He’s Done It Again

November 14, 2005 @ 1:19 pm | Filed under: Family Adventures

I just looked out the window and saw Beanie blithely pedaling her two-wheeler around the cul de sac. Since she didn’t know HOW to ride a two-wheeler fifteen minutes ago, you can imagine I found this a rather astonishing sight. Scott’s brilliant method has worked its magic again. He wrote a piece about this on his own blog a couple of weeks ago, the day he took Beanie’s pedals OFF her bike (step one of His Brilliant Method), which piece I shall now repost here in order to share his brilliance with as many people as possible. He would perhaps argue that the really brilliant person is whoever invented this particular method of teaching a kid to ride a bike, but I will counter with the assertion that it takes an inspired mind to think of Googling “teach your kid to ride a bike.” Which is what he did, which is how he discovered the Brilliant Method, which is what led to Bean’s amazingly speed achievement today. I therefore present:

How to Learn to Ride a Bike
by my fabulous husband, Scott

So some of you may remember that a while back I said that The Rose had actually forgotten how to ride her bike over the winter, thus disproving the old adage. She hopped on it this spring, went two feet, wobbled, almost fell off and decided she no longer knew how to ride a bike.

She spent all spring and summer sadly watching her big sister do amazing feats on two wheels but wouldn’t give it another go herself, even though her two best friends also spent those seasons riding like madwomen.

And then one day, a few weeks back, out of the blue, she asked if she could ride her bike. I said sure, of course. So I brought it out, helped her on with her helmet and she climbed on. She was shaky for the first few seconds and then it was like she hadn’t stopped for eleven months. Off she went, getting better by the minute—an amazing thing to witness. And for the next week she rode every chance she got, from early in the morning to late in the evening, until she was far better than she’d been last year.

Kids are weird.

The Bean didn’t want to be left out, so I brought out her bike as well. I’d taken the pedals off and lowered the seat so she could learn to ride the way Max and The Rose had. Our neighbors had noticed this, and The Rose’s sudden amazing prowess, and asked what the deal was. Max filled them in in incredible detail.

Intrigued, they took the training wheels and pedals off their seven-year-old’s bike and lowered her seat as well. And within a few days she was riding like a pro.

Our neighbors have since thanked us about a half-dozen times, as have a few other friends we’ve passed this Learning to Ride a Bike tip on to. In the interest of furthering joy for mankind, and in case any of youse has a kid who wants to learn how to ride a bike, I therefore present what I firmly believe is The Easiest Way to Learn How to Ride a Bike.

First of all, as mentioned, you take off not just the training wheels—vile things which only serve to ingrain bad habits which later have to be unlearned—but also the pedals themselves, and lower the seat way down; the seat should be low enough that when sitting her feet are flat on the ground, with her knees bent, as though sitting in a chair.

Okay. Now she just rides around. And that’s how she learns how to ride the bike in a matter of days, all by herself.

See, normally, when you’re learning how to ride a bike, you’re trying to learn how to steer, pedal, brake and balance all at the same time. They’re all vital, obviously, but the hardest and most important of these, of course, is learning to balance. By taking away the pedaling and braking part, you’re able to focus on just the balancing and steering. And, really, the steering’s pretty basic, especially if you don’t have to worry about the pedaling and braking part.

It’s best to do this on a basically flat area with maybe just the tiniest hint of a slope—but just a tiny one. The kid will initially sort of duckwalk the bike around, taking little babysteps. Soon—generally sooner than you can believe—she’ll realize that’s a little bit boring and that by taking bigger and longer strides, she can glide a little bit further each time. From there it’s just a little while longer before she’s got both feet off the ground at the same time, balancing perfectly.

Theoretically you could do this by just lowering the seat and not removing the pedals, but the kid’ll keep banging her legs into the pedals as she walks, so it’s way more comfortable to take ‘em off. And you want to make this as easy for the kid as possible, because that way she does all the work. Which isn’t only good for you—not that I ever discount an excuse for laziness—but because it works better.

And there you go. After maybe a few days or a few weeks, depending upon the kid (our neighbor’s kid asked for them back after about two hours; they put her off for a few days but finally gave in and, yeah, she was ready for ‘em), the kid’ll be begging to take it to the next stage, at which point you put the pedals back on. It’ll take a few minutes for her to get used to the pedaling and braking thing but not too long. Not too long at all. You’ll be amazed. After a week of practice—or, as always, maybe less—you’ll want to raise her seat back up to where it should normally be.

I spent hours and hours trying to teach Max how to ride a bike the standard way and after about a dozen hours she was convinced she was one of those rare humans who was simply fated to never ride a bicycle. Then we tried this technique. I’d guess I had to invest a total of an hour, including time spent removing and replacing the pedals, before she was completely proficient. Same thing went for The Rose (both times combined).

And the joy it’s brought…I mean, just riding a bike’s pretty groovy thang in and of itself. But mastering this vital childhood step all by yourself? The Rose glowed for weeks. She felt like she’d kicked Godzilla’s ass. And that, my friends, is beyond cool.


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