Learning to Ride a Bike

Parent Q&A

  • My 15 year old son has sensory issues & weak motor skills & still cant ride a bike. Is there any person or place that can teach him how to ride a bike?

    I can't recommend someone specifically but I have two suggestions. First, strider bikes for little kids have the pedals and cranks removed so one learns balance and steering first with feet on the ground and off at will, then pedaling, once one is balanced with feet off the ground easily. This could be replicated by purchasing a beater/too small bike first, then moving to the correctly sized bike with pedals. Second, hold the child not the bike. During the phase when anyone is learning to ride, our first go to is to hold the bike. But if you place two fingers of each hand (or perhaps with an older child the palm of each hand) by the armpit/upper rib on the side of the new rider and hold them up from there (obviously easier with a smaller lighter person), then they naturally 'retreat' from the pressure of your hands and in this way learn the core stability necessary to balance. This works better than seeking to control the bike.

    Try BORP Adaptive Cycling in Berkeley

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Kids Learning to Ride Adults Learning to Ride

Kids Learning to Ride

Bike riding lessons for anxious 7yo

April 2013

I was wondering if anyone can suggest someone who gives basic lessons on riding a bike for kids. My child is fearful about the idea of falling off the bike, but wants to learn. The inability to ride at age 7 has become something of an issue for my husband, and so a lot of emotion is wrapped up in it. I think it would be better to receive instruction from someone who can remain calm and who doesn't have a history with the child. If you have any suggestions for a calm, patient, experienced person who can help us out with a couple of lessons, please let me know. Thanks! Berkeley Mom

I wholeheartedly recommend the kid bike riding class that REI-Hayward teaches. Completely worth the drive from Berkeley. It lasts a couple of hours and takes place in the large and quiet lot in the rear of REI (which also has a gentle slope). The instructors take the pedals off (and training wheels, if your kid has been using them) at the start of the class. Then they have the kids coast down the very gentle incline to where the parents are waiting, and walk the bikes back up the slight slope, for awhile. Eventually they put the pedals back on and have the kids coast with their feet on the pedals, and then move up to pedaling down the hill.

Our daughter was eight when I signed her up for the class. She was scared even with training wheels. In the course of a couple of hours she went from not wanting to be on the bike to yelling with joy and excitement as she pedaled down the slope under her own power. bike-riding mom

That was us last year, and not that I am such a bike rider, but it just seemed wrong to me that a kid wouldn't know how to ride. I signed my son up for a basic 2 hour class at REI. The class met at the Berkeley Marina, and it was very effective. I worried that he'd be in a class with a bunch of much younger kids (he was 8) but there was a mix. By the end of the lesson he was tentatively riding, and a few practice sessions later, he was doing pretty well. Mom of another anxious kid

Your kid sounds like my elder daughter, who was a late bike rider even as her younger sister was riding rings around her. We got her past the sticking point by having her bike on the blacktop at Thousand Oaks school on the weekend: the paved area is so large that with the handlebars only slightly turned she could stop having to think about turning or stopping, and just focus on pedaling and balancing, and that did it.

As far as finding someone to coax him/her through it, you might try a Boy or Girl Scout... that little fillip of authority, but someone who'll appreciate a kid's perspective. The Girl Scouts I've met through my daughters' troops have all been sweet and sensible. Biker Dad

www.wheelkids.com is great. I was in the same boat - my 7yo did not know how to ride and every session at the park trying to teach him just left us both terribly frustrated. I had honestly given up, figured he would be the kid who used a scooter until he could drive. But then I found about about wheelkids and signed up for the spring session. It worked! My 7yo can now ride and is incredibly proud and happy. It did involve tears, he absolutely had the ability but not the confidence.

