Learning to Ride a Bike
Berkeley Parents Network >
School-aged Kids >
Learning to Ride a Bike
Kids Learning to Ride
I was wondering if anyone can suggest someone who gives
basic lessons on riding a bike for kids. My child is fearful
about the idea of falling off the bike, but wants to learn.
The inability to ride at age 7 has become something of an
issue for my husband, and so a lot of emotion is wrapped up
in it. I think it would be better to receive instruction
from someone who can remain calm and who doesn't have a
history with the child. If you have any suggestions for a
calm, patient, experienced person who can help us out with a
couple of lessons, please let me know. Thanks! Berkeley Mom
I wholeheartedly recommend the kid bike riding class that
REI-Hayward teaches. Completely worth the drive from
Berkeley. It lasts a couple of hours and takes place in the
large and quiet lot in the rear of REI (which also has a
gentle slope). The instructors take the pedals off (and
training wheels, if your kid has been using them) at the
start of the class. Then they have the kids coast down the
very gentle incline to where the parents are waiting, and
walk the bikes back up the slight slope, for awhile.
Eventually they put the pedals back on and have the kids
coast with their feet on the pedals, and then move up to
pedaling down the hill.
Our daughter was eight when I signed her up for the class.
She was scared even with training wheels. In the course of
a couple of hours she went from not wanting to be on the
bike to yelling with joy and excitement as she pedaled down
the slope under her own power. bike-riding mom
That was us last year, and not that I am such a bike rider,
but it just seemed wrong to me that a kid wouldn't know how
to ride. I signed my son up for a basic 2 hour class at REI.
The class met at the Berkeley Marina, and it was very
effective. I worried that he'd be in a class with a bunch of
much younger kids (he was 8) but there was a mix. By the end
of the lesson he was tentatively riding, and a few practice
sessions later, he was doing pretty well. Mom of another
Your kid sounds like my elder daughter, who was a late bike
rider even as her younger sister was riding rings around
her. We got her past the sticking point by having her bike
on the blacktop at Thousand Oaks school on the weekend: the
paved area is so large that with the handlebars only
slightly turned she could stop having to think about turning
or stopping, and just focus on pedaling and balancing, and
that did it.
As far as finding someone to coax him/her through it, you
might try a Boy or Girl Scout... that little fillip of
authority, but someone who'll appreciate a kid's
perspective. The Girl Scouts I've met through my daughters'
troops have all been sweet and sensible. Biker Dad
www.wheelkids.com is great. I was in the same boat - my
7yo did not know how to ride and every session at the park
trying to teach him just left us both terribly frustrated.
I had honestly given up, figured he would be the kid who
used a scooter until he could drive. But then I found about
about wheelkids and signed up for the spring session. It
worked! My 7yo can now ride and is incredibly proud and
happy. It did involve tears, he absolutely had the ability
but not the confidence.
The coaches at wheelkids are amazing - super patient, great
with engaging the kids and they make it a really fun
atmosphere. I live in Lafayette and it is a pain to drive
into SF on a Sunday morning for class, but the bonus is that
yoga tree on stanyan is right across the street and has a
great class at the same time, so my kid got to learn to ride
and i got great yoga. happy mom of a bike riding boy
My 4 year old daughter refuses to learn how to bike. We
bought her a bike with training wheels almost a year ago.
She gets on to it, and instead of focusing on the job at
hand, will stare off at the distance, get distracted by
everything around us- a dog, a person in the park, anything.
She finds pedaling hard- says her legs hurt when she pedals.
She only rides the bike when I push it. What can I do so
that she develops interest in learning how to bike? I bought
her a helmet with a character she loves in the hope she will
get motivated to learn- but no luck. Her friends have known
how to ride their training wheel bikes for a long time now.
We made the mistake of not getting her a trike when she was
smaller. Is this an outcome of that? Any advice on getting
her to bike on her own would be most welcome.
The best thing you can do is back off and give her some time. 4 is really
bike. She probably finds it frightening. Don't mention it for 6 months. Then
invite a friend over who does bike. Some times peers can encourage something
that parents can't. If she doesn't want to do it after 6 months. put the bike
and wait another 6 months. If you really can't wait to go biking with her,
about buying a tag a long? My son loved that until he was 6 or so and it made
him feel more confident when he decided to try it on his own. They are pretty
easy to find on craigs list.
Kids seem to move at their own pace. My daughter didn't
want to swing herself long after other kids were doing that.
A friend's son did not want to ride a bike for several
years after many other kids were riding. All is on track
now with both of them. Pushing her probably won't help, and
she will most likely start riding when she is ready. If you
are concerned about medical/coordination issues in general,
then of course you would want to check that out with your
I don't know your daughter, so I can't tell you exactly how to develop her
interest in cycling, but if she's as stubborn as my son then you'll never be
to make her do it. His interest developed from seeing me bike everywhere,
from riding in the trailer to preschool, and from my figuring out not to push
If pedaling really is difficult for your daughter, then try removing the
and the training wheels and lowering the seat. She can develop her balance
and start to pedal when she's ready. Or maybe a scooter would be more her
speed. From my observations, pedaling requires both leg strength and
coordination - some kids (like my son) just have trouble keeping their feet
going in the right direction. Nevertheless, he rides his balance bike
me every morning to get to kindergarten, and I have decided to just relax and
let him start pedaling when he's ready for it. I didn't learn to ride until I
8, so he's already way ahead of me!
I understand your desire for your child to bike, but I offer
the suggestion that you let her learn it in her own time.
Forcing her to bike, with or without training wheels, will
only make her resist it more. She'll do it when she's ready
- really! Another option is to get her a push bike,
sometimes also called a walking bike. They're really fun,
all my kids loved it!
don't force it
Both of my kids were/are like this. They are both
tempermentally cautious, and I think their biking
reluctance came from came from the scariness of
feeling ''up high'' on the seat, and a fear that if they
pedal hard they will go too fast and fall off. They are
now 7 and 5. My 7yo now rides fine w/o training wheels,
although it took him longer to catch up to his peers. My
5yo is still using the training wheels, but now actually
rides (slowly), so I see it as progress. Here are some
things that helped:
(1) Getting the right bike. It took us a while to figure
out that the weight and size of the bike make a BIG
difference. Re: size - if it is just a couple inches off,
they won't be able to pedal easily and it will be a very
strenuous effort. Re: weight - not surprisingly, heavier
bikes are harder to pedal. What I didn't realize though is
that the cheaper the bike, the heavier the metal used to
make it. We learned an expensive lesson but ended up
getting our bikes from a real bike shop instead of the
Target/Wal-Mart route. Made a big difference.
(2) Knee/elbow pads. These provided some psychological
security for my daughter, and you can get them adorned
with princesses. She is now a lot less worried about
falling, although it does take 10 minutes for her to
get ''dressed'' to go biking!
(3) Allowing bikes in the house. I know this sounds crazy,
but it has helped a lot. My husband and I don't have time
to take the kids out every single day for bike practice,
so sometimes a while would pass between biking
opportunities. We found that just letting the bikes sit in
the living room (we have wood floors) tempted the kids to
periodically hope on and ride a few feet. They loved being
able to ''deliver'' stuff from one end of the room to
another, via bicycle. They were a lot less afraid of
falling on the hardwood floors vs. concrete. Going from 0
ft of biking to 2-3 ft made a lot of difference in their
confidence, and after that we were able to progress to the
school parking lot.
I would start by taking your daughter + bike to a bike
shop and getting their recommendations. A height
adjustment may be needed, or a different (lighter?) bike.
They should be able to tell you how much is real
difficulty in pedalling on your daughter's part, vs. her
fears/reluctance. If it's all the latter, you can try a
few ''tricks'' like we did, but you may also just have to be
patient until she is self-motivated by the sight of her
peers whizzing by her. Maybe when she starts K and kids
are biking to school? Either way, it WILL happen!
Mom of reluctant bikers
Riding a bike with training wheels is not that fun. You
feel rocky and unsteady. I recommend taking the training
wheels off and just letting her learn to ride a 2-wheeler.
Plenty of kids learn at 4 (my son did). A great place to
practice is Kensington Hilltop School's big playground.
Over by the play structure there's a slight hill that
flattens out at the bottom. Make sure her seat is low
enough so she can put both feet flat on the ground, and she
feels safe. Then have her go down the slant, with her feet
down at first, but feeling how to balance. Eventually she
can put her feet straight out to the sides, and then place
them on the pedals once she learns how to balance...and,
voila! Feet start pedaling! This works. It takes time and
encouragement, but it works.
That is almost a SIN! in California to not want to ride a
She will be interested when she is interested. or not.
Not every child likes to do or should do everything. She's
only 4! I think the phrase you used of her refusing to ride
indicates that maybe she feels pushed to ride. Would you
find it a problem if she refused to play tea party? Let it
go and when she is interested she will seek out the bike.
