Mike and I thought it would be no big deal to teach Maxon to ride a bike. After all, he’s been on his Strider bike since he turned 2 years old and was easily balancing on it shortly after and taking it all over the bike path. When he began outgrowing the Strider, we got him a big-boy bike to start making the transition on his fourth birthday. First of all, the Strider bike weighs roughly the equivalent of a feather so imagine our surprise and Maxon’s difficulty in keeping a sturdy, heavy-framed bike upright. Second, it quickly occurred to us that Maxon hasn’t had much experience in pedaling much of anything. He had no idea how to coordinate moving the pedals with his feet on top of keeping his balance. This was going to take a bit longer than we thought. We reluctantly put the training wheels on his new bike so he could at least get used to the weight and pedaling his bike. Over a year later, he was still schlepping his bike with the training wheels around with no interest in taking them off. Because of Maxon’s cautious nature, we realized the battle cry to remove the training wheels would have to come from Mommy and Daddy.
We picked a warm sunny day for Maxon’s first lesson and headed down to the large parking lot at the Justice Center down the street. I took Cooper down to the creek to kill some time and Mike got Maxon started with the typical holding-the-seat approach, also what I call “the Back Breaker.” Maxon was definitely having fun but he was definitely not doing any actual work. Mike’s tall frame was begging for mercy. We traded on-point duty with the kids but really, at the end of that first session, the only progress made was that Cooper discovered a stash of really awesome rocks to throw in the creek. We called for a lunch break and vowed to come back later that day.
Disappointed by how little ground we covered that morning, I decided to totally geek out and Google “how to teach a kid to ride a bike.” Don’t laugh; it was useful and so simple. One of the sites I read said to start off on a small hill so that the kid could get used to balancing without having to move any pedals. That made total sense to me and lucky for Maxon, he already knows how to balance on a bike. He just had to remember how.
After lunch, he and I went back down to the parking lot and I outlined my “lessons” for him. Lesson #1 was riding down the small hill that went into the parking lot. It was short enough not to be daunting but steep enough to get a little momentum. I told him he could use his feet at first but when he was ready, he could lift his feet up so that he could balance on the bike. On that very first run, his balancing instincts kicked in and he sailed down the hill with glee. He did half a dozen more runs, starting a little higher on the hill each time. For the next run, I told him he was ready for lesson #2. I suggested that while he was rolling down the hill, to try to find the pedals on his bike with his feet. If he didn’t, no big deal; we’d do it on the next turn. It took another half a dozen times but he eventually got his feet smoothly on the pedals and started to turn them!
Now that he had a little confidence plus the concept of balance back in his brain and the motion of pedaling, he was ready for lesson #3: putting it all together for distance. We headed down to the parking lot and I went back to “the Back Breaker” position where he worked on trying to pedal fast enough where he could keep his balance after I let go. There was much trial-and-error, frustration, and some tears, but at the end of that day, I only had to hold him long enough for him to gain a little speed and off he went!
Lessons #4 (starting off by himself) and #5 (making turns) came the following weekend. I think these lessons are going to take a little longer but look at this kid go: