Monday, October 11, 2010

Learning to Ride: No pedals required

Image: graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I guess this isn't a new idea, but I'd never heard about it before. Learning to ride a bike without any pedals on it. Frankly, it sounded like a stupid idea to me when I first heard about it, but now I'm a believer.

My brother in law thought this would be a great way to teach my oldest daughter to ride a bike. I'd had no luck getting her to try learning at all, she was pretty fearful about the whole thing, so I said, "Why not?" Now in an amazingly short amount of time, she is riding all over the place, with pedals now - no training wheels ever.

The concept is that learning to ride a bike with no pedals separates the steering and balancing part of the learning process from the peddling part. Training wheels do that too, but they teach balancing last, whereas a bike with no wheels teaches peddling last. I learned to ride with training wheels, and I remember how terrified I was at the idea of those trainers coming off. I think that peddling is nothing compared to the difficulty of learning to balance. After watching my daughter learn to ride this way, I wonder why anyone tries to learn to peddle before they can balance.

An important key I should mention is that when her bike had no pedals, her seat was low, so she could easily stop herself by putting her feet down, and she had good brakes. So she'd scoot around on this thing, looking kinda silly, but when she came to a little downhill area, she'd coast, and keep her feet up. Just a second at first, but gradually longer and longer (actually not all that gradually, she extended her coasting time with feet up quite a bit in a matter of days) until she could turn, and stay balanced the whole time.

So when her uncle put the pedals back on, now she didn't need a downhill to ride anymore. She had power to go uphill too if she wanted. And that's all there was to it. She was riding. What I noticed was that when she came to an uphill that forced her to go slowly, and she began to wobble - this is the part where I distinctly remember panicking as a child learning to ride, and I'd stop to put my feet down from fear of falling over - but she didn't. She wasn't concerned at all. She knew how to stay up just fine. She even knew, on her own from her coasting practice, that all she needed was to get up a little more speed to make the balancing even easier. It was so cool to watch.

This kid is quite a little creature of habit, and I'm so thankful that we will never have to break her from relying on training wheels. I fought tooth and nail to keep mine when I was learning, and I'm thrilled not to have to live that again from the other side.

I was looking for a link about this concept to include (I decided it wasn't necessary - just google for info if you want to know more), and was surprised to find a bunch of places selling special bikes with no pedals on them for this purpose. So in case anyone doesn't know it - you can take the pedals off a regular bike. No need to buy a special 'balance training' bike or anything like that. But I highly recommend this method!


3 comments:

Allergykidmom said...

I forgot what country it is, but their bikes don't have pedals at all. That was a great idea. I will have to pass it on to a friend who has a daughter who has issues with riding her bike.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

That's way cool! And it makes perfect sense. It's the balance part of bikes that's hard. Once she got that down, the peddling was just a bonus... I guess. Well, it obviously worked. I'm still bad at riding a bike. Maybe I should go nonpedal.

LK Hunsaker said...

How interesting! I may have to suggest this to my kids in the future, when their kids are learning ... if I remember it by then. ;-)