Well, you can't force her. She'll learn when she's ready. One
thing you can do is take off the training wheels and the
pedals and chain (a bike shop can do this for you too) and she
can ride it balance-bike style.
http://www.balancebikes4kids.com/ This helped my older child
get excited about biking. Kids learn how to balance the bike
quickly and easily, and then you can put the pedals back on
later (no training wheels will be needed!). Other than that,
encourage her to ride, take her out with the bike, but don't
force it. She'll do it when she's ready. Another thing that
helps: take her out with kids her age or older kids with their
bikes so she can watch them. She may get more excited after
watching other kids bike.
My advice is to let it go. Your daughter will (or won't) bike when she's
daughter refused to bike (she did have a trike when smaller) and we tried
bribery, gentle coercion, etc, but in the end we just let go because it really
MATTER if she biked or not. One day when she was 7 she just got on her bike
and loved it. She then didn't want to take off her training wheels even
she envied all her friends who could ride a 2-wheeler. One day with a friend
parents around) she got on her friend's 2-wheeler and her friend taught her
to ride it (I have no idea how). She came home and took off on her own bike
without training wheels, and has loved it ever since. If your daughter
ever decide to do it, oh well. It's not like swimming or something really
important that she must learn, right?
Some kids just don't learn to ride a bike that early. My son learned to ride
when he was 3-4, but didn't learn to ride a bike until he was 8. He has had
some (very mild) physical difficulties -- nothing that can't be overcome, but
just takes him longer to learn complex activities. He didn't learn to push
in the swing, for example, until he was 7 or so. (Just FYI, he did learn to
walk at a
normal age -- 14 months).
You might ask yourself if your daughter has learned most gross motor skills
early, or slightly later, than other kids. If later, it would be better I
think to wait,
and not to make this something she doesn't like because she's been asked to do
it earlier than it makes sense for her.
I can completely empathize. My son was exactly the same. For
what it's worth, he just turned 7 and we still can get him
to learn to ride a bike, and ALL of his friends ride bikes
all over without training wheels any more. We splurged and
got him a good bike to make it easier because he also
complained about it being hard to pedal, but it hasn't
helped. He's a bit lazy and doesn't like to do things that
are physically hard, so that's part of it. It is too late
for us, but it may not be too late for you. What I most
regret doing is starting him off on a regular bike with
training wheels because it demanded that he pedal, and that
was hard. What we should have done is get him a pedal-less
Strider-type bike so he could learn to coast and balance and
steer on that and learn to pedal later. He is too big for
that now, but your daughter may not be. I highly recommend
you go that route for getting her to learn. I think it would
have made all the difference for my son.
Blew it on biking
You need to so relax! Really. I came from a country and a
time in which hardly any child, including myself, had a
trike to practice on. I got a ''real'' bike (two wheels) when
I was old enough, which wasn't until 6 or 7. I learned to
bike on it without any prior practice whatsoever. And it
took me a year to also get interested in the riding. At
first, it was just so exhausting and annoying because I had
to put so much focus and energy into the skill that the fun
didn't pay off. My guess is that your daughter isn't all
that motivated precisely for the same reason - the fun
dividends are pretty nil. All work and no play.
Take heart. I became a very avid cycler in due time. I
practically lived on my bike throughout my adolescence and
early twenties. My parents did need to nudge me for almost
a year, though. My poor mom ran her own marathons holding
on to the back of my bike.
My daughter is 10 and has just started asking about biking.
The other 3 of us like to bike and it has been a drag to
deal with her refusal. I tried bribing (she got really mad
at that), taking her to buy accessories for her bike,
pointing out her friends biking, and goodness knows what
else. I learned that kids know what they like and what they
want to do. However, I would still recommend a tag-along
bike (one that connects to your bike) because my daughter
loved that. You can also check out classes by the East Bay
You may want to relax your expectations about when kids
are supposed to be able or interested in bike riding. 4
years old seems to be young to have such great
expectations (if not demands) of your daughter.
I have an extremely athletic daughter. At 10, she plays
competitive sports and stands out for her grace and
athleticism. However, she was not particularly interested
in bike riding when we tried in preschool or
kindergarten. She didn't even seem motivated, nor were we
in particular. When she was 7, my mother came out to
visit and my daughter 'decided' she knew how to ride. My
mother not knowing differently, took my daughter and her
bike to the park. They took off the training wheels and -
voila - she was riding! Like she'd known all along.
I have other friends whose kids started biking at 6-8
years of age and it's one of their favorite things now.
My suggestion: chill, don't reach so much into it, and
follow your daughter's lead
Been There, Now Doing That
My only advice is patience. Our son didn't learn how to ride
a bike until he was 7. It was most likely fear of falling or
of embarrassment; he would announce that bikes are stupid,
or he would rather ride a scooter -- anything to avoid
riding that bike! One day a friend said she would teach him,
thus avoiding the agony of parental expectations. Within
half an hour he rode that bike across the school playground.
Now he's in college, and his main form of transportation
is... a bike.
Why do you care so much that your daughter rides a bike?
Maybe it just doesn't float her boat. Or maybe she'll get
interested later when she sees her friends having fun on
bikes. I didn't learn until I was about 8 and I made sure it
happened because of the social factor. Sounds like you're on
a path to making it not fun and something I wouldn't want to
do, if I were her.
Don't push it. I think that kids refuse to do things for a
lot of reasons, one being 'control.' She will come to it in
her own time. I don't think that my younger had a trike.
She easily took to a bike with training wheels. She can
ride a bike now without (she is 6 1/2) but won't, because
she can't start herself. We are working on that at her pace.
So what? Why push her to do something so unimportant? If she
wants to ride eventually she'll learn. My brother never rode
a bike and he has a PhD in physics. Clearly this ''failure''
of childhood did not stop him from being successful in life.
Back off, she's not ready to ride the bike and isn't interested right now.
Put the bike away and try it again in 6 months. Still not interested, try
later. It might also be your approach, maybe have the other parent try
when you take the bike out in 6 months.
Been there, different sport
I didn't see the original posting about your child not
learning how to ride a bike, but I did want to respond. I am
an avid cyclist and it was really important that my daughter
learn how to ride as well -- namely because it's such a
healthy, environmentally-friendly and fun way to get around
(I ride every day and couldn't imagine my life without a
bike!). Anyway, as general advice to all parents who love to
ride - and value bike riding as a critical environmental and
health solution - as much as I do - I started her in a bike
seat and a trailer when she was one, then switched to a
skuut (a wooden bike without pedals) when she was three,
then a trail-a-bike, then gently pushed her on a two-wheeled
bike when she was 4.5 (and once she wanted to ride, she
seriously learned in 5 minutes). The key is not to EVER use
training wheels (useless invention, IMHO), to have her/him
learn with a friend on flat ground at a park, to really use
positive reinforcement and to find a small enough bike to
start off with (so that her feet are fully touching the
ground). I do agree that not pushing your child is a good
idea - but please don't give up either! Maybe keep trying
every month or so, keep at it with the skuut and keep riding
a trailer or trail-a-bike too. Good luck!
I have an eleven-year-old daughter who CANNOT ride a bike
without training wheels.
She is scared for us to take off the training wheels.
Hi, A few years ago my (then) 8 or 9 year old still
couldn't ride a bike. I took him to Aquatic Park and put
him on his bike (w/out training wheels)on one of the little
hills or mounds that are there, told him to stick his feet
out and head down the hill! He was a little nervous at
first but he liked the sensation of going down hill. We did
it over and over again until he ''got his balance'' and then
he was able to ride. If riding a bike doesn't come easily
to a kid, then the whole finding your balance, getting on
the bike, making the bike go, pedaling and so on ALL AT ONCE
is really hard! When they go downhill, they don't have to
peddle but can just get the knack of staying on the bike.
Otherwise, for her fearfulness, just be endlessly patient
and reassuring. Another good thing about the grassy hill at
Aquatic Park - it won't really hurt if your kid falls over.
Soft landing! Good luck.
The San Francisco Bike Coalition offers sessions in Golden Gate Park that are
specifically for teaching kids skills and confidence on bikes. If you're willing to
cross the Bay, they are an excellent resource.
Mom of a nervous rider
REI offers a class in how to ride a bike. Wish I had known
that when I taught my son. Sometimes the outsider can do
better than the familiar.
While her little sister was riding in preschool (tearing
about the school's tiny courtyard without a helmet, which we
were surprised and dismayed to find), our older was also a
late bike bloomer. What got her going was to take her to a
very wide space (in our case, Thousand Oaks Elementary,
seemingly a favorite place for beginning bikers) where she
could ride in a huge circle: when all she had to do was hold
the handlebars at a fixed slight angle, balance and
peddle... no worrying about turning or stopping. Before we
hit on that, she'd start immediately worrying about how
she'd deal with stopping... once she was being escorted
around in a wide circle, we could let her go, and she'd just
keep it up. (And then you catch her after a while...
