Sunday, April 18, 2010

Twenty Minutes to Two Wheeler

At four years, three months old, I was sure he was more than ready.

It was last summer and I was twittering about teaching Hunter how to ride a bike without training wheels. It seemed natural because, after all, I and all of my five siblings had somehow learned to ride at age three or four, and I had always thought it was somewhat strange to see kids at six, eight, or even ten years old still tottering around with support braces on their bikes.

So I set out to teach him.

Not that I exactly knew how. I couldn't really remember learning how to ride a bike, nor do I remember my siblings going through any sort of instruction. We just all had this little white and purple, twelve-inch wheeled bike that lacked training wheels, and we all in our respective years learned how to operate it sometime prior to our fourth or fifth birthday.

Now fast forward five months later. The initial two-wheeler training was cut short after a summer of wedding planning and cross country moving, and after being in our new home for a couple of months, Brandon bought Hunter a brand new, shiny red bike.

Ah, a classic.

It was a sixteen-inch wheeler, with foot brakes and, as with ninety five percent of bikes of its size, training wheels. The packet said it was suitable for ages five to seven.

He loved his new bike, but tended to fall over. A lot. I couldn't exactly understand how a kid who seemed to be pretty coordinated for his age was so wobbly on a bike with training wheels. I mean aren't those things supposed to, you know, train? Stabilize? Support? Make it so you don't fall over? Was he really so talented to foil even the protective gear?

I figured I would let him get the hang of his newer, bigger bike before making an attempt at ditching the extra wheels. Let him practice the whole peddling, breaking, steering, not falling thing. But fast forward a few more months and, even though he improved somewhat, he still tipped over pretty frequently and I was baffled as to why.

Maybe it was just mother's intuition or a happy accident or whatever, but I started to get the feeling that it was the training wheels who had a problem and not the kid.

Thinking about it, I realized that with the training wheels he was not required to balance at all, so when it actually did come time that bicycle balance was needed (for a sharper turn, for instance), he didn't fair so well. His brain had been receiving false information from the wheels, so when reality gravity set in, over he went.

So a few days ago, I took off the training wheels. I lowered the seat so his feet could touch the ground (this was probably another reason he fell so much that I didn't even realize before: he couldn't catch himself with his feet because the seat was actually quite high) and set him off to ride.

Fast forward thirty seconds later. He was riding. Like he rode for a good one hundred yards, first attempt.

And just a few crashes, a couple tips, and a handful of spills later, he actually was figuring out how to ride the bike on his own, without the crutch hindrance of the so-called "training" wheels.

The next day, aka this video, he rode for a long time, perfecting his newly learned skill apparently. He falls over, far less, than he did pre- quad wheels detachment.

Weird, isn't it?

After this incident I am 100% convinced that training wheels are about as counterproductive to actual bike riding as infant walkers are to actual walking. Next kid I have, I am skipping the tricycle and "training" bikes and going straight to a balance bike (besides, low-riding, lightweight balance bikes are suitable for kids as young as 12 months old, while most kids cannot peddle a bulky tricycle until 2 1/2 or 3). I now realize why all of my siblings and I learned to ride so early. That little purple bike we had was used like a balance bike until we got the hang of that and then started using the peddles. Peddling is easy, if you know how to balance.

Learn something new everyday, I suppose.

"Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble."
Psalm 3:23
Hunter is 5 years, 1 month old

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