The coaches at wheelkids are amazing - super patient, great with engaging the kids and they make it a really fun atmosphere. I live in Lafayette and it is a pain to drive into SF on a Sunday morning for class, but the bonus is that yoga tree on stanyan is right across the street and has a great class at the same time, so my kid got to learn to ride and i got great yoga. happy mom of a bike riding boy

4 year old refuses to learn to ride bike

Oct 2011

Hi, My 4 year old daughter refuses to learn how to bike. We bought her a bike with training wheels almost a year ago. She gets on to it, and instead of focusing on the job at hand, will stare off at the distance, get distracted by everything around us- a dog, a person in the park, anything. She finds pedaling hard- says her legs hurt when she pedals. She only rides the bike when I push it. What can I do so that she develops interest in learning how to bike? I bought her a helmet with a character she loves in the hope she will get motivated to learn- but no luck. Her friends have known how to ride their training wheel bikes for a long time now. We made the mistake of not getting her a trike when she was smaller. Is this an outcome of that? Any advice on getting her to bike on her own would be most welcome. Thanks, MC

The best thing you can do is back off and give her some time. 4 is really early to bike. She probably finds it frightening. Don't mention it for 6 months. Then invite a friend over who does bike. Some times peers can encourage something that parents can't. If she doesn't want to do it after 6 months. put the bike away and wait another 6 months. If you really can't wait to go biking with her, what about buying a tag a long? My son loved that until he was 6 or so and it made him feel more confident when he decided to try it on his own. They are pretty easy to find on craigs list. anon

Kids seem to move at their own pace. My daughter didn't want to swing herself long after other kids were doing that. A friend's son did not want to ride a bike for several years after many other kids were riding. All is on track now with both of them. Pushing her probably won't help, and she will most likely start riding when she is ready. If you are concerned about medical/coordination issues in general, then of course you would want to check that out with your pediatrician. Good luck

I don't know your daughter, so I can't tell you exactly how to develop her interest in cycling, but if she's as stubborn as my son then you'll never be able to make her do it. His interest developed from seeing me bike everywhere, from riding in the trailer to preschool, and from my figuring out not to push too hard.

If pedaling really is difficult for your daughter, then try removing the pedals and the training wheels and lowering the seat. She can develop her balance and start to pedal when she's ready. Or maybe a scooter would be more her speed. From my observations, pedaling requires both leg strength and coordination - some kids (like my son) just have trouble keeping their feet going in the right direction. Nevertheless, he rides his balance bike alongside me every morning to get to kindergarten, and I have decided to just relax and let him start pedaling when he's ready for it. I didn't learn to ride until I was 8, so he's already way ahead of me! Kevin

I understand your desire for your child to bike, but I offer the suggestion that you let her learn it in her own time. Forcing her to bike, with or without training wheels, will only make her resist it more. She'll do it when she's ready - really! Another option is to get her a push bike, sometimes also called a walking bike. They're really fun, all my kids loved it! don't force it

Both of my kids were/are like this. They are both tempermentally cautious, and I think their biking reluctance came from came from the scariness of feeling ''up high'' on the seat, and a fear that if they pedal hard they will go too fast and fall off. They are now 7 and 5. My 7yo now rides fine w/o training wheels, although it took him longer to catch up to his peers. My 5yo is still using the training wheels, but now actually rides (slowly), so I see it as progress. Here are some things that helped:

(1) Getting the right bike. It took us a while to figure out that the weight and size of the bike make a BIG difference. Re: size - if it is just a couple inches off, they won't be able to pedal easily and it will be a very strenuous effort. Re: weight - not surprisingly, heavier bikes are harder to pedal. What I didn't realize though is that the cheaper the bike, the heavier the metal used to make it. We learned an expensive lesson but ended up getting our bikes from a real bike shop instead of the Target/Wal-Mart route. Made a big difference.

(2) Knee/elbow pads. These provided some psychological security for my daughter, and you can get them adorned with princesses. She is now a lot less worried about falling, although it does take 10 minutes for her to get ''dressed'' to go biking!

