My daughter is just about ready to start to ride a proper bike.
I am loathe to get her a bike with training wheels/stabilisers, as just about every kid I see with them just relies on them and doesn't learn to balance properly.
What is the best method to get her riding properly?
My dad taught me, my two sisters, my neices and nephews the same basic way.
On grass. Get them on a two wheeler, no training wheels, but with helmet on, and start em up on the grass. Find a field that is smooth (maybe a slight downhill to start on) and push them and let them go.
Grass is harder to ride on, but soft enough to fall on without damage that will get Mommy mad.
You're absolutely right--children's bicycles with training wheels are good for exercise and entertainment, but they do little to nothing for balance.
In my experience, the best way to teach anyone--children included--to ride a bicycle is to take the pedals off, lower the seat, and let them scoot & coast around until they develop the proper balance. Then, add the pedals, and let them coast, pedal, etc.
For children, there are several popular brand that makes 'run bikes', which are usually made out of wood, and have neither training wheels nor pedals. They are low enough that the child can sit in the saddle and place both feet on the ground, but high enough that they can still propel themselves & lift their feet to coast.
These bikes allow the child to quickly and safely develop good bicycle balance.
Well, I was raised "old school". My dad put me on my first huffy - got behind me and pushed me down the driveway. Well, after 10 to 15 times busting my tail, I got the hang of staying up and was riding on my own in about 2 hours. Afterwards, as I rode through the yard (I grew up on a four acre yard) I crashed, got up and kept going.
Just make your daughter dress in blue jeans, good shoes with laces tucked in, elbow pads and a helmet. Take her to a park or large field where she can crash and get up and try again with worrying about traffic, people, etc. Also, EVERYONE crashes to start with and you can’t be afraid that your child will crash. DO NOT freak out or act scared if she crashes – act like it was expected (it really is) and do not baby her if she does. It will only make her scared and apprehensive about trying again. My dad would say walk it off, quit whining, etc. and that would make me more resolved to succeed. He also taught my 4 sisters to ride the same way.
I have taught two nephews and one niece to ride – my sisters tried but always babied them letting them quit trying after one crash… which you should never do no matter how much you think you are being mean. Letting them quit will only make it harder for them to learn later. Riding a bicycle is REALLY easy as long as you are willing to try and somethings parents should make their child learn because it allows them to have a tangible achievment in their life and teaches them a skill they can enjoy the rest of their life - like we do!
My wife bought a Stryder bike, which is a two wheeler, with no pedals/crank/chain/etc.
My son sits on it, pushes and brakes with his feet.
He rode about 40 miles this summer on it. (The pool is about a 3 mile round trip from our house, and we rode there a fair bit).
Now he glides and balances very well. We have to get him a real bike this summer, to save money on worn out shoes from breaking with his feet.
I am not sure this would work with an adult/non-child but it seems to be working well on my son. (Started at 2.5 and still riding it now as a 4 year old). We plan on skipping training wheels altogether.
Learning to ride a bike on a traditional pedal bike can be a scary experience for both parent and child. We've all been there. The initial excitement of chosing the brightly colored princess bike or the bike adorned with the latest comic book superhero quickly fades when reality sets in. That reality is that a standard pedal bike is the wrong tool for teaching a child to ride.
The traditional pedal bike is too tall for most young riders. Training wheels create a false sense of security that prevents children from testing and mastering their balance skills. Training wheels can also create wobble and cause the bike to tip over, making your little guy or girl fearful. Many children will take one look at the metal contraption with the pedals, chain and jagged sprocket and decide they are not interested.
Balance bikes have a low profile that puts the child close to the ground. Their feet rest firmly on the ground, putting them in total control. With no scary sprockets, chains or pedals, the balance bike makes kids more comfortable and enthusiastic about learning to ride.
With a balance bike, kids learn at their own pace. They can start by just walking the bike around on the sidewalk or grass. Once they've gained a little confidence, they start to pump their feet more vigorously and test out their balance and steering. In no time at all, most kids will be propelling themselves around the neighborhood under their own power and cruising along as they lift their feet and let their newfound sense of balance take over.
Children as young as two are able to ride a balance bike, so why wait? Skip the training wheels and let your child begin to build their balance skills with a balance bike.
If your child is late in taking on the challenge of learning to ride, lower the seat, remove the pedals and find a small incline for them to coast down. Let them build the confidence in their balance then add the pedals back on the bike.
The best thing about training wheels is that it get them on the bike and fast. They get a feel for what it takes to pedal, wear a helmet, etc...
The other thing I found is that my kids had little or no problem making the transition to a riding without training wheels. Yeah it took some time the first day but they were used to the mechanics of riding if not the true feel of two wheels.
The first time I successfully learned to balance was on a grassy slope in a park. The slope was pronounced but not large: a total height/drop of maybe 3 or 4 feet, and maybe 10 degrees of slope.
The point of a slope is that, before I tried it, when I was trying to learn to cycle on the flat I found it to difficult/impossible to learn to balance, steer, and pedal all at the same time: because pedaling pushed my weight from side to side ... whereas free-wheeling down a slope, I could learn about just steering: steering into the direction I was falling over into.
And the point of its being grassy, as opposed to paved, is probably obvious.
