As I explained in my previous post, we are finally making it a priority for our 7-year-old son Will to learn how to ride a bike this summer. I bought him a new bike 2 days ago, and Will and I have been busy breaking it in (and trying not to break anything). He was excited but nervous to give bike riding a real chance. This is my 1st time really committing to teach a kid to ride a bike, so it is a learning experience for me just as much as it is for Will.
WHO NEEDS A BIKE RACK?
WHERE TO RIDE?
After I got the bike strapped to the top of my Jeep Patriot using bungee cords and my luggage rack, we needed a good, safe, flat place to get to practice. The 1st day we went to my mother-in-law’s house and practiced for about 90 minutes. She has sidewalks and lives in a cul-de-sac where Will can safely ride in the road. I was afraid to let go of the bike on pavement, as I saw bloody knees inevitably coming quickly if I did let go. So I never let go for more than 4-5 seconds at a time on day 1, which was fine because Will had to work hard to figure out how to balance himself on the bike. He tended to lean hard to 1 side or the other, so I taught him to make sure his butt-crack was in the middle of the seat. I probably should have watched a YouTube video or something to get some better advice, but this is all I could come up with to explain the balancing thing to him.
Then I got on his bike and rode it around a little bit. Yes I looked like a giant idiot on a little kids BMX bike. I paid attention to what I was doing to not fall over. I noticed that I rarely stayed in a perfectly straight line, at least not when I was going slow, and my weight would also lean to different sides at different times. When I could feel my weight pulling to one side, I naturally turned the handle bars slightly in the other direction to counteract the lean and balance things out. Once I figured out how I was balancing, I explained it to Will, and he started understanding the basics of balancing the bike. This was great, but we really needed a better space to practice.
On day 2 of bike-riding lessons I took Will to a local elementary school near our house. It had a long, freshly paved stretch of flat pavement that was used for the car-rider lines, and there was a large, mostly flat field that was used for recess. This gave use 2 great options to practice, and we quickly learned that the grassy field was superior to pavement or concrete for learners. This field was perfect because the grass was short, so it did not create extra resistance for pedaling. There was enough dirt that it created a semi-hard surface, but the grass provided a little padding for falls. We had found the place where I could finally let go of the bike and see what Will could do on his own. I knew he would fall over and over again, but I also knew it would hurt much less in the field than it would on the pavement drive.
After a few minutes of practicing in the field, I started letting go of the bike, and Will realized that the falls weren’t too bad on grass. He got in a few 5-10 second rides, and then a couple 15 second rides. He had a big breakthrough with two 30 second rides!
THE FALL: BIKE RIDING IS DANGEROUS
Every kid has to have at least 1 hard fall and a little blood when they are learning to ride a bike! Will got brave after his 2 longest rides on the bike, so he wanted to move from the grass field back to the pavement. He got going really well (and fast) on the paved drive at the school, and then he started turning the bike back toward the grass. Right after he left the pavement and entered the field, he hit a big dip in the ground, and he busted hard. He was pretty rattled, but after I bandaged him up and gave him a pep talk he got back up and rode a few more times. That was when I was the most proud of him!
Here is the video from Will’s 2nd day learning to ride his new bike.