(3) Allowing bikes in the house. I know this sounds crazy, but it has helped a lot. My husband and I don't have time to take the kids out every single day for bike practice, so sometimes a while would pass between biking opportunities. We found that just letting the bikes sit in the living room (we have wood floors) tempted the kids to periodically hope on and ride a few feet. They loved being able to ''deliver'' stuff from one end of the room to another, via bicycle. They were a lot less afraid of falling on the hardwood floors vs. concrete. Going from 0 ft of biking to 2-3 ft made a lot of difference in their confidence, and after that we were able to progress to the school parking lot.

I would start by taking your daughter + bike to a bike shop and getting their recommendations. A height adjustment may be needed, or a different (lighter?) bike. They should be able to tell you how much is real difficulty in pedalling on your daughter's part, vs. her fears/reluctance. If it's all the latter, you can try a few ''tricks'' like we did, but you may also just have to be patient until she is self-motivated by the sight of her peers whizzing by her. Maybe when she starts K and kids are biking to school? Either way, it WILL happen! Mom of reluctant bikers

Riding a bike with training wheels is not that fun. You feel rocky and unsteady. I recommend taking the training wheels off and just letting her learn to ride a 2-wheeler. Plenty of kids learn at 4 (my son did). A great place to practice is Kensington Hilltop School's big playground. Over by the play structure there's a slight hill that flattens out at the bottom. Make sure her seat is low enough so she can put both feet flat on the ground, and she feels safe. Then have her go down the slant, with her feet down at first, but feeling how to balance. Eventually she can put her feet straight out to the sides, and then place them on the pedals once she learns how to balance...and, voila! Feet start pedaling! This works. It takes time and encouragement, but it works. heidilee

That is almost a SIN! in California to not want to ride a bike!!...joking...REALLY... She will be interested when she is interested. or not. Not every child likes to do or should do everything. She's only 4! I think the phrase you used of her refusing to ride indicates that maybe she feels pushed to ride. Would you find it a problem if she refused to play tea party? Let it go and when she is interested she will seek out the bike. mar

Well, you can't force her. She'll learn when she's ready. One thing you can do is take off the training wheels and the pedals and chain (a bike shop can do this for you too) and she can ride it balance-bike style. http://www.balancebikes4kids.com/ This helped my older child get excited about biking. Kids learn how to balance the bike quickly and easily, and then you can put the pedals back on later (no training wheels will be needed!). Other than that, encourage her to ride, take her out with the bike, but don't force it. She'll do it when she's ready. Another thing that helps: take her out with kids her age or older kids with their bikes so she can watch them. She may get more excited after watching other kids bike. Anon

My advice is to let it go. Your daughter will (or won't) bike when she's ready. My daughter refused to bike (she did have a trike when smaller) and we tried bribery, gentle coercion, etc, but in the end we just let go because it really didn't MATTER if she biked or not. One day when she was 7 she just got on her bike and loved it. She then didn't want to take off her training wheels even though she envied all her friends who could ride a 2-wheeler. One day with a friend (no parents around) she got on her friend's 2-wheeler and her friend taught her how to ride it (I have no idea how). She came home and took off on her own bike without training wheels, and has loved it ever since. If your daughter doesn't ever decide to do it, oh well. It's not like swimming or something really important that she must learn, right?

Some kids just don't learn to ride a bike that early. My son learned to ride a trike when he was 3-4, but didn't learn to ride a bike until he was 8. He has had some (very mild) physical difficulties -- nothing that can't be overcome, but it just takes him longer to learn complex activities. He didn't learn to push himself in the swing, for example, until he was 7 or so. (Just FYI, he did learn to walk at a normal age -- 14 months). You might ask yourself if your daughter has learned most gross motor skills early, or slightly later, than other kids. If later, it would be better I think to wait, and not to make this something she doesn't like because she's been asked to do it earlier than it makes sense for her. Karen