Dad of Tykes on Bikes
It was so timely reading your email today. I have an almost
10 year old in the same situation. About a month ago I spoke
with Justice, the owner of Wheels of Justice in Montclair.
He's SO great. I originally went in with a defeatist, ''Can
you please teach my kid to ride a bike?'' attitude, but after
talking with him I had some new skills and encouragement to
try again (we stopped trying about 2 years ago due to our
daughter's lack of interest, fear and our frustration!). He
suggested holding your child by their shoulders and running
along side them. He said kids feel secure when they know
you're there and when you tell them honestly that you won't
let go (like all our parents did when they holding on to the
seat). You've got a death grip on them at first and then
gradually you can ease up and then let go altogether.
Today was the day we tried it! We went down to an empty
parking lot in Alameda (the old Navy base) b/c above all, my
daughter didn't want to be where anyone could see her. I got
a great workout jogging along side her, holding onto her
shoulders and she felt safe. The balance thing is tricky to
pick up, but we realized that by keeping your torso straight
and your shoulders even, it'll happen. My mantra as I jogged
along was, ''Even, easy shoulders!'' When either shoulder
slumped down, she lost her balance on the slumping side. We
did A LOT of jogging/riding and then loosening of my grip
and then, after about an hour and half, she cruised multiple
times on her own, with me jogging right there with her. I
was amazed. We still have a long way to go with total
independent riding, but it's going to happen.
Another thing I did was to make sure her feet could hit the
ground (per Justice, not totally flat b/c you want them to
be able to pedal well, but touching enough to always catch
herself). I let her know she always had the power to put her
foot down and stop.
If you want more encouragement, go talk to Justice. He
kindly told me he could teach her, but that he'd much rather
I share that memory with her. I'm so glad we tried again!!
Maybe we'll see you in Alameda!
The easiest way I know of teaching a child to ride a bike:
1. Remove the training wheels
2. Remove the Pedals (done with a crescent wrench or a
''pedal wrench'' - and just a tip - righty tighty on the right
pedal, and it's just the opposite on the left pedal).
3. Lower the seat so that the child can SIT with BOTH feet
FLAT on the ground. Very important! Knees slightly bent.
4. Now just focus on child SITTING on the bike, PUSHING
along the ground, a la ''Fred Flintstone'' style. This
teaches balance very safely, with the child feeling secure
because her feet are in contact with the ground.
You'll find your child will start to push along the ground
harder and faster, and will hold her feet up for longer
periods as she gets the hang of balance. Once it's obvious
that she's got the hang of balancing, you can put the pedals
back on, and she'll be off on her own!
There is a bike sold without pedals (called a ''scoot'' or
something? can't remember exactly) but IMO it's a waste of
money - just use a normal bike that fits the child, and
remove the pedals, and you've got the same thing.
I've done with with both my kids at very young ages and it
works beautifully. Good luck!
A friend of mine just went through the same thing with their 9 year old. After
much frustration they found a ''how to'' video on YouTube that worked for them.
They ended up taking off the training wheels, removing the pedals and lowering
the seat and turning the bike into a Skuut style bike. Once their daughter got
the hang of balancing the bike without pedals the rest was easy. Good luck!
- Hope that helps!
We did 2 things over the same period of time to help our
daughter get comfortable riding a bike without training
wheels - 1st, we raised the training wheels a little bit
off the ground so she could feel the bike wobbling and
when she tilted too far to one side or the other, the
training wheels were there to support her. Also, she had a
razor scooter which she was more comfortable learing to
ride because she was closer to the ground and could jump
off with out getting hurt at all. This also helped her
get familiar with the feeling of wobbling and stability
when going more quickly. Once she got it, she just took
off riding and never looked back.
I hope this helps.
Go to the San Francisco Bike Coalition's website and look
for their ''Freedom from Training Wheels'' event. They hold
them in Golden Gate Park on select Sundays.It was worth the
trip. My son learned balance first with a bike without
pedals. When we went to Golden Gate Park there were kids of
all ages trying to shed their training wheels. They just
run along side the bike, lightly holding on to the bike
seat. After about 30 minutes my kid was riding alone.
People walking by encourage the riders and clap when the
kid finally gets it. That day at least 3 other kids ''shed''
their training wheels. The event is free, but do drop some
bucks in their donation jar.
Proude mom of biker
Does your daughter know how to ride a scooter? My 5YO got
comfortable balancing on that first since it's close to
the ground and then transitioned in one day to a two wheel
My husband had good luck with taking the pedals off my
stepson's bike, along with the training wheels. Apparently
this helps teach balance? If your child won't hear of
having the training wheels removed, perhaps this site's
suggestions will be helpful:
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/teachride.html (basically he
suggests slowly altering the training wheels so that they do
We were in the same position last summer when our 9 and 7
(and 4)year olds couldn't ride, and we were getting
restless... I told the kids I would take them riding for an
hour or so every day, without training wheels, and told them
if they didn't learn by the time school started (2 weeks),
there would be no TV or computer once school started, until
they learned to ride bikes. Then I took them to Kensington
Hilltop School, which has a wonderful big play yard with a
small slope on the south end, near the play structure. They
practiced gliding, slowing putting their feet out to the
sides, until they got their balance, and then they started
pedaling. The 9 year old got it in one hour. The 7 year
old got it the 3rd day, and by the end of the week the 4
year old got it. A small slope with a flat space at the end
is what you need. Good luck!
Hi - been there with my younger son. He was fine on the
training wheels, but weeks and months of aborted attempts
to take them off left us all frustrated, most of all him.
He was in second grade at the time, trying to keep up with
all of the other kids in the neighborhood, many much
younger, zipping around w/o the training wheels. What
finally did it was borrowing a smaller bike (12'' vs 16'')
where he could easily put his feet down on the ground
whenever he had the fear of tipping. After two weekend days
of practicing on an empty playground, he ''got'' it and was
able to transfer his new balancing skills to the larger
bike. Some kids just seem to need this physical reassurance
and feedback. The training wheels can actually delay this
process, I learned! Try it, if you can borrow a smaller
bike from friends. Best of luck to you and your daughter.
I've taught my kids, my niece, and an older neighbor boy how to ride their
bikes. A very simple process:
1. lower your child's bicycle seat so she can easily put her feet flat-footed
on the ground
2. remove training wheels
3. have her sit on the seat and NOT put her feet on the pedals--ignore
the pedals for the time being
4. have her coast down a moderate incline (in our cases our driveway, but
you might find a sloped parking lot or whatever), trying to keep her feet
out to the side but she can put her feet down whenever she needs to to
stop from falling. You want enough of an incline so the bicycle gains a
little momentum, but not so much that it's too fast
5. REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT: by coasting and keeping her feet up, she's
finding out how to balance her body on the bike
6. Once she can balance, it feels ''natural'' to just get on the pedals and
start pedaling--honest! no need to run after the bike and chase her, just
keep the seat low and she can put her feet down if she needs to
This really does work, the most work goes into finding out how to balance
on the bike. Good luck!
Every kid is different and here's my experience.
My kid finally learned to ride a bike as a result of a lot
of ''leg work''--on my part. She was also very ''safety
conscious'' (translation: fearful) and would get upset if I
let go of the bike, so I firmly held the seat post and ran
up and down the street with her as she rode and felt the
balance. We did it day after day for 2 weeks. She was
getting close but still fearful.
Finally, one day we went to a playground where there were
other young kids riding bikes. Some of them looked like
they had just learned how to ride. My kid watched them
closely, and again I held her bike from behind, pushing and
running around the playground. After about half an hour, I
told her my hands were not on the bike for the last 5
minutes, and that she'd been riding on her own for half a
dozen rounds. She was first upset as a reflex but quickly
became happy. I then suggested we ride some more, with my
hand touching, not holding, the bike just to make sure it
wouldn't fall. That eased her fear and she really began
riding on her own. After a few days, she was a pro.
I was glad I had not asked her first if she'd try to ride
on her own without me holding the bike (even though she
appeared ready for it) becuase she would've freaked out and
regressed or focused more on making sure I was still
holding the bike than learning to ride.
A few more things that really worked:
1. Recognizing her fear of falling off the bike and helping
her find ways to prevent it from happening, such as getting
a smaller bike so her feet could touch the ground after
2. Promising her not to let go of the bike and keeping the
promise (until the very very end when she's obviously
riding on her own for a while).
3. Putting in the time and efforts. Some kids learned to
ride on their own, but it's very hard for shy, fearful kids
to do it by themselves.
4. Encouraging her to keep riding and practicing daily,
especially when she was getting close.
5. Not using the training wheels. They only gave her a
false sense of security and kept her from feeling and
keeping the balance on her own.
6. Offering to continue holding her bike even after she
first started riding on her own. This helped her overcome
fear and gave her time to develop confidence on the bike.
