I still remember the day my dad took the training wheels off of my bike and I learned to ride a two-wheeled. I swear it was August and he dressed me in a snowsuit but I might be making that up. I remember being bundled in some capacity (to reduce injury) and uncomfortably hot.
I also remember being terrified.
Yes, I learned to ride. And I was impossibly proud. And most of my neighborhood memories have me rolling around the suburbs on my banana seat bike, the "Poppy Patch". But I thought then as I do now: There has to be an easier way.
And there is.
Skip the training wheels all together and the pedals for a while. (How long is "a while"? Depends on your kid. A few weeks, a few days, or a whole season, depending on their comfort and skill level. But a tiny fraction of the time that most kids spend on traning wheels.)
I know. It's a little baffling to see a bike that is missing its pedals rolling down the street. An acquaintance was yelling out his car window at us today: "Where are the pedals? Rachel, where are the pedals?" utterly perplexed. But then Lupine showed off her balancing skills and he got it instantly.
We didn't make this up, thought I'd love to take credit for it. I stumbled upon the concept in a magazine at my mom's when Sage was a toddler. Though the article on the subject was in a past issue, I gathered from the letters to the editor that taking the pedals off was the idea and it was the easiest, most painless way for kids to learn to ride. And that was the sum total of my research until Sage was four. Then I thrifted a small two-wheeler for him for $5 and we removed the pedals.
Without pedals the child must propel themselves with their feet (easy) and as they do they learn to balance quickly (normally the hard part when you are accustom to relying on training wheels for balance). Then when the balance it good the pedals are added and you're good to go.
How long does it take? Sage learned to ride in one lap around the block. (He was barely four. We left the pedals off for two weeks and he never missed a beat when we put them on.) At three Lupine rode a scooter bike that I bought on Craigslist because the bike pictured above was too heavy for her to balance easily. (We used this wooden type.) She rode it all last summer. She was still pretty small for pedals and not super interested. That being said, a friend her age was on two wheels with pedals using this same method by 3 1/2. Pretty amazing by my standards.
This season she's riding on a small pedal bike that I picked up off of someone's free pile at the curb. And she's unstoppable. On a recent ride she was chanting "Never stop! Never stop! Never stop biking!" Inexpensive, painless, and easy? Works for me. And judging by her passion for two wheels, it's working for her, too.