I can completely empathize. My son was exactly the same. For what it's worth, he just turned 7 and we still can get him to learn to ride a bike, and ALL of his friends ride bikes all over without training wheels any more. We splurged and got him a good bike to make it easier because he also complained about it being hard to pedal, but it hasn't helped. He's a bit lazy and doesn't like to do things that are physically hard, so that's part of it. It is too late for us, but it may not be too late for you. What I most regret doing is starting him off on a regular bike with training wheels because it demanded that he pedal, and that was hard. What we should have done is get him a pedal-less Strider-type bike so he could learn to coast and balance and steer on that and learn to pedal later. He is too big for that now, but your daughter may not be. I highly recommend you go that route for getting her to learn. I think it would have made all the difference for my son. Blew it on biking

You need to so relax! Really. I came from a country and a time in which hardly any child, including myself, had a trike to practice on. I got a ''real'' bike (two wheels) when I was old enough, which wasn't until 6 or 7. I learned to bike on it without any prior practice whatsoever. And it took me a year to also get interested in the riding. At first, it was just so exhausting and annoying because I had to put so much focus and energy into the skill that the fun didn't pay off. My guess is that your daughter isn't all that motivated precisely for the same reason - the fun dividends are pretty nil. All work and no play.

Take heart. I became a very avid cycler in due time. I practically lived on my bike throughout my adolescence and early twenties. My parents did need to nudge me for almost a year, though. My poor mom ran her own marathons holding on to the back of my bike. anon

My daughter is 10 and has just started asking about biking. The other 3 of us like to bike and it has been a drag to deal with her refusal. I tried bribing (she got really mad at that), taking her to buy accessories for her bike, pointing out her friends biking, and goodness knows what else. I learned that kids know what they like and what they want to do. However, I would still recommend a tag-along bike (one that connects to your bike) because my daughter loved that. You can also check out classes by the East Bay Bike Coalition. Good luck. been there

You may want to relax your expectations about when kids are supposed to be able or interested in bike riding. 4 years old seems to be young to have such great expectations (if not demands) of your daughter.

I have an extremely athletic daughter. At 10, she plays competitive sports and stands out for her grace and athleticism. However, she was not particularly interested in bike riding when we tried in preschool or kindergarten. She didn't even seem motivated, nor were we in particular. When she was 7, my mother came out to visit and my daughter 'decided' she knew how to ride. My mother not knowing differently, took my daughter and her bike to the park. They took off the training wheels and - voila - she was riding! Like she'd known all along. I have other friends whose kids started biking at 6-8 years of age and it's one of their favorite things now.

My suggestion: chill, don't reach so much into it, and follow your daughter's lead Been There, Now Doing That

My only advice is patience. Our son didn't learn how to ride a bike until he was 7. It was most likely fear of falling or of embarrassment; he would announce that bikes are stupid, or he would rather ride a scooter -- anything to avoid riding that bike! One day a friend said she would teach him, thus avoiding the agony of parental expectations. Within half an hour he rode that bike across the school playground. Now he's in college, and his main form of transportation is... a bike. anon

Why do you care so much that your daughter rides a bike? Maybe it just doesn't float her boat. Or maybe she'll get interested later when she sees her friends having fun on bikes. I didn't learn until I was about 8 and I made sure it happened because of the social factor. Sounds like you're on a path to making it not fun and something I wouldn't want to do, if I were her. Relax

Don't push it. I think that kids refuse to do things for a lot of reasons, one being 'control.' She will come to it in her own time. I don't think that my younger had a trike. She easily took to a bike with training wheels. She can ride a bike now without (she is 6 1/2) but won't, because she can't start herself. We are working on that at her pace. don't push

So what? Why push her to do something so unimportant? If she wants to ride eventually she'll learn. My brother never rode a bike and he has a PhD in physics. Clearly this ''failure'' of childhood did not stop him from being successful in life. Chill

Back off, she's not ready to ride the bike and isn't interested right now. Put the bike away and try it again in 6 months. Still not interested, try later. It might also be your approach, maybe have the other parent try when you take the bike out in 6 months. Been there, different sport

