Re-learning how to ride a bike

Did you ever try to teach a child to ride a bike?  I remember being frightful of riding my bike, my 6th birthday present. No training wheels… baptism by fire.  I remember people running alongside behind me, holding on.  I remember encouragement from older friends, siblings, and my parents.  I remember scraped knees and days of practice.  Ultimately, I thought this was the best way to learn to ride a bike.  Nope.

One of the blogs I read, Cool Tools, generally reviews… tools.  However, this week there was a post for Pedal Magic, a training video to teach kids how to ride a bike.  Twenty dollars for 48 hr access?  You have to be kidding me… The internet must have this for free, right?

Well, one of the commenters noted this idea is patented, and Google provides a patent search engine.  Turns out, the patent is online, and the description in the patent is pretty dang good.  Added to this, I searched YouTube looking for more ideas.  With my trusty internet knowledge, I convinced my son to try again.  He obliged, and here’s what we did.

  1. Lower the seat so your child can touch the soles of his/her feet on the ground.  No training wheels.
  2. Explain to the child that you must turn your front wheel the direction you are falling to keep your balance.  Practice this with the child doing everything.  Once this is down pretty well, have the adult control the bike, tilting slightly and allowing the child to recorrect the tilt, all while seated still on the bike.  Continue until mastery is achieved (probably 1-2 minutes).
  3. Remove the pedals from the bike (here’s the video I watched).
  4. Have your child push him/herself around while sitting on the bike, but without pedals.  Let him/her practice balance.  Before long, your child will glide while pushing with one foot, like on a scooter.  Within five minutes, he/she will be lifting both feet and gliding under one’s own control.  Success.
  5. Reattach the pedals, and let the child go at it.

My son was pedaling his bike within an hour.  Yes, he still needs practice (we live on a hill, so it’s tough to practice at my house), but he achieved mastery with little anguish, pain, or effort really.

Aside from being an ecstatic father, what’s my point? Rather than accepting the way I was taught, I learned something new and it worked better.

I’ve been teaching for nine years now, and I excelled at education when I was in school.  This does not mean the way I was taught is the best.  Teachers need to continually look for new and better ways to improve teaching practices.  Thankfully, the internet is full of wonderful ideas; many are tested, researched, and classroom proven.

There is little excuse for continuing bad teaching practices.  As I continue this blog throughout the summer and the school year, I am committed to highlighting some ideas that are PROVEN to work.  Not following the best practices will not lead to the best results.  There is no need to skin knees and get hurt with practices that don’t work well.  We have the power to do better, and we are silly not to try.


2 thoughts on “Re-learning how to ride a bike

  1. Jen Higgins July 13, 2012 / 2:46 am

    Really well done Justin, and informative! Good tips!

  2. dinodiarykeeper August 7, 2012 / 5:08 am

    Actually, here in Belgium, we give the kids a strolling (pedalless) bike, (dunno what you guys call it) when they’re between two and three: they usually either get the hang of it soon, and switch effortlessly to a bike. Or they don’t touch it, before they want the real bike. But you better put an RFID or GPS on them if you take this pedalless bine along on a shopping trip: some are expert escapists on them. Foot speedx3!

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