I taught my kids the same way I learned - running alongside them with a firm grip on the back of the saddle, and sometimes on the handlebars, over and over again, trying not to wrench my shoulder too hard when preventing them from falling over. First on grass, later on the sidewalk, and at last just jogging alongside and not letting them notice that I wasn't holding on any more.
I believe it worked because they were fully supported by someone they trusted at all times when they needed it, and that support was gradually replaced with their own ability, whether they initially realized it or not.
Our kid is a wimp when it comes to bumps and I'm overprotective, so just sticking some pads on her and letting her go wasn't an option - the scrapes and bruises would've turned her off.
We tried riding on grass but couldn't find any place with enough of a gentle slope to overcome the extra resistance from the soft ground. But right next to one of the grass fields we tried was a small basketball court with new, smooth asphalt, so I spent about half an hour jogging along next to her, holding the seat of the bike and one of her arms to steady her while she got used to the feel.
I found that she got used to the feel of balancing much faster when I had her turn - she'd lean into the turn, I'd make sure she didn't lean too far or turn the bars too sharply and she quickly got to the point that I could mostly let her go. (Also, I'd be on the inside of the turn so I didn't have to run as much - less of an issue for people who aren't as out of shape!)
We did that first half-hour session, did another one the next day, then the third session she rode around a track-and-field track a few times and I only trailed along with her the first couple times. She wasn't fast, the turns were gentle, but that got her some time on the bike. Since then, we've done a couple rides, and some make-shift obstacle courses around light poles on a nearby plaza and she's progressing fine.
The biggest issue for us is that it rains a lot here (Vancouver) and I don't like to ride in the rain and I'm not prepared to buy good gear for her to ride in a downpour, so we pretty much parked the bikes over the winter and are only getting back into it now.
However you proceed, get a bike that fits the child. None of this "(s)he'll grow into it."
Our then 4 yr old son had a bike and he was somewhat wobbly on it and I took great pains to supervise closely when he rode. One day we borrowed a neighbor's small bike (no training wheels), smaller than I'd ever seen before. It fit our son beautifully. And to our utter amazement he just started riding like he'd been doing this for years. No training wheels - for the first time. He was steady, turned with confidence, and fast.
Well the answer that I found worked well for my youngest and some of my friends kids was:
- Lower the seat so that they can almost have their feet flat on the ground so they can prevent themselves from falling too many times - so they are not terrified.
- Pick a bike with short pedal arms so their legs rotate more times per minute which will help with balance.
- Then run along beside them with a firm grip on their shoulder applying downward pressure to help them with their balance. (this is almost stage 2, if they have zero balance you may have to also hold the back of the seat).
- When they are ready, count outloud how many seconds they are on their own as a feedback mechanism if that is helpful.
Good luck! and it does help you get in shape!
I've never tried them out, so I can't vouch for them personally, but these wheels with a gyroscope look like a really good idea. I've heard good reports about them as well.
Get your kid a Gyrobike. They are actually really amazing. Training wheels just hinder the learning process.
Based only on my personal experience with my first son I would suggest to use a Balance Bike starting from age of 2/3 depending on how tall the kid is (you're daughter in this case).
I blogged about my experience here:
Taught my four year old daughter to ride a two wheeler using training wheels. Wanted to try a balance bike, but a free bike fell in my lap that was perfect for her so I couldn't justify the expense of a balance bike. The key with training wheels that so many people don't do is that you need to raise them up slightly as the child gets used to riding on them so that they are resting on them less and less. We did small rides around the block rides for about a week after I would get home from work and I would shift the training wheels up each night(I din't tell her btw). I announced to her that we would go to the park on the weekend and see if she could ride on the grass without the training wheels. On the ride to the park she rode and the training wheels never touched the ground. I popped them off once we got there and she was off and riding with just a slight push to get her started. She already understood about pedaling and braking so it was pretty simple at that point. The next step was to raise the seat little by little so that she could maximize power. A lower seat helps in the beginning but becomes a hinderance as they get better at mounting from a stop.
I really feel you're very wrong by painful methods such as "let 'em fall" to learn.
If you want them to learn without training wheels, run beside them and grab the handlebars when the look like they're going to fall over.
You have to be fit and fast to do this, but it can be done (I did it twice for 2 kids).
Just a note, if they use the training wheels for a couple of months, they will learn to ride. In my experience I have nothing against training wheels, and I learned that rushing to take them off early actually causes more pain than it's worth.
To repeat my answer at the other site, basically to sum they started with training wheels, when the older one (who was 3 at the time) looked ready, I thought it was time to take them off, so we did, and I trained him by running beside the bike and grabbing the handlebars whenever he looked as though he was going to fall over. (You have to have a lot of endurance to do this, and as you'll see it was an ineffective strategy).
For the second one, I realized that I kind of rushed it for the first one. When the second one turned 3, after about a month into the summer this year (20 minute bike rides almost every day), I noticed he didn't rely on the wheels as much. So I removed the training wheels, and ran alongside him like I did for the first one the previous year, but the difference was, he didn't need my help after the first 20 minutes. He was riding on his own without a need for help after that.
So, basically it's practice. I realized I actually overexhausted myself by rushing the first one. There's no rush. Keep the training wheels until he's comfortable with them on. I think the 2 seasons of practice with training wheels is what made the 2nd 3 year old able to ride without training wheels so easily.