I didn't see the original posting about your child not learning how to ride a bike, but I did want to respond. I am an avid cyclist and it was really important that my daughter learn how to ride as well -- namely because it's such a healthy, environmentally-friendly and fun way to get around (I ride every day and couldn't imagine my life without a bike!). Anyway, as general advice to all parents who love to ride - and value bike riding as a critical environmental and health solution - as much as I do - I started her in a bike seat and a trailer when she was one, then switched to a skuut (a wooden bike without pedals) when she was three, then a trail-a-bike, then gently pushed her on a two-wheeled bike when she was 4.5 (and once she wanted to ride, she seriously learned in 5 minutes). The key is not to EVER use training wheels (useless invention, IMHO), to have her/him learn with a friend on flat ground at a park, to really use positive reinforcement and to find a small enough bike to start off with (so that her feet are fully touching the ground). I do agree that not pushing your child is a good idea - but please don't give up either! Maybe keep trying every month or so, keep at it with the skuut and keep riding a trailer or trail-a-bike too. Good luck! bike-loving mom

11 year old cannot ride a bike!

Aug 2010

I have an eleven-year-old daughter who CANNOT ride a bike without training wheels. She is scared for us to take off the training wheels. Any ideas? Thanks Suzanne

Hi, A few years ago my (then) 8 or 9 year old still couldn't ride a bike. I took him to Aquatic Park and put him on his bike (w/out training wheels)on one of the little hills or mounds that are there, told him to stick his feet out and head down the hill! He was a little nervous at first but he liked the sensation of going down hill. We did it over and over again until he ''got his balance'' and then he was able to ride. If riding a bike doesn't come easily to a kid, then the whole finding your balance, getting on the bike, making the bike go, pedaling and so on ALL AT ONCE is really hard! When they go downhill, they don't have to peddle but can just get the knack of staying on the bike. Otherwise, for her fearfulness, just be endlessly patient and reassuring. Another good thing about the grassy hill at Aquatic Park - it won't really hurt if your kid falls over. Soft landing! Good luck. anon

The San Francisco Bike Coalition offers sessions in Golden Gate Park that are specifically for teaching kids skills and confidence on bikes. If you're willing to cross the Bay, they are an excellent resource. Mom of a nervous rider

REI offers a class in how to ride a bike. Wish I had known that when I taught my son. Sometimes the outsider can do better than the familiar. BTDT

While her little sister was riding in preschool (tearing about the school's tiny courtyard without a helmet, which we were surprised and dismayed to find), our older was also a late bike bloomer. What got her going was to take her to a very wide space (in our case, Thousand Oaks Elementary, seemingly a favorite place for beginning bikers) where she could ride in a huge circle: when all she had to do was hold the handlebars at a fixed slight angle, balance and peddle... no worrying about turning or stopping. Before we hit on that, she'd start immediately worrying about how she'd deal with stopping... once she was being escorted around in a wide circle, we could let her go, and she'd just keep it up. (And then you catch her after a while... Dad of Tykes on Bikes

Hi Suzanne,

It was so timely reading your email today. I have an almost 10 year old in the same situation. About a month ago I spoke with Justice, the owner of Wheels of Justice in Montclair. He's SO great. I originally went in with a defeatist, ''Can you please teach my kid to ride a bike?'' attitude, but after talking with him I had some new skills and encouragement to try again (we stopped trying about 2 years ago due to our daughter's lack of interest, fear and our frustration!). He suggested holding your child by their shoulders and running along side them. He said kids feel secure when they know you're there and when you tell them honestly that you won't let go (like all our parents did when they holding on to the seat). You've got a death grip on them at first and then gradually you can ease up and then let go altogether.

Today was the day we tried it! We went down to an empty parking lot in Alameda (the old Navy base) b/c above all, my daughter didn't want to be where anyone could see her. I got a great workout jogging along side her, holding onto her shoulders and she felt safe. The balance thing is tricky to pick up, but we realized that by keeping your torso straight and your shoulders even, it'll happen. My mantra as I jogged along was, ''Even, easy shoulders!'' When either shoulder slumped down, she lost her balance on the slumping side. We did A LOT of jogging/riding and then loosening of my grip and then, after about an hour and half, she cruised multiple times on her own, with me jogging right there with her. I was amazed. We still have a long way to go with total independent riding, but it's going to happen.

