Monday, May 18, 2009

Teach your child to ride the easy way

One word: balance bikes.

Balance bikes are the no-stress, guaranteed-success way to teach your child to ride a bike. Actually, your child will teach herself to ride.

A balance bike is a bike without a drive-train. No pedals, cranks, or chain. Without the pedals and with the seat low enough, she can comfortably place her feet on the ground and make the bike go by walking and make it stop by, well, stopping. As she becomes comfortable, she starts running. And, then, she glides. Finally, when she's got the gliding thing down, she'll be ready to jump on a regular bike and work on the relatively easier skills of pedaling and braking.

It's really that simple. Note that training wheels never enter the picture. (They're bad, really bad.)

The picture above is then three-year-old daughter of NS&S gliding on a Like-A-Bike, a fancy wooden balance bike, a gift from an overindulgent grandfather. It worked great for her and her older brother. But, you don't need anything nearly as fancy (or expensive).

Keep an eye out for a cheap or free 12-inch or 16-inch bike. (The numbers refer to the diameter of the wheel.) They show up all the time at tag sales and on the curb ready to be thrown out. Take off the training wheels. Take the bike to a local bike store and ask them to remove the bottom bracket. (It's the part at the bottom of the bike that hosts the pedal and crank assembly.) They'll probably do it for free.

Voila. You own a balance bike.

Lower (or raise) the seat so your child can sit comfortably with both feet flat on the ground, but can still walk along without getting off the seat.

Give the kid the bike. Offer some words of encouragement. And, your work is done.

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