Let's Go for a Ride! Bike Basics for Little Riders

Amy Rees
July 8, 2016

"It's like riding a bike."

Our all-purpose metaphor for any skill which, learned once, comes casually back when tried again, usually much later. There's something joyful in this idea—some delight in both recalling the work it took to master the skill in the first place and the surprise with which we pick it right back up. How perfect to be able to share this essential skill (and metaphor) with your little one!

Wait...me? I'm supposed to do this?! I was hoping to put off any parent-child vehicle operation tutoring until he was 15 and looking for a learner's permit! I didn't have to teach him to roll over or sit up or crawl or walk. I certainly never taught her how to climb out of her crib. I routinely exhort him to pump his legs to propel himself on a swing, but it's usually to no avail.

Short of enlisting a very patient neighborhood fifth grader to do it for you, you are going to have to teach your little one to ride a bike. It won't be quick, it will be fun and, oh, maybe a bit tearful, but it's the stuff of which childhood—not to mention metaphor—is made.

Our eight Savvy-est strategies to maximize the ooohs and minimize the ouch, for both of you:

1. Go pick a helmet together. So different from when we were kids, and what better symbol of humankind's progress in a single generation.  Make the helmet part of the fun, and let him pick one he loves. Soon enough, he'll be wearing it at the breakfast table.

2. Start with a Skuut. We've seen many a little one master the basics of bike balance on this pedal-less gem and then skip straight to a no-training-wheel big kid bike.

3. Bring your bike and helmet with you everywhere. Your old walks to the post office or the bank can now become rides, and your dreaded family trips to the grocery store just might be fun if you've got the bike in the back and you can pop out for a quick post-checkout ride. 

4. Borrow, rent, buy a bike yourself. The family that rides together has fun together!

5. Find a selection of quiet, flat spots. And then make them part of your daily route. Parks might be the best option, but they can also be filled with distractions if you've got a wee one who is a bit timid. With enough thought, we're sure you'll think of the perfect path with just the teensiest downhill slope to get momentum going.

And when that momentum gets going.... 6. Tread lightly with the trust issues. If he wants you to hold onto the back, hold on. He's sure to crash both literally and figuratively if he's looking back to check whether you held on when you promised to. Yes, you remember your dad letting go and you didn't even know, but these are little ones just starting out. Save the solo nudge for when you're sure he's ready.

7. Don't push too much on when the training wheels should come off. We think peer pressure works wonderfully here. It should be the inspiration of seeing another kid go wheels-off that sparks the idea, not the nag of an eager parent.

8. Do a little bit at a time, as often as you can. It may well be that your kiddo will take to the two-wheeled road like a fish to water (ah, metaphor, first so strong and here so wrong...). But whether she's a little Lance or a bit more cautious, just make bike-riding a part of your family's life and watch those wheels—and years—fly by!

From the Parents

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