Date added: 09/05/2014 Successful Balance Bike Experiences
In order to have the smoothest bike learning opportunity possible we have developed a list of things to consider. The following list includes key components that will allow your children to grow into cycling without fear or frustration.
Dress the Part
First things first, make sure that everyone is dressed for success. We suggest wearing close toed shoes, pants or shorts, and a t-shirt. But the most important part of the wardrobe, one that should be included with any bike ride, is the helmet!
Wearing these clothes accomplishes two things. First, it sets apart the activity of riding a balance bike as something important (things that are important often require a certain dress code, cycling included)! Second, it’s safer. Balance bikes are specifically designed to decrease the possibility of injury by excluding any heavy chains, gears or pedals. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean it is recommended to go barefooted on the road.
Close toed shoes, like sneakers or tennis shoes make it so that if a child stumbles, falls, or incidentally nocks their feet against something, they are protected. Same thing goes with a helmet. It isn’t likely that a child will injure themselves on a balance bike, but not only is it a good idea to wear one, “just in case,” it’s also a great habit to start practicing now. That way when they’re older wearing a helmet is something they don’t have to think about, it’s already become a habit. The video below is a great reminder of why wearing a helmet is something that should be a part of every bike ride.
As with beginning any new skill or challenge, starting out can be tough (and scary)! A quick word of inspiration can be incredibly effective at combating the anxiety that comes with a new task. Although many kids might just hop on and ride, some children have had previous experiences with bikes that make it a challenge to trust a bicycle again. Other kids may be wary just from the get go. Being able to reassure your new rider might make all the difference.
While encouragement is a helpful tool, going too far in an effort to be supportive may have some negative consequences. When starting out the process it is important to remember that balance bikes are specially engineered to be completely self-teaching through the rider’s own experience. Offering a demonstration or encouragement can be a helpful tool, but involving yourself into your child’s riding experience (i.e. holding the bike seat and pushing the child along) may be counterproductive.
When the seat is being held up it takes away the opportunity for the rider to learn how to balance. There is no need to test the handlebars or change how the child is positioned on the seat, and there is no need to learn the fundamental skill of how to balance. Refraining from that type of involvement will allow your children to learn and test their own abilities, in the process getting better and more comfortable with balance and riding.
While you can ride a balance bike almost anywhere, inside or outside, on the trail or on the sidewalk, for the beginning stages it can be helpful to pick a specific location that makes the ideas of what a balance bike is used for really click into place. While you can have this experience almost anywhere, an ideal spot would be outdoors, on a paved surface and preferable in an area where there is a slight slope. This type of location allows for kids to “walk the bike” to get a feel for how their legs should operate in order to propel the bike forward. After getting used to the movement kids can start to feel comfortable lifting up one leg to see how they should orient the bike while lifting up their feet from the ground. After lifting one, they then lift up too.
During the leg lifting portion of this first practice it is helpful to utilize the gentle slope in the venue you picked. Some children choose not to go very fast when they are beginning and having an area where gravity is responsible for some of the bike’s momentum makes ‘gliding’ a little easier to obtain. Sometimes getting your kids to the lifting the feet stage does require a healthy dose of encouragement. This process allows kids to develop the skills required to balance at their own pace. If they ever feel uncomfortable, all that is required of them to avoid falling is placing their feet on the ground. They are in control and they are learning how to master a new set of skills.