Keep reassuring your kid that he would be able to ride a
bike sooner or later. I didn't learn to ride until I was
in college. (Don't laugh.)
Enjoy the time you spend with your kid!
This topic has come up before. Many kids, including both of
mine, were able to ride bikes quickly after spending some
time on a scooter. It gives you the balance you need to
You got lots of good advice about removing pedals and
training wheels. One additional hint is to realize that
balancing a bike is done by steering.
If a bike leans left one steers slightly left.
If a bike leans right one steers slightly right.
I've taught a couple of children to ride by holding them
stationary on the bike and having them steer whichever way I
tilted them. After a several minutes it becomes a reflex
and they will soon be gliding down gentle hills.
I taught my son to ride a bike by having the seat low enough
that he could put his feet on the ground and letting him
coast down a slight incline and NOT pedal. I just told him
to put his feet on the ground when he wanted to stop. In
fact I repeatedly told him not to pedal. When he felt
balanced he asked to pedal and when I finally allowed him to
do it, he could ride. He's very athletic, but I think its
good and not a scary technique.
mom of bike rider
I read through the other helpful posts and
thought of one thing to add. If your daughter is feeling
frustrated, you might try convincing her to give it a
certain amount of time. After a lot of failed efforts and
frustration, what worked with our daughter was to convince
her to try for 1/2 hour in an empty parking lot with my
husband running alongside her with his hand behind the seat
(not easy with a heavy girl!) The big empty parking lot
made a big difference because it gave them enough room to
really get the hang of it and the flatness helped. She
almost gave up in anger at the 10-minute mark, but by the
end of the half hour she was proudly pedaling independently
and has loved it ever since.
-Allez! Allez! (and bon chance!)
Hi, in June my son was adamant that he was not ready to ride a bike and that we
could forget it. We really wanted to be able to go bike riding with him and felt he
was ready and just didn't know it yet (He was 8 and had been riding a scooter for
several years and on a trail-a-bike also, so he definitely had the feel.) We took
the pedals and the training wheels off his bike and told him to scoot around on
it. (His feet could reach the ground.) We told him to balance so he could glide as
far as he could which gave him a sense of balance and confidence. After 10
minutes he asked for the pedals back so he could try the real brakes and was
able to ride perfectly. Don't put the pedals back on if your child can't easily
a few hundred feet. It took a few days before he could remember to use the
brakes and not his feet to stop, but he really got it quickly. We've done a lot of
riding this summer and have had a lot of fun. He went on a 12 mile ride from El
Cerrito to Berkeley and back in July and just had his first fall a few weeks ago but
got right back on.
a proud Mom
Help! My somewhat timid daughter is almost 10 and still can't
ride a bike! We live in the hills, so it's been pretty
inconvenient to practice. She outgrew the old kids bike w trning
whls yrs ago. Neither of us rides much, but we don't want her to
grow up unable to ride.
Bike stores don't carry larger kids bikes with removeable
training wheels. Does anyone have either suggestions or an old
bike with training wheels appropriate for a 10 yr old 4'6'' girl?
Based on my own experience learning and recently teaching my son to ride a bike, I say skip the training wheels and just get out there and practice with her, holding onto the seat and running behind. It takes some courage (I was shy about it, too, and finally learned when I was about 7) but it seems like once you overcome that fear and just go for it, you can learn faster when you're not relying on the training wheels.
Fellow Scaredy Cat
my daughter learned at age 9 by using a bicycle about 2 ''sizes'' smaller than the regular size for her height (lower to ground =easier to maneuver, and where feet comfortably touch the ground, I think it was like an age 5-6 y.o. bike.) No training wheels, instead by scooting along on it (like the toddler skuut bike): scoot along ground with feet then lift up feet for a few moments. We didn't need to remove the pedals but you can if they are in the way. She was then able to pick it up pretty quickly, only wanted to ride the tiny bike for a long time, and then moved upto a much bigger bike the next year. Don't despair! She'll be able to learn and the training wheels are not necessary, may even impede learning to balance.
Here's what was recommended to us, and it worked: Get your
daughter a scooter. When she has gotten very good at it, take
the pedals off a bike that fits her and lower the saddle so that
she can push with her feet. Then let her use the bike like that
until she's comfortable. Then put the pedals back on and raise
the saddle to the proper height. Do the bike part in a flat
place--it should take a short amount of time. Our son was riding
a bike in about 15 minutes.
Instead of doing training wheels, buy a bike that is a appropriate
size for her and then lower the seat a little and take the pedals
off. She can then learn to ride the bike by first learning to coast on
the bike, thereby learning the balance before adding the complication
of pedalling. Put the pedals back on once she's mastered the balancing
and coasting skill. I have actually found that this method was much
better than having training wheels anyway! The training wheels can
easily become a crutch for many children.
You could try her on a skuut (if it fits) or maybe you could remove
the pedals from her bike so that she can scoot it along and practice
balancing while the bike is moving. She may pick up riding more
quickly this way than relying on training wheels.
My daughter didn't ride a bike till she was 9+ as well, and she
was feeling very frustrated about her lack of progress. My
advice: get her on a bike with a small frame, so she can
straddle the top bar and her feet can be firmly planted on the
ground. Best to learn on a frame that's small so her feet can
find the ground easily. Don't use the training wheels. Find
someplace flat or gently sloping - Golden Gate Park on car-free
Sundays is ideal for this, and you can make a day of it. Then I
had to run alongside, holding the seat to steady her for the
first few runs before letting her go. My kid has some sensory
issues with the bike wobble, and I did find that having her ride
on the back of my bike (I have a long tail with an extra ''seat'')
for a few weeks helped her get used to this, which eased her into
learning on her own bike. It really is a rite of passage, and I
wish you both success. sarah
I had a conversation with a friend just this week about how a young relative of hers never got the hang of a two-wheeled bike and went to an adult tricycle, which a quick Google search assured me that there are a lot of. I don't know if at 4'6'' she's quite big enough for an adult size, but it's worth looking into.
We're going through the same thing. We live in the hills too, and our nearly-9-year-old, and her nearly-7-year-old sister, can't ride bikes yet. It's a real drag piling the bikes (they have a 4 year old brother too) into the car and schlepping down the hill, but I really want this to happen.
A couple weeks ago we were ''practicing'' down by the BART tracks on that nice flat path, and had taken the training wheels (which keep rotating and being ineffective) off my 8 year old's bike, but the pedals kept scratching her legs as she tried to just push along and balance, like little kids do on Skuut bikes (those wooden ones without pedals).
A dad with a 4 year old girl who was riding without training wheels shared his secret--temporarily, get a bike that is very short for the child, so they can put their feet flat on the ground easily. Then take off the pedals. Then find a big area with a relatively flat space, or a very slight hill.
We tried this last week, at Hillside School (the old school that is no longer used, on the corner of Buena Vista and LeRoy.) My 8 year old was delighted, as she pushed the bike along, and slowly realized she could lift her feet up and balance. The big fancy bike we got her last year is still in the garage; we're using a hand me down we received for her 4 year old brother--her confidence level has soared. We still have practicing to do before the pedals go back on, but this is a HUGE step for her. That playground is perfect-- a very slight hill, and it's usually deserted.
My kids learned to ride bikes late too. They both learned by using a very small bike. We were staying with friends who had a younger child and he had a very small bike. My kids learned to ride in about 30 minutes on this small bike. No training wheels or anything. good luck!
Your daughter doesn't need training wheels. Lots of kids and
adults learn to ride without them. Learning how to balance first
on a two-wheel scooter (like a Razor) will help. But you can also
just get her a regular bike and have her first practice going
down a slight slope without pedaling - that'll teach her how to
balance and brake gently on a bike. (King Middle school has a
ramp - first start off towards lower part - and is pretty empty
on the weekends.) Once she's comfortable with that, then she can
practice pedaling when the slope/ramp flattens out - that's much
easier than trying to start pedaling from a full stop. Good luck!
- Been There.
I have 2 suggestions. Skip training wheels and get a bike that is
just her size or a little smaller, lower the seat and remove the
pedals so her feet comfortably touch the ground. Have her learn
to coast w/ her legs just hovering above the ground on a slight
incline. Once she's got a sense of the balance (tell her to hold
her tummy in), you can try, depending on her height, with the
pedals on and you gently touching/holding at her ribs. She learns
to balance by feeling the pressure on her ribs--ideally there's
space between your fingers and her ribs if she's got it. If she
doesn't she's feeling too much pressure from one of your hands
and finds her balance by 'righting' and 'tightening' her core. This depends a lot on her and your height--whether you can get
close enough to her on the bike (from behind) to do this. I
suppose a parent on each side could work too. But the thing to
remember is hold the child, not the bike. She has to learn to
manage the bike.
