Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage for kids around the globe. After years of constant supervision, a bike is one of the first chances your child has to get “off the leash” (literally or metaphorically) and experience some freedom of their own.
You probably have your own fond memories of riding bikes around town with your friends, going down to the park to play at the playground, or even stopping at the local gas station for a snack before you went home.
You may also remember the difficulties that came from learning to ride a bike.
The cuts, the scraped knees, the road rash on your forearms.
One of your most vivid memories might be the first time you had the training wheels taken off your bike and how scary of an experience that was (for the 7 seconds until you tipped over, anyway!)
Although training wheels have been the most common way to teach kids how to ride a bike, you might be wondering if there are other options.
There are some people who think that training wheels should be gotten rid of altogether!
The argument against training wheels is that training wheels don’t teach your kids to balance. In fact, they do the opposite!
Your child leans on training wheels for support and never really learns the most essential skill for riding a real bicycle: how to balance while moving forward.
Once the training wheels come off you have to teach kids how to balance and then teach them how to do all of the other skills like turning, braking, pedaling, and looking around for safety while riding.
In recent years we have seen the emergence of balance bikes to solve this issue.
DIY Balance Bike from Mojo_JoJo on Instructables
For those that don’t know, a balance bike is essentially a small bicycle without pedals and a lowered seat. You child uses their feet to push off the ground and coast along. Since the balance bike does not have pedals, it usually has a rear hand brake so you child can slow down safely.
Balance bikes can be a good starting point because they teach your kids to balance, brake and steer without having to worry about pedaling.
If you don’t have a balance bike, you can still get all the benefits by taking the pedals off your Belsize bike and lowering the seat so your child can push off the ground.
Pedaling is an easy skill to master once your child has mastered the basics of keeping balance. You would just need to raise the seat up a bit to the optimal height and away they go!
One helpful tip for training wheels is, after a while, to play a game with your child to see if they can get all the way to the end of the sidewalk without letting the training wheels touch the ground.
This helps your child to improve their balance skills while still giving them a safety mechanism to fall back on as they are learning how to ride their bike efficiently.
As a rule, you should always ensure that you have taught your child how to use the hand brakes effectively before letting them ride their bike and, as always, wear a helmet!