I have a very lucid memory of learning to riding a bike. In fact, that memory extends from my tricycle riding days, all the way to conquering a mighty rad 10 speed. My neighborhood friends, Stacy Kane and Wendy Kolton (both around my age) also had trikes and we’d all ride to each other’s homes for adventures. To me the trike was freedom, independence. The rush of excitement rolling down a steep driveway, or the herculean effort to pedal back up it were more then welcomed, they were craved. Of course the older kids had two wheelers and seeing them buzz the neighborhood made me yearn for greater. Learning to ride a two wheeler was a challenge for starters. It required balance on top of my pedaling and braking skills. My dad got me a two wheeler for my fourth birthday. Full on Banana seat, high handle bars and a bitchin red paint job…..totally fly, and appropriate for a four year old future Corvette driving Shark Slayer 😉 After riding with training wheels for a few days, my Brother Jeff offered to work with me to get me rolling solo. I recall the hours we spent going up and down the street, back and forth in front of my house. Jeff running and holding my seatback as I struggled to keep the wheel straight. The wobbly crashes, the bummed feelings for scratching my handle bars, the hold your breath moments when I would go further solo then I had gone before. All of it. One day after dinner Jeff and I went out to practice. It was to be the last time I needed his help. From the moment Jeff let go of my seat I knew I had mastery. He knew it too. In my mind’s eye I can see Jeff’s face as clear today as I did back then. He had a big proud smile as he ran next to me. Where that visual fades, I can hear his voice cheering me on as I left him in the dust.. Go Ian go!
Teaching my girls to ride here in Los Angeles presents some completely different challenges. We live in a canyon where the roads are twisty and not really child friendly, but in the beginning that didn’t matter. Mia started on a little Radio Flyer tricycle and took to it very quickly. For her third birthday we brought home a two wheeler from Toy’s R Us. It was a Frozen themed bike that we were sure she was going flip out over. And of course she did. She went nuts over it. She pedaled that sucker around the backyard for hours. The use of training wheels are helpful in getting the ball rolling, but they prevented her from developing balance. I began to raise the training wheels causing a slight high point on the back tire. This made the bike teeter and Mia worry. As her confidence grew, I would again raise the training wheels further off the ground. She became very comfortable shifting weight from side to side knowing there was something to catch her. I saw brief moments of balance, and I encouraged her to stay on the center back wheel more, but she was perfectly happy as things were bombing around the back yard. The next morning Mia discovered one training wheel missing from her bike and she gave me a good grilling about it… she knew I removed it. She was hesitant at first and rode along on the training wheel side for quite some time. I employed the Jeff Ziering bicycle training method and held her seat until she got it. She circled the backyard so well I took off the other trainer. Well, she was not happy about that so I put it back. She continued with this configuration for a while, the whole time on the center wheel but with the comfort of knowing she had a crutch. Eventually the trainer came off and she was in the wind. Go Mia go!
At five years old it was time to get a bigger bike. I did a lot of research online to find the perfect bike, I was not happy with the heavy beginner bike with the impossible to squeeze hand brake I first got. I knew there must be something purposely built for little kids, not just look like it. I found a little bike company called Woom. Their bikes are built with a focus on creating confident riders by using very light weight materials and usable mechanical parts designed for little ones. They come in several sizes, and each one allows for growth in size, and ability. Mia popped the kickstand, threw a leg over and took off with a scream. The bike uses front and rear hand brakes to slow and stop. The brake levers are built in such a way that little hands can reach them while holding that handle bars, but more importantly, they can squeeze them to brake. A luxury in appearance on her Frozen bike, but made practical on her Woom bike. So much of becoming a good bike rider is becoming a good bike stopper. Mia flies on this thing! Like anything, I feel so proud to have taught my daughter to ride a bike.
With Penna, I’m going a whole different route. Woom has starter balance bike. Everything is the same except there’s no pedals. The kids learn balance quickly and without fear using their own feet as training wheels. Ultimately, to get a really long coast they have to put their feet back out of the way. They learn to balance by themselves. Penna is starting to get the hang of pushing but it’s still a new movement for her. I see it happening and I’m there with positive reinforcement every step of the way. Go Penna go!