Forget the training wheels at this point. Go to an empty parking lot and practice (we took our daughter to the Lake Temescal lot- it's a good space, although I'm sure there are others).
Our daughter really doesn't have a good sense of balance and found the basics of learning to ride a bike REALLY hard. ( she couldn't even really ride WITH training wheels!!!) She was probably 9 before she learned. Having a big open place like the parking lot, where steering straight didn't matter too much , helped her a lot. She did fall a few times, but she did eventually get it. The open space allowed her to practice turning around, going up and down rows etc... things that are hard to try out just on your average neighborhood street.
- go for it
I did not learn how to ride a bike until age 11. It was
humiliating. The training wheels just never helped, because I
never learned to balance on a bike with training wheels. And the
bike salespeople always made my parents buy a bike that was too
big for me to learn on, so I was scared of falling off from way
up there. Then they put training wheels on so I couldn't learn to
balance. (This went on for years with me feeling worse and worse.)
What finally worked is I decided to take my learning into my own
hands. I told my parents I needed a small bike without training
wheels. (I used my little sister's.) Then I found a very gentle
incline, and would glide down with both feet just slightly off
the ground. I felt completely safe because it was so easy just to
put a foot down if I lost my balance. I learned the knack of
balancing in a day or two, and was soon happily riding my own
bike all over town.
I used this method to teach both my children at age 4 and 8, and
they learned just as quickly (two days). They never used training
wheels. I think this method removes the fear of falling and
allows children's natural sense of balance to develop.
Not a believer in training wheels
This is the great secret to learning to ride a bike:
Steer into the fall. When you start falling, turn your wheel the
direction you are falling.
Have your child practice this while not riding: lean the bike,
turn the front wheel the direction that the bike is leaning.
Take your daughter to a big parking lot or school blacktop with a
smallish bike and let her go. If she turns away from the fall,
she'll jackknife the bike. Point out how that didn't work, and
how when she steers into the fall, she just rides right out of it.
Older kids can often learn in a day with this knowledge (they'll
be wobbly, and need practice, but they'll get it). 6-8 year olds
usually take 3-5 outings.
I am at wit's end. My 10-yr-old daughter is naturally very
cautious, and has never learned to ride her bike. A couple of
years ago we took off the training wheels on her little bike, at
her insistence, but she complained that the bike was too small.
Last year for her birthday we bought her a big bike, which she
says is too big (we can borrow a smaller bike if we want). At
this point she only wants her father to help her learn, but in
fact she's not particularly eager to spend the time or to take
the chance riding in the BART parking lot on weekends. I've
read posts on how your children learned, but I don't think they
will work for mine. Her father, who has much less to gain when
she finally learns to ride, also has less time than I do. I
fear I have too much invested and therefore I can't be patient
enough. If she could ride her bike it would make my life much
easier, and we would both get more exercise. Now that it's
getting cold, dark and wet, we'll have fewer chances to try, but
I want to be ready when the weather gets better again. Any
I too was a very cautious child. When I learned to ride my bike, what
worked for me was to just put the training wheels on and leave them
there until I felt totally confident. It took about a year, and I probably
spent months with unnecessary training wheels on.
Is there someplace other than the BART parking lot that you could take
her? Perhaps a park, away from her home if she's sensitive about
people seeing her with training wheels, where you could take her and
let her practice?
I forwarded your post to my best friend who lives in Alabama
because we had long conversations about how her eldest daughter
didn't take the training wheels off her bike until age 7.
Here's her story:
Oh, man. This is such a touchy subject. And you thought talking
about sex was going to be difficult.
Let's see....when Em learned to ride her bike we were on
Dentation Drive in Baton Rouge. She used to ride in tight
little circles in the driveway because we wouldn't let
her out on the street. She finally took the training wheels off
About two months later Maggie rode hers without training
wheels. She was 4. HOWEVER, since moving from the flatlands of
Louisiana to these oh-so-rolling hills of South Alabama, she
refuses to ride her bike. I think peering down the hill from
our lofty perch scares her.
And I think about those killer NO. VA. hills I coveted on my
skateboard. Man, those were the thrill seeking days of my
youth, I tell ya.We're not sure WHAT to do about this. We keep
telling her what a bad-ass she was at age FOUR riding all over
the place without training wheels. Sheesh. Ya grow up, ya get
skeert I guess.
We also are considering doing the ''new'' (well, newish) bike
thing to get her to ride. Maybe we should do like her friend
Sarah's folks and say ''no new bike until you learn to ride the
crappy-looking one''. Anyway, now she's 9 and it looks like we'll
be that Berkeley family in crisis soon!
THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER.
But, as you know, Emily, at 13 is quite an accomplished
ballerina and Maggie is a fantastic artist so who needs a bike
It sounds like you want her to ride a bike more than she wants
to. My advice would be to let it go. If she's anxious about it
to start with, added pressure from mom isn't going to help.
When I was young (about 7, I think), my dad tried to teach me to
ride a bike. He's not very patient, and I'm not very
coordinated, so the whole thing was a disaster. The afternoon
ended with him getting mad and refusing to work with me on it.
About 6 months later, I got the bike out of the garage and taught
Leave your daughter alone, and she'll probably come around.
One word: bribe. No, bribes should not be used on a regular
basis, but sometimes it's what works. Just think of it as a
motivational bonus that you might get at work. If her resistance
is big enough, then the bribe will have to be big enough and/or
something that she really, really wants. It might work best to
discuss it with her, let her have some input about fears, etc. I
didn't learn to ride a bike myself until I was 9, so can
sympathize. I think I ended up more or less learning by myself,
my incentive being that then I could ride around with the other
kids. Basically, you must get her to want to learn herself badly
enough to risk the hurts and falls. Good luck.
My friend taught her 8-year old in one afternoon. First, take
the pedals off. When she has her balance, put them back on. Try
grass instead of asphalt. I saw a little girl learning on the
grass in the park next to Fairyland.
I can completely relate to your frustration over the bike riding issue. We had a
similar experience with our son. At the heart of it, he was afraid. But he
wouldn't let us help him learn, and said he just didn't care if he never learned
to ride a bike. Don't give up! When you least expect it, something can happen
that will help your child overcome their fear. In our case, we just let it go for a
while and then - out of the blue, one of his friends called up and invited him
over for a playdate....and said, ''Bring your bike!''. He was excited and eager
and went over and rode his bike with his friend. I prayed that they wouldn't
ridicule him for still having training wheels on his bike, since his friends little
brother 2 years younger was even riding without them, and fortunately they
didn't. After that, he was motivated to learn to ride without the training
wheels. Although he didn't want anyone to see him learning, and would only
practice if no one was around. And, I should add, he was a real pain about it
too. But he was so proud of himself when he mastered it, that it was worth
putting up with him. Now you would never know that it was such an issue in
our household. So, I guess my advice is to try and be patient, and hope for a
breakthrough. Maybe you could engineer one...family bike rides with mom &
dad, or something that would motivate her enough to get the focus off her
fear. We also got good advice from Hank & Frank on the right size bike. My
son's old bike was much too small and made it difficult for him to balance and
learn. Hang in there.
Ok, here's what you do. Find a big parking lot. Like at a
school on the weekend. She should be able to ride a good long
distance without the possibility of running into anything.
Next: teach her THE KEY to bike riding: steer in the direction
you are falling. If you are falling to the left, you turn your
wheel to the left, if you are falling to the right, steer to the
right. This is counterintuitive to kids who want to steer away
and then they really do fall, and quick, too. So you have her
sit on the bike. You hold the bike from behind and she puts her
feet on the pedals. Then, while holding the bike you tip her one
way or the other and she has to turn the wheel in that direction.
Do it until her reaction is automatic. Then its time to set
her free. You really need a big open space because since she
will be concentrating on steering to stop herself from falling
she won't be concentrating on steering per se. A ten year old
will probably set off riding after half an hour of this. Oh, by
the way, the bike should be low enough that her feet comfortably
reach the ground. Put the seat all the way down or use a small bike.
been teaching kids to ride
I read the post about teaching your 10 year old to ride a bike
by steering into the direction the bike is leaning. This
method works wonderfully (!!!) and was developed by a person
who was never able to market it, supposedly because it would
have put the training wheel companies out of business! The
method is called ''Pedal Magic'' and can be found at
www.pedalmagic.com. The method is basically as described in
the post, but for a few dollars you can download the 12 minute
streaming video for parents. The video has a lot of tricks to
take your child from steering while you hold and tilt the bike
to riding on her or his own. There are special tips for
children who have been riding with training wheels and need to
unlearn bad habits, etc. It certainly worked for us. In less
than 45 minutes our non-rider was pedaling away.
