Tuesday, May 31, 2016

How to teach your kid to ride a bike (Noah's method)

When I learned to ride a bike...a long time ago...my dad basically ran behind me holding the saddle and yelled, "Pedal!"  My only recollection of the experience is raised voices and tears.  From both my dad and me.  Lots of skinned knees and generally lots of, 'lessons.'

So, when it was my turn to teach, I tried a different way. Since then. . .   I'm 4/4 in teaching kids to ride a bike, ages 4-6.  This includes both of my sons, and two nephews.  They all learned in under 3 lessons, with no lesson longer than an hour.  There were no/few tears, almost no falls and no raised voices.  Actually, not so bad.  And it was amazing.

Here's how....

After doing research (i.e., googling and going on youtube), this video is fantastic:

I basically followed this, but I also added a few steps:

0.  Burn the bridge behind you.  Tell your child that training wheels are done and never going back on.  This is good for your kid..., and you.  Then, remove the training wheels.
1.  Before starting, 
  - remove the pedals (threading is backwards on one so they lock as you go forward, but they're easy to take off with a crescent wrench- here's a youtube link for doing it:  https://youtu.be/jD0vhR7SgZU), and
  - make sure the seat is low so your kid's feet can be flat on the ground -- it'll look comically too low, but it should
2.  First step is just to walk with the bike between their legs (takes about 1 minutes).
3.  Start gliding down a gentle slope.  It can be very gentle.  Start only going up a bit and increase as your child gains confidence.  It helped to play a game -- we moved a rock as each boy went further.  Lemonade and skittles also helped with the motivation.  I also did it myself to be goofy and add fun.
4.  Once your child has gliding down mostly, then go to a parking lot and push.  When you push, it's better to push than to run and let go (in fact, running with the child doesn't help much).
5.  Once you can push your child pretty far, put the pedals back on.  Help your child start (starting is really hard).  Hold under his armpits and tell him to start pedaling, then, push to add momentum. It's important that your child is pedaling to start and you don't just push.
6.  Tell your child to put his feet down when finished. And...
7.  I made it a game with lots of levels.  (Level 1, walk with the bike between your legs...  Good job.  Here's a skittle!).  Worked pretty well, especially with my first son.  By the time he got to level 6, he was a pro.

Once your child can go this far, he/she really only has to learn to start, which takes practice, but he/she eventually learns that the key is to start with one of the pedals at about 1:00 and give it a hard push down while pushing forward -- and starting to pedal.

Some notes: 

-  I found it not helpful to run with my child and let go.  While natural and classic, this doesn't help much.  
- It doesn't help to lie and say, "I'll hold on." when you won't.  
- Training wheel, in spite of their name, don't really help train.  The only, sorta benefit is learning how to pedal -- and well- most kids know this from tricycles, hot wheels/ etc.  Brits called training wheels, 'stabilisers,' which is probably a better name, though they should have a z.

And, for inspiration, here are my sons' first days on bikes:

Alex (4 years old at the time):

Teddy (4 years old):

Good luck.  Would love to hear more tips and any feedback that people have.