Another thing I did was to make sure her feet could hit the ground (per Justice, not totally flat b/c you want them to be able to pedal well, but touching enough to always catch herself). I let her know she always had the power to put her foot down and stop.

If you want more encouragement, go talk to Justice. He kindly told me he could teach her, but that he'd much rather I share that memory with her. I'm so glad we tried again!! Maybe we'll see you in Alameda!

The easiest way I know of teaching a child to ride a bike:

1. Remove the training wheels

2. Remove the Pedals (done with a crescent wrench or a ''pedal wrench'' - and just a tip - righty tighty on the right pedal, and it's just the opposite on the left pedal).

3. Lower the seat so that the child can SIT with BOTH feet FLAT on the ground. Very important! Knees slightly bent.

4. Now just focus on child SITTING on the bike, PUSHING along the ground, a la ''Fred Flintstone'' style. This teaches balance very safely, with the child feeling secure because her feet are in contact with the ground.

You'll find your child will start to push along the ground harder and faster, and will hold her feet up for longer periods as she gets the hang of balance. Once it's obvious that she's got the hang of balancing, you can put the pedals back on, and she'll be off on her own!

There is a bike sold without pedals (called a ''scoot'' or something? can't remember exactly) but IMO it's a waste of money - just use a normal bike that fits the child, and remove the pedals, and you've got the same thing. I've done with with both my kids at very young ages and it works beautifully. Good luck! Robin

A friend of mine just went through the same thing with their 9 year old. After much frustration they found a ''how to'' video on YouTube that worked for them. They ended up taking off the training wheels, removing the pedals and lowering the seat and turning the bike into a Skuut style bike. Once their daughter got the hang of balancing the bike without pedals the rest was easy. Good luck! - Hope that helps!

We did 2 things over the same period of time to help our daughter get comfortable riding a bike without training wheels - 1st, we raised the training wheels a little bit off the ground so she could feel the bike wobbling and when she tilted too far to one side or the other, the training wheels were there to support her. Also, she had a razor scooter which she was more comfortable learing to ride because she was closer to the ground and could jump off with out getting hurt at all. This also helped her get familiar with the feeling of wobbling and stability when going more quickly. Once she got it, she just took off riding and never looked back. I hope this helps.

Go to the San Francisco Bike Coalition's website and look for their ''Freedom from Training Wheels'' event. They hold them in Golden Gate Park on select Sundays.It was worth the trip. My son learned balance first with a bike without pedals. When we went to Golden Gate Park there were kids of all ages trying to shed their training wheels. They just run along side the bike, lightly holding on to the bike seat. After about 30 minutes my kid was riding alone. People walking by encourage the riders and clap when the kid finally gets it. That day at least 3 other kids ''shed'' their training wheels. The event is free, but do drop some bucks in their donation jar. Proude mom of biker

Does your daughter know how to ride a scooter? My 5YO got comfortable balancing on that first since it's close to the ground and then transitioned in one day to a two wheel bike. Scooter

My husband had good luck with taking the pedals off my stepson's bike, along with the training wheels. Apparently this helps teach balance? If your child won't hear of having the training wheels removed, perhaps this site's suggestions will be helpful: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/teachride.html (basically he suggests slowly altering the training wheels so that they do less work). niki

We were in the same position last summer when our 9 and 7 (and 4)year olds couldn't ride, and we were getting restless... I told the kids I would take them riding for an hour or so every day, without training wheels, and told them if they didn't learn by the time school started (2 weeks), there would be no TV or computer once school started, until they learned to ride bikes. Then I took them to Kensington Hilltop School, which has a wonderful big play yard with a small slope on the south end, near the play structure. They practiced gliding, slowing putting their feet out to the sides, until they got their balance, and then they started pedaling. The 9 year old got it in one hour. The 7 year old got it the 3rd day, and by the end of the week the 4 year old got it. A small slope with a flat space at the end is what you need. Good luck! heidilee