- parent of a happy rider
I would like to take the training wheels off my daughter's bike
(she's 6)and she also thinks she is ready but, I would like a
plan. Do I hold the bike from behind or do I hold her? What if
she falls and gets hurt and doesn't want to keep trying...I
would appreciate any advice or tips.
ready to roll
For this message and the following one on training wheels:
I taught my neighbor's son to ride without training wheels. I
very lightly held on to the back of the seat and let go when he
started pedaling fast. He was 6 and learned in about 15
His parents had taken off and put back on the training wheels
several times but he seemed to have no confidence in their
ability to teach/help him nor did he want his parents see him in
a potential moment of weakness.
My advice is to have an adult friend or relative that your child
likes and trusts to take your child and bike to a playground or
path to practice.
I applaud you trying to start early with your daughter. The older she
harder it will be for you to help her learn because she'll be heavier
(harder to help
balance or catch) and she'll ride faster (which makes running to keep
up that much
Here's what worked for me. Take off the training wheels. Find a
unobstructed section of pavement that requires absolutely no steering.
paths and sidewalks won't do. I used the large paved playyard of Marin
Albany (which is now torn up, unfortunately). Hopefully you can find
similar, like an empty parking lot or basketball court. Longfellow
Sacramento would probably work well.
Tell your child not to think about steering or braking yet; you'll stop
her if she's
about to hit something. All she needs to do is concentrate on
balancing. If her
balance is really shaky, or she's overly nervous, you might need to
start with one of
your hands on the handlebar and one on the back of her seat. Help her
with a small push and run alongside. As soon as you think she's
capable, try to get
her going with just one hand placed firmly in her lower back, right
next to the seat.
Keep your other hand near the handlebars, ready to grab before a fall,
or to stop her
when she gets to the edge of the pavement (or other obstacle). Tell
remember to always pedal. The words ''Keep pedaling!'' should become
mantra. Once she stops pedaling, she's likely to start losing her
balance and get
wobbly. ; It make take a few sessions like this to get the balancing
Once her balance is steady, have her try the steering and braking part.
part about braking for my daughter was remembering to put her foot down
she stopped so she wouldn't fall over (she was used to training wheels
up). Once she had steering and braking down the other big hurdle was
started all by herself - getting a pedal up in the ''10:00'' position
before pushing off,
The most important thing is to be ready to break any painful falls,
have first aid
handy, and of course, have some rewarding snacks or drinks. Good luck!
Getting rid of my daughter's training wheels was a
wonderful project and I would be happy to share it here in
the hope it helps you. My daughter was not yet 5, and
wanted her training wheels off. I took her to a flat
playground (Thousand Oaks in Berkeley) and held her,
while she pedaled. You could try holding the bike, but I
found that I would need to lean over too much, and it
seemed to make her feel more secure to be held. I held her
on both sides of her rib cage, under her arms, which is what
felt most solid. Once she seemed to have balance, I let go
of my grip a bit. I found that it helped her most, for meto
hold her strongly, and to assure her I had a good hold of her
and that she wouldn't fall. Once she gained confidence in
the ''being held'' and riding, I let go a little bit gradually. At
the end of that first session, she was able to go by herself
several times. I stayed close enough that I could catch her
when she started to wobble. It was a bit tiring, and I
stopped before I overdid it on my back. Perhaps better to do
several shorter ''training sessions''. Point out each
improvement, and tell her when she is doing it alone.
Come with a big dose of confidence ''You Can Do This''.
Also, say that at times when learning something new, she
may fall. Make sure she has long pants and long sleeves to
protect the skin a bit on those first tries. I found that the
second session was when my daughter really took off, and
on the third she could start and stop on her own. It was a bit
nerve-wracking for me, but so very empowering for her. I
hope you have a great experience!
Mom of bike riding girl
After having similiar difficulty with our daughter balancing
after I let go of the bike seat. I tried lowering the seat until
our daughter's feet could drop off the pedals and touch and
balance the bike herself. As soon as I did this she took off.
If she started to loose her balance she would skim her shoes and
balance that way. Within a minute she was confident enough to
ride without taking her feet off the pedals, but she knew she
could when she needed to. When she was more skillful with her
riding I raised the seat back up adjusting for her leg length and
a small bend at the knee.
I can tell you what worked well for my son: find a gentle,
grassy slope (important that it is not too steep) and start your
daughter at the top of it. You stand to the side, one hand on the
back of the bike seat, one on the handlebar in front of your
daughter's hand. She starts pedalling down the slope and you run
along side, gradually letting your grip soften until you let go,
but keeping your hands close to where they were so you can reach
out and grab the bike if it starts to tip over. Repeat
as many times as necessary. Depending on what kind of shape you
are in you may get quite out of breath, but it should work. You
can stop, or at least soften, any falls. If she's ready she will
soon be able to find her balance and be off.
What not to do: do not just push your daughter on the bike down
the hill and let her crash on her own until she gets it. This is
what my father did for me. It worked for my sister, but I must
have a lower pain threshold because it did not work at all for
me. I don't think I learned to ride a bike until I was 8 or 9.
For the mother of the 8 year old who wants her daughter to start
riding: one thing that might help is that this process with the
gentle, grassy slope, etc. can work so well that she can be
riding without those training wheels within an hour. And once she
gets it, she'll be off and no stopping her.
First, find a flat area with wide open spaces, such as a
playground, without too many people or obstructions (not a bike
path). 100 Oaks, MLK Middle School, and Oceanview Elementary
have worked for me. You should hold the bike, not the child.
I would usually hold the back of the seat with one hand and the
end of the handlebar with the other. You will need to run with
the bike while she picks up speed. Once she has reached
cruising speed, you should be able to tell, by easing up on
your grip, whether or not she is self balancing. If she's not
balancing, or can't reach an adequate speed, she's probably not
ready (tho it's probably still good practice to have her ride
w/o training wheels while you hold her). If she seems to be
balancing, you can let go for a few seconds, but keep running
with her and be prepared to grab her bike if she begins
falling. Once a child realizes that they are riding on their
own, my experience has been that they are so excited by this
they will tolerate a few falls.
two for two
Here's what we did: I took off the training wheels, and then I
also took off the pedals. My son then had the equivalent of a
scooter, where he could push himself along for short spurts (on
level, or slightly downshill slopes), and if he tipped to either
side, he could push gently off the ground with either foot to
regain his equilibrium. If the pedals were still on the bike,
they would be banging into his shins (ouch). After an afternoon
of this, he was ready to have the pedals put back on.
I also see that they sell this long-armed handle that grabs onto
the seat, or seat post, of the bike, so you can run behind the
bike without having to bend over too much. Wish I had one, when
I was training our older son There is nothing like the look of
joy on your child's face, when they master the freedom and fun
For teaching our son to ride a bike, we found the easiest way
for him to get used to the bicycle-riding ''feel'' was riding
a ''Trail-a-bike'' tandem extension that fit on the back of our
grown-up bike. He was able to get the feeling of the balance
required without training wheels in a safe environment. When he
went back to trying his own bicycle without training wheels, he
picked it up in no time.
I expect you could try one out, borrowing or renting from a
bicycle store to see if it seems to work with your child.
I need advice on helping my 8-year old to overcome her fear of
learning to ride a bike. She nearly had it 3 summers ago, with
training wheels off. Then the bike broke and by the time I had
it fixed, she wouldn't get on it again. I've tried to persuade
her to try again every summer since then and have offered to put
the training wheels back on, but she's refused, since she knows
most kids her age don't need training wheels. I believe she
wants to learn, and is embarrassed that she can't. I should add
that she is otherwise very active, athletic and well-coordinated.
This is one of those things I feel is my job as a parent to
teach her, and I've failed. Any suggestions?
I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 11. Yes, I was
embarrassed that a big kid like me didn't know how to ride a
bike and scared of falling off.
What worked for me was a combination of the following: a
relatively private (so none of my classmates could see me),
slightly sloping but flat area (with an uphill at the end so I
didn't worry about accelerating out of control), and using my
little sister's bike without training wheels. In the bike
store they always put me in a bike so big that I couldn't reach
the ground with my feet, which was scary. On my little
sister's bike, I could straddle the seat with my feet on the
ground, so I knew that if I lost my balance, all I had to do
was put my foot down. Training wheels were useless at my age
because I already knew how to pedal; riding a bike with
training wheels didn't address the fundamental problem. They
didn't teach me how to balance, and they made me look like an
idiot, being such a big girl.
One day I just took my sister's bike out and decided to learn,
starting by sitting on the seat and letting the gentle slope
carry me along. Within less than an hour I got the hang of
it. By the next day I was riding my own big bike, and after
that it was hard to get me off my bike!
So you might try a smaller bike in a private spot. A very
gentle slope helps too, if there's a safe area at the end.
That way you can start by just taking your feet an inch off the
ground and you'll start rolling.
This is a foolproof, 1 day, hands off method and it will save
1 small bike, seat adjusted so the child can put both feet
firmly on the ground on either side (tip toes does not work).
1 motivated child.
1 pair of bike gloves.
