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  • For my older son, he couldn’t get his balance on his 18″ wheel bike because his feet couldn’t reach the ground very well. We took the training wheels off my little guy’s 12″ and let him use it. After 1 hour he was a pro. All on his own, no holding the back of the seat running with him like I remembered. It was a matter of finding his own balance and feeling confident by being able to put both feet down quickly. He now rides his 18″ with confidence and at 5yo is dying to conquer the whole East Bay bike path.