For the past few weeks I have been working with, or perhaps that should be running with, my four year old to help her learn to ride a two-wheeler free of training wheels. She is doing well.
When the sun first emerged and melted the snow we got out her starter bike with training wheels from last summer and discovered that it was much too small for her. Some friends of ours gifted us their son’s old bike which was the next size up. As a bonus it has beads on the wheels that clack when she rides. We added some streamers and a red horn and it was ready to go.
When I am running behind her I often remember my parents running up and down the street behind me when I was learning to ride my bike as a seven-year old. I can’t remember if it was my mum or dad who was the one who finally let go of the back of my seat and set me free as a soloist. It was amazing to discover that I was on my own and riding without someone holding me up.
My First Bike
My first bike was a used green bike that was a bit of a transformer. It could be a bike for boys or girls since it had a removable cross bar. Bikes are one of the few gendered products that have a practical reason to them… I rode that green bike for a couple of years and became quite proficient at skidding to a stop. I burned off enough rubber stopping that I actually had threadbare rear tire.
My parents gave me that first bike for my birthday and I still remember how I found my way to the bike. My card had a string attached to it and I followed the string all through the house and if memory serves me correctly, out into the backyard and around the above ground pool to the bike.
My second bike was also a birthday present. It was a shiny red BMX bike with a gold name plate with my name on it affixed to the cross bar. It was thing of beauty. It had hand brakes instead of pedal brakes. I found it by following clues. The first clue was in my card and one led to another until I found the bike.
Those bikes gave me freedom. I rode all over the neighbourhood to friends’ houses, on paths through the forest, over jumps that we built and to parks in the area. My parents provided that freedom by teaching me to ride and letting go of the seat.
Teaching my Daughters to Ride
Now I am the one doing the teaching. Our six-year old is riding to school and on family bike rides. She still has an aversion to riding in a straight line, but she is a solid rider and can even take her hand off of the handle bar to honk her horn and let people know she is coming. These skills have been hard-won. She has crashed into mailboxes, trees and I think one parked car, not to mention all the road rash from tipping over and scraping herself on the pavement. Our four-year old is just getting the hang of it. She can ride without me holding on, but I am still running behind her to help her rebalance if she starts to lose control. Now we are working on starting and more importantly stopping.
I wasn’t successful in keeping her safe today. She had discovered the joys of speed and I couldn’t keep up and she wasn’t keen on listening to me shouting at her to slow down and back pedal to apply the breaks. She crashed into her mum’s bike and they both crashed. Lots of abrasions for my daughter, none for my wife.I wasn’t successful in keeping her safe today. She had discovered the joys of speed and I couldn’t keep up.Click To Tweet
I patched her up when we got home. I suspect that there will be many more wounds to patch over the coming years since she is the fearless one.. The real challenge is going to be letting go of that seat to let them roam the neighbourhood and have the freedom that riding a bike offers.
Maybe I’ll just wrap them in bubblewrap before they head out on any adventures…
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