Open area with smooth asphalt/cement/hard dirt. (Open in all
directions.) With a slight - very slight- incline. I use LeConte
playground usually. King has too much of an incline. Rosa Parks
is on the small side. The idea is for them to be able to go in
any direction for a while and not have to worry too much about
steering around obstacles.
Sit the child on the bike and instruct him/her to push herself
with both feet, (as if there were no pedals like they ride the
push toys), down the incline (which is only intended to keep
them going not to gather speed).
They are to keep their feet off the pedals and close to the
ground. They can hold their legs slightly out just above the
ground. Their feet are there to catch them and if they have to
put one down they can use it to push. Look ahead not down.
This helps them get the balance concept without the interference
of the pedaling (which challenges the balance). They don't fall
either. I have taught 5 children this way. Three of my own, a
friends and a grandchild. The latest one was three weeks ago (4
years old - he insisted). The oldest child was 8 and embarrased
not to be riding. It is easier with the older ones because they
understand the explanation. I had to show the little one on my
They go down one or two times and you can see when it clicks.
Every single one has suddenly put their feet on the pedals and
started pedaling when they got it.
The 8 year old crashed into the only post in the whole area
after she started pedaling and didn't want to do it again so we
took her back to the previous, and succesful stage without
pedaling and she was fine halfway down.
IMPORTANT! Make sure the incline is slight or they will gather
too much speed, which is scary, and can fall. Make sure that the
incline flattens out well before there is an obstacle.
Best of luck.
Granny on wheels
Here are some things I learned teaching my 2 kids, (and several
in the neighborhood) how to ride a bike: run along next to them
with your hand firmly grasping the back of the seat. Try to get
a head of steam up which makes balancing easier, though it
usually freaks the new rider out a bit. You may have to also
lightly grip the near end of the handlebar to help keep them
upright, but DO NOT hold onto the rider- just the bike; it helps
to experience the feeling of the bike being upright and balanced
and not you holding them up. (The downside to training wheels is
that the new rider gets used to relying on them instead of
learning how to balance the bike, so it makes for a greater
barrier to overcome when the trainers come off).
The other technique that I've found very helpful is to find a
large, paved open space with a very gentle decline, (the paved
play area behind MLK Middle School is ideal). Position the bike
just a little up the hill and encourage the rider to pick up
his/her feet and just coast, heading in a straight line down the
hill. (The fact that there's no road to run off of and nothing
to crash into is a big psychological plus). This builds
confidence really quickly because they don't have to pedal and
have the knowledge that they can always put their feet down to
keep themselves from falling over. (I should add that it's
helpful if the bike has a hand brake if one's feet aren't on the
pedals). As they gain in confidence, you can position them a
little higher up the hill each time. With increased speed comes
easier balance, and then it's just a matter of having the
confidence to put their feet on the pedals and start riding.
Once they get the feel of being balanced on the bike the rest
comes easily. Good luck!
I am interested in advice from anyone who has dealt with this situation
before. Our son who recently turned eight, adamantly refuses to get on
his bike and learn to ride it. He used to enjoy riding it when he was
younger, but when his dad took the training wheels off of it for him to try
without them - everything changed. He got on the bike and rode it up
the street (without the wheels) but then seemed to feel insecure and got
off and has never wanted to get on again. We have put the training
wheels back on and he still won't get on it. We tried a few times to
encourage him to try it again, and when that met with stubborn
resistance we decided to just let it go. It has been many months now,
and he still doesn't want to get on the bike. He even said it was okay to
get rid of it. The only conclusion I can come to is that he was scared
without the training wheels, and now can't conquer that fear to try it
again. It saddens me to see his friends having fun riding their bikes and
him not joining in. He has always been somewhat timid and risk averse
and had a similar reaction to swimming lessons. He still doesn't know
how to swim, and that is another area that concerns me. I feel that if he
could just get past his inner anxiety, he would really enjoy these
activities. Does anyone have any advice for me to help him overcome
his anxiety and resistance?
My son was similar-he loved riding with training wheels, but
then became scared, and wouldn't ride a bike. Now he is 9 1/2,
and suddenly loves riding. So I would suggest you give your son
time-some kids take a lot longer and are more cautious, but I
bet he will do it when he is ready. I think there is this
expectation of what kids are supposed to do at certain ages, but
some of them don't fit the mold.
Sounds to me that, like my daughter, your son may have a
vestibular problem, a balance issue, an inner ear issue tied
directly to the neurological system that causes his un-sured-
ness and therefore anxiety of non-training wheel riding...it may
be something to consider...does he get car sick at all? Averse
to roller-coaster or the like rides now that he is a bit older
and can discern when he does not feel right about something?
If so, the HANDLE program does address and remediate these
vestibular, and neurological developmental roadblocks, as short-
term, non-drug and movement oriented.
www.HANDLE.org and Sindy Wilkinson, M.A., Lafayette, local
Daughter can now read in a car!
My daughter (6)is on the careful side and I appreciate it and
respond to it accordingly. She just learned to ride her bike
without training wheels. It is a process that takes several
days. The first day we had to send her dad back into the
house. He may not be the only man out there who thinks that he
will teach his child and that it shouldn't take longer than 10
minutes or an hour if the child would only listen. (She almost
had a tantrum trying to deal with all at once). It doesn't work
that way for careful and sensitive children. They want to learn
at their their own pace and as they struggle they cannot listen
and follow instructions for a while - it's too overwhelming. I
started listening to her and realized that what she needed was
an assistant, not a teacher. I told her that I would be her
horse and she can give me orders as she pleases (hold on - let
go). Then we practiced in an alley way for over an hour. (Yes,
my left arm muscles were sore for the next 2 days). At first I
had to hold on to her back and one side of the steering wheel,
then only the steering wheel. The next day she drove half the
alley way by herself, the third day she drove the whole alley
way by herself. Then daddy was allowed back for real training
(not just showing off her accomplishments). Now she was
competent enough to listen to instructions. He taught her how
to get on and get moving by herself without adult help. Last
weekend he took her to the Berkeley Marina to practice in
public and to do turns/curves. She is very motivated and he
proudly calls her a cyclist. My advice is to invest half an
hour per day for 5 consecutive days and let your child be in
charge. Last year I taught her how to swim in deep water
applying the same principle. She never attended a swimming
class in her life. Practice the movements on land and in the
tub, get your face under water in the tub, cross half the pool
with my hand supporting her under the belly, the whole pool
with supporting her belly, two strokes by herself from me to
the ladder, increase to crossing half the pool from mom to
ladder, cross the whole pool length with a mommy stop in the
middle, cross the whole pool without stop in the middle. Put
your face under water in the pool while holding on to the
ladder. Jump from the pool rim into mommy's arms (not exactly,
but you'll catch the child right after it hits the water,
increase the distance, so it has to swim two strokes towards
you after the jump. Increase the distance to half the pool
length when the child realizes that it automatically starts
swimming after going under. Before you know it, your child will
jump in and swim on its own while you get to do your own
swimming. That process took us about 7-10 days of going in the
pool daily for about 20 minutes. Remember that your child
needs to agree on any progress you're trying to achieve. Put
your child in charge of its advancement and just follow the
steps. I come to think this is all about trust, being there for
each other - unhurried and devoted - and not violating that
trust in the child's eye by pushing it to advance. I am working
fulltime, but finding that time now that the days are longer is
Does anyone have any tips for teaching a child to ride a two-
wheeler? I want to know whether it's best to go the training
wheels route or to buy a very small bike, one that would allow my
daughter to put her feet on the ground when she loses her balance,
rather than depending on the training wheels. I want the
experience to be fun, but I also want not to drag out the
training-wheel dependency or make it harder to learn to ride
without them in the long run.
I'd also like recommendations for a good ''first bike.'' My
daughter is a very tall soon-to-be-4-year-old. She loves the idea
of riding a bike, but doesn't have much experience and is not
particularly athletically inclined. I also don't want to spend a
Here's what we did with our two young childern. The first bike
was a 16 inch with training wheels. At age 4, we felt they were
too young to learn how to ride without training wheels. We felt
they needed the experience and gain the confidence of riding the
bike, turning, braking, etc, before taking the big leap. Even
with training wheels, there is a lot for them to learn. We
waited until they told us they were ready to try without
training wheels. I feel it was important not to push them, but
wait until they were motivated, (and when the parent is fit
enough to run the equivalent of a dozen wind sprints).
Generally, it was about a year on training wheels. We bought the
bikes at Target for around $30-40 on sale.
We found the best way to get our 4-yr-old started with bikes
was using a trail-a-bike that hitched behind our adult bikes
(our brand was ''Adams'' but I think there are others available
now). Previously we had tried training wheels, and our son was
getting pretty frustrated. He took immediately to the trail-a-
bike and had no problem keeping his balance. It also made for
great family outings. Riding on the trail-a-bike seemed to
give him confidence, and a few months later he tried his own
bike without training wheels and picked it up in a flash.