Hi - been there with my younger son. He was fine on the training wheels, but weeks and months of aborted attempts to take them off left us all frustrated, most of all him. He was in second grade at the time, trying to keep up with all of the other kids in the neighborhood, many much younger, zipping around w/o the training wheels. What finally did it was borrowing a smaller bike (12'' vs 16'') where he could easily put his feet down on the ground whenever he had the fear of tipping. After two weekend days of practicing on an empty playground, he ''got'' it and was able to transfer his new balancing skills to the larger bike. Some kids just seem to need this physical reassurance and feedback. The training wheels can actually delay this process, I learned! Try it, if you can borrow a smaller bike from friends. Best of luck to you and your daughter. Eileen

I've taught my kids, my niece, and an older neighbor boy how to ride their bikes. A very simple process:

1. lower your child's bicycle seat so she can easily put her feet flat-footed on the ground

2. remove training wheels

3. have her sit on the seat and NOT put her feet on the pedals--ignore the pedals for the time being

4. have her coast down a moderate incline (in our cases our driveway, but you might find a sloped parking lot or whatever), trying to keep her feet out to the side but she can put her feet down whenever she needs to to stop from falling. You want enough of an incline so the bicycle gains a little momentum, but not so much that it's too fast

5. REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT: by coasting and keeping her feet up, she's finding out how to balance her body on the bike

6. Once she can balance, it feels ''natural'' to just get on the pedals and start pedaling--honest! no need to run after the bike and chase her, just keep the seat low and she can put her feet down if she needs to

This really does work, the most work goes into finding out how to balance on the bike. Good luck! Christina

Every kid is different and here's my experience.

My kid finally learned to ride a bike as a result of a lot of ''leg work''--on my part. She was also very ''safety conscious'' (translation: fearful) and would get upset if I let go of the bike, so I firmly held the seat post and ran up and down the street with her as she rode and felt the balance. We did it day after day for 2 weeks. She was getting close but still fearful.

Finally, one day we went to a playground where there were other young kids riding bikes. Some of them looked like they had just learned how to ride. My kid watched them closely, and again I held her bike from behind, pushing and running around the playground. After about half an hour, I told her my hands were not on the bike for the last 5 minutes, and that she'd been riding on her own for half a dozen rounds. She was first upset as a reflex but quickly became happy. I then suggested we ride some more, with my hand touching, not holding, the bike just to make sure it wouldn't fall. That eased her fear and she really began riding on her own. After a few days, she was a pro.

I was glad I had not asked her first if she'd try to ride on her own without me holding the bike (even though she appeared ready for it) becuase she would've freaked out and regressed or focused more on making sure I was still holding the bike than learning to ride.

A few more things that really worked:

1. Recognizing her fear of falling off the bike and helping her find ways to prevent it from happening, such as getting a smaller bike so her feet could touch the ground after stopping.

2. Promising her not to let go of the bike and keeping the promise (until the very very end when she's obviously riding on her own for a while).

3. Putting in the time and efforts. Some kids learned to ride on their own, but it's very hard for shy, fearful kids to do it by themselves.

4. Encouraging her to keep riding and practicing daily, especially when she was getting close.

5. Not using the training wheels. They only gave her a false sense of security and kept her from feeling and keeping the balance on her own.

6. Offering to continue holding her bike even after she first started riding on her own. This helped her overcome fear and gave her time to develop confidence on the bike.

Keep reassuring your kid that he would be able to ride a bike sooner or later. I didn't learn to ride until I was in college. (Don't laugh.) Enjoy the time you spend with your kid! Chris

This topic has come up before. Many kids, including both of mine, were able to ride bikes quickly after spending some time on a scooter. It gives you the balance you need to bicycle. Francesca

You got lots of good advice about removing pedals and training wheels. One additional hint is to realize that balancing a bike is done by steering. If a bike leans left one steers slightly left. If a bike leans right one steers slightly right. I've taught a couