Saturday, February 26, 2011

"I Can Ride My Bike With No Handlebars

... no handlebars." Not really, but it's a funny lyric, isn't it? And a funky lead-in to today's essay.

Actress Angie Harmon (Law & Order, Women's Murder Club, Rizzoli & Isles) @Angie_Harmon tweeted this morning: Today we're teaching #1 to ride a bike w/ no training wheels... Any tips?? Yikes! Why, yes, yes I do.

It got me thinking about how my dad taught my sister and I to ride a bike and why it worked. I talk through this same process with my customers at the bike shop when they ask me the best way to teach their kid to ride a bike. Here goes:
- Helmets are a must and make sure it fits properly. If the old one is more than three years old, replace it. At the rate a child grows, you might be looking at a new helmet every few years until their head quits growing. Fortunately, helmets these days are incredibly adjustable and you should be able to get at least a year or two out of it.

- Adjust the saddle (seat) height so that your child can touch the ground with flat feet. This will make it easier for them to maintain control of the bike when they loose their balance.

- It helps to have a slight decline to your driveway, and have your driveway empty into a cul-de-sac or a quiet street. This will help gravity do some of the momentum work for you.

- First off, don't worry about the pedaling. Start out just having the child push themselves with their feet and then lifting their feet off the ground. This will make it easier for them to learn to balance on two wheels.

- Once they've mastered balancing with their feet off the ground, have them push themselves with their feet, take their feet off the ground, and put them on the pedals. Don't worry about actually pedaling. That part comes next.

- Once they've got the hang of balancing and putting their feet on the pedals, have them push off with their feet, put their feet on the pedals, and start pedaling!

See? That wasn't so hard, was it?

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

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