My husband, an avid cyclist, read that learning to ride a scooter
gives you the balance needed to ride a two-wheeler. We tried it
with our son, who was 6 or 7 at the time. After he learned to
ride a scooter, we took the pedals off his two-wheeler so he
could use it like a scooter and get used to its feel. (This
advice was given in a different article about teaching children
how to ride a bike.) After about 10 minutes of this he was ready
for the pedals. Once the pedals were on, it took about 5 minutes
to get his balance and go riding off. No training wheels. I
don't see why this wouldn't work with a 4-year old as long as she
can touch the ground while sitting on her bike. So for the sake
of money, buy the largest bike that the seat will adjust low
My son, age 5 + 21/2 months, just started riding his bike without training
wheels a few days ago without any help from me or my husband. On
Tuesday morning, he told me he had dreamt that he could ride his bike
without training wheels. That day, at preschool, he rode the little 2-
wheeler that they have there, and at night, at home, we took off his
training wheels and he rode his own 12-inch bike all around our patio. I
guess he knew when he was ready, and he just did it!
We got him his bike when he was 4 + 3 months, and he rode it with
training wheels up until now. One time, about a month ago, we raised
the training wheels so he could practice balancing more, but this was
harder for him, so we lowered them back down again.
Almost all of the children I know started off with training wheels. Some
still have them, some don't. It's purely developmental, and each child
can do it easily when they're ready. I don't believe they are a crutch at
We bought our son's bike at Target for about $40. I would recommend
getting one that only has foot breaks, (some have a hand break, too, but
these are a waste of money since the children can't use them anyway).
Adults Learning to Ride
I have a great bicycle, leaning against the shelving in my
basement, just sitting there. Many years ago, I really
enjoyed tooling around on my bike, but now, I just have
this huge resistance to falling, and it stops me entirely
from hopping on and riding off. I'm worried about
traffic, I can't for the life of me remember how to shift
gears, and I'm just generally too anxious to start again.
So I'm wondering if there are classes, easy bike paths,
and other things I can do to get over the fear and return
to the pleasure and fun and great exercise of biking. I'm
a mom of two teens and would like to model well-being and
fitness and am hoping one day we could all enjoy this
Not like falling off a horse
Check out the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. They have some
great classes that will teach you basic riding skills (the
classes start in the classroom and move to the streets).
They also have a great program called the 1000 New Cyclists
Campaign, which pairs up new cyclists with experienced
riders. Good luck and email me if you need any more help;
I'm an avid bike commuter and love encouraging people to ride!
I just dusted off my own bike after 10 years, after having 3
kids, and first I took it to a bike shop to get a tune-up
(estimated $70, but only cost $30). Feeling safer, I hit
the Bay Trail down by Costco. It starts between the gas
station at Costco and the Pt. Isabel dog run parking
lot--you'll see it when you drive around behind Costco.
It's not crowded, yet it feels safe, and is wide and totally
flat. Another good one is the Iron Horse Trail in Walnut
Creek. Again, flat and safe, and there's a Peet's you can
stop at, along the way... Buy an iPod, load in some
inspiring music, and hit the road!
walk that bike over to the Missing Link (but not on a
weekend if possible)... get that bike tuned up if they think
it fits you. Maybe the bike is the wrong size?
then, have them show you how to operate it.
love my bike
Iron Horse trail in Walnut Creek is a very flat and easy
off-street paved trail. Might be a place to start. There's
also the bay trail and I think something on Bay Farm Island.
Some bike clubs have introductory rides at the beginning of
the season. I think some bike shops have classes on riding
in the city. Maybe just call around to some shops or ask the
East Bay Bicycle Coalition. You do have to ride defensively
around here, but I think unless you're riding in the hills,
it's not that likely you'll fall off the bike.
East bay regional parks has been offering some free guided bike rides
that I think are oriented towards bike skill development. Ebparks.org
REI outdoor school offers bike clinics of 15 people max. I believe you
meet at the berkeley store and then you drive in a van to earshore state
park (in an overflow lot near the sports fields). I think bikes are
grizzly peak cyclists offer regular clinics at miller knox regional park in
richmond...not sure if they are open to everyone or only to club
Hi, I'm a KP employee and just received this. You can attend.
''Learn to feel confident when cycling to work. Attend a free
Urban Bicycle Safety Class at Oakland Medical Center,
presented by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC). This 3.5
hour class focuses on the basics of safe cycling, riding in
traffic, equipment, crash avoidance, and bicycle rights and
responsibilities. Classes are open to Kaiser Permanente
employees, members, and the public (14 years and older).
Light snacks provided.
The next Urban Bicycle Safety Class will be held Wednesday,
August 17, 6:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. at 3701 Broadway,
Conference Room G101D, Oakland.
On-Road Instruction class
A free six-hour On-Road Instruction class is available for
Urban Bicycle Safety Class graduates. The class will be held
on Saturday, September 10, in Berkeley, from 9:00 a.m.-2:30
p.m. See link for more information http://www.ebbc.org/safety.''
I think REI has a ''learn to bike'' course for adults who didn't learn as kids, or like
you haven't ridden in ages.
Happy bike commuter
I was in a similar situation a few years back. Started with spin classes at the Y.
Then got a commuter bike that fit me. It's outfitted with baskets & lights. I'm
very safety conscience but have become more confident with time & practice.
There are many streets with bike lanes & lighter car traffic. There are also
excellent, free bike safety classes offered by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition
(http://www.ebbc.org/). But you do have to be on the lookout constantly for
cars, pedestrians & yes, other cyclists. I now bike to work & do many of my
errands by bike. It's been really great for me. And yes, positive role modeling to
teens & others. Would be happy to talk with you offline.
I have a mortifying confession to make for the sake of seeking to
overcome my problem--for various reasons I never learned to ride
a bike. I have always, always wanted to learn but felt too
embarrassed/clumsy to try. Now that I have a little one I
especially would like to learn. Any advice for learning
techniques, techinical tips or hidden away spots where I can look
like a goof without being too embarrased by onlookers? thanks
I also did not learn how to ride a bike until I was 18 years old.
Once I graduated high school, I moved to Arizona where a bicycle
was my only reasonable form of transportation, so I knew it was
time. It is actually a lot easier to learn when you are an adult
than when you are a kid, in my opinion. I would just get on the
bike and try it out. I remember the hardest part about it was
getting going, and feeling like I was far away from the earth.
But practicing over and over by starting and stopping again is
the way to get a hang of it. I would just go to a parking lot,
like the top of Ashby BART station on a weekend, and getting on
and trying it. It is really not that hard, and you'll never ever
Just Do It!
I learned to ride a bike at age 35!
I had a bad experience trying to learn as a kid and never did.
My husband taught me, just like he taught our kids--I think any
relatively strong and fit adult could do it. We just went to an
elementary school playground and he held on to the bike as I rode
around, gradually letting go more and more. It was very
easy--only a couple of sessions, no crashes! If you scope out the
playground in advance you'll have an idea of when it will be
pretty empty, but try not to worry about people seeing you--you
are setting a good example of being a lifelong learner.
Then I rode pretty frequently but only on bike trails since I am
scared of riding with cars around.
old dogs can still learn new tricks!
I think the exact same method would work for you, that is working for my
old. Find a bike that is small enough so you can sit on the seat and
put both feet
flatly on the ground. A bike shop can let you try different sizes and
then you maybe
can buy a used one, cheap. Take off the pedals (you'll need a wrench or
Then, go to a wide open space that has a small tilt to its surface. The
School in Berkeley is perfect, and it's usually deserted, so you'll have
the place to
yourself. Coast down, using your feet to walk along, and get the feel
Gradually start picking up your feet, and ta-da! You're balancing!
When you feel
ready, put the pedals back on. Good luck!!!
Get a copy of the book, ''Tolstoy's Bicycle.'' Out of print but
available used from Amazon. Tolstoy learned to ride a bike at
age 67, I think. The book lists all sorts of accomplishments by
all sorts of people, chronologically by age.
Hope this isn't too repetitious, but I didn't learn how to ride a
bicycle until I was 29. The tips I got were to 1) take the
pedals off with a wrench 2) lower the seat until your feet can
reach the ground easily to help stop yourself 3) practice
balancing/coasting and using the hand brakes (supplementing with
your feet if need be) and 4) practice in an area that has a very
gentle slope (to help you coast) with no traffic or things to run
into, such as the parking lot at a community college or business
park on a weekend, preferably in dry conditions. After you
master balancing, coasting, and braking, reattach the pedals and
practice pedaling and shifting (if you have a multi-speed bike).
It goes without saying to always wear a helmet, and gloves and
kneepads are also a good idea (trust me, you'll take at least one
tumble). Good luck!
this page was last updated: Sep 29, 2013
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website: BerkeleyParentsNetwork.org
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network