For children – or anyone – with balance issues, learning to ride a bicycle is not easy. Confidence is low, and fear takes over. That’s aside from actually learning to balance on top of a slim two-wheeled monstrosity that’s clearly out to get you.
Needless to say, we struggled with bicycles for years. We made more progress with balance on an exercise ball than with that bike.
Then, one day, I ran across an article on bicycling. It focused on breaking down the necessary skills into separate lessons – balance, then pedaling, then steering – instead of trying to lump everything all together in one go.
Thanks to that article, my son rode his bicycle today – without help – for the first time.
We tackled balance first. Confronting fear is a good thing. Although, honestly, with him sitting on a bike that was low enough for his feet to touch the ground, it wasn’t that scary.
No training wheels.
Again, not so frightening with feet solidly planted on the ground. And he liked the idea of the foot-brake. It also completely bypassed the whole lopsided-rely-on-the-training-wheels problem – which prevents actual balancing – that held us back for so long.
Instead of an adult running alongside the bike, a slope provides the starting momentum.
I should point out that we live in Florida, a very flat state. Yet, after visiting a few parks, even we were able to find a suitable slope: not too steep, yet not so gentle a bike wouldn’t roll on it.
It really didn’t take long for the balance to kick in. Which was shocking, considering the years of trying with the traditional method. After our third outing, he was starting to get it.
Once he was able to comfortably roll down the hill without touching feet to the ground for balance, we moved to the next level: Pedaling (video game music, please).
At first, he just touched his feet to the pedals, and then put them down again. Two more tries, and he was hopping on the bike and pedaling himself down. Hooray! Actual biking!
And then the chain broke. Of course.
So our bike gave its little metallic life to teach our son to learn to ride. Or, as I told him when he burst into tears, it hung on just long enough to see him succeed. But a victory is a victory.
And somewhere, there’s a very happy little bicycle soul out there…
Note: I love it when people take complicated actions and break them down into simple steps. Thank you, David Mozer, author of the article linked above.