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I taught my kids to ride their bikes on an overcast Saturday morning. It took all of ten minutes to teach them how, and at the bottom of this post, I’ll teach you how. It’s an amazing rite of passage and, for me, one that passed too quickly. I can remember so clearly watching them wobble down the park path, a mix of fear and triumph on their faces — I’m certain my face said the same. I was ready to peel them up off the road and kiss every boo-boo and failed attempt. And, I did.
Now, three years later, my kids can ride up to 15 miles, know road rules, ride in streets and on trails. But with this awesomeness, comes the letting go of being able to kiss it away when they crash, hit a hard bump or get distracted and smash into one-another, falling into an embarrassed heap. The kids fall, pick up their gear, their bikes and one-another. They inspect scrapes, wipe off dirt and get back on their bikes all before I can get to them and offer a mommy kiss. Sometimes I wish we could go back to training wheels.
Here’s my sure-fire way to get a kid off training wheels. Do exactly what I say and your kid will be riding the trails in no time at all. My kid were three turning four when I taught them to ride.
1. Tell them days ahead of time that by Sunday they will be riding without training wheels. Plan a ride together. Drive it, show it to them on a map. It’s a big person ride! Don’t say “if you get off your training wheels” or anything like that, it’s simply something that they *are* going to do with the family this weekend.
2. Remove the pedals. Some bikes require a tool for this and be sure to plan ahead if you need to take the bike to the bike store (If you live in San Jose,Hyland Bikes is the best place in town for this).
3. Lower the seat to the very lowest it can go.
4. Find a park with a slight incline path. This is an important part: Do not try this on a sidewalk. Again, if you live in San Jose, there is a great path near the tennis courts at Bramhall Park. Ideally it is wide with a very slight incline and grass on both sides.
5. Put your kid on the bike and pat their left thigh. Tell your child this is ONE. Pat the right thigh. This is TWO. Ask your child, “Which is one? Which is two?” Have them glide on the bike as you call out “One!” “Two!” They should put their foot down on the leg you are calling out. Have fun with this down the path a bit. If they lean a bit to the left, call out “Two!” to have them lean right. Get it?
6. Glide a few times using One and Two until they are comfortable with it. Slow down the timing of calling out. So call out “One!” then wait a second or two before calling out “Two!” The reason for this is to make sure your child is using the right timing in balancing their bodies and this simulates the amount of time it takes to rotate the legs on the pedals.
7. Put the pedals on. Try not to make a big deal of it. “Great! Now we put the pedals on.” Keep the seat low. Have your child do the One and Two count while just sitting still on the bike. One foot down then the other.
8. Hold onto the back of the seat and the one of the handlebars. Give a good push off and be sure to count outloud, “One!” “Two” as your child needs to balance on each side. If they tip right, call out “One!” to get them to shift balance to the left. You’re almost there.
9. Put the seat up slightly.
10. This is it. Repeat step 8 a few times and your child will be riding. I guarantee it.