I remembered how I learned to ride my bike. My sister held on to the back of my bike ran along with me as I biked. She will secretly let go of her hands and if I am lucky, I will be off riding, otherwise, I will crash and fall.
Somehow after multiple crashes and falls, I figured it out. Therefore I was pretty skeptical when I first saw those fancy balance bikes. But my husband, who is usually a skeptic l like me, was raving about how it was a brilliant idea to teach kids about balancing separate from the pedaling.
I remained skeptical and so decided to teach my son to ride the bike the traditional old school way. I held on to the back of his bike, back bent and went “Pedal, pedal. You can do it.” Pretty soon, my back was aching and everyone was frustrated and miserable.
Tip One: Invest in a Balance Bike
Maybe my husband was right. I put on my analytical engineer hat. There are three main components to riding a bike. One, to keep your balance. Two, to pedal to keep the momentum of the bike. Three, to control the handlebar so you don’t crash into a tree.
My son has no problem pedaling the bike with the training wheels on. But the training wheels had given him a false sense of balance. Therefore once the training wheels come off, they wobble and fall. Once they start wobbling, they panic, lose control of the handlebar, forget to pedal and everything just falls apart.
It was the balancing that was throwing him off. If the balance bike can help my son figure out how to balance, then the pieces will come together.
I did some research and decided to give the Schwinn Balance Bike a try.
I figured it would be worth the investment if we could use it for all three kids.
Tip Two: Patience & Practice
We would bring him to the park and let him scoot around on the balance bikes. The key now is that both of us can enjoy our park trips. He’s happy scooting around with his balance bikes, while I can enjoy my walk with my other children.
I am all for stress-free and fun learning!
The best thing about the balance bikes is that given their low profile, you do not need a flat surface to practice. In fact some gentle slopes are good for them to practice their balancing skills.
We started on a flat surface and as he got more confident, we encouraged him to go down gentle slopes. Once he is comfortable going down a decent sized slope on the balance bike, we decided it was time to give a regular two wheel bike a try.
If the kid is older, this stage of getting comfortable on a balance bike goes by pretty fast. My 7 year old son took about 1-2 months. For younger kids, it could take 2-4 months or more. But the more they practice, the more comfortable and better they will be at balancing on the bike.
Tip 3: Find A Nice Flat Surface to Practice a Two Wheeler
When they are starting out with their regular bikes without training wheels, it is important to find a nice flat surface that is not too crowded. Some of the best spots are school parking lots on the weekend and in summer.
We still had to start the traditional way. I would hold on to the back of their bikes to get them started. But unlike previous attempts, I typically do not have to hold on for more than 2-3 mins before they are off on their own.
At this point, thanks to the balance bike, they will have no problem pedaling and balancing once you let go off your hands. However, they will need help to get started. This usually takes some time and practice but once they get it, they will be off riding their bikes completely independently.
Tip 4: Practice, Practice, Practice
The more they practice, the better they will get and the more confident they will be. In most cases, once they have learned to ride they bike, they won’t forget it, even in adulthood. Or so I thought.
My youngest child had learned to ride the bike with the above method towards the end of the summer when 5 years old. We started her on the balance bike at the beginning of summer. Given her age, she took about 2-4 months to get really comfortable on the balance bike.
By the end of summer, she could ride the bike independently, but was not a confident rider yet. The next summer we moved and visited family overseas so she didn’t get to practice her bike at all all summer. When the third summer came along, she had forgotten how to ride her bike.
It was a huge bummer, but that’s when we realized the importance of keeping up with the practice and riding until they become confident riders. Confident meaning they could go up and own the slopes without fear on their own.
Luckily she was already pretty good at balancing from the use of the balance bike. So it took us just over a week of daily 30mins practice to get her back on her regular bike in the beginning of summer.
We practiced throughout summer and she became such a confident rider that I have no doubt that she will not forget how to ride the bike, even in adulthood.
The balance bike was the best investment that we made. We used it for all three kids and saved us so much frustration.
When I started the traditional old school way with my son, we were frustrated and not making progress after weeks of practice. With the balance bike, we just let him happily cruise on the balance bike for 1-2 months until he could confidently go down the slope with the balance bike.
From there, it was just another week or so of helping him practice getting started on the bike. Once he got that, that was it.
Enjoy the process, nothing beats learning while having fun. There is no need to rush the kids to learn how to ride a bike in a day or in 45 minutes. As it is with everything else, the key is always with practice and consistency and having the right tools and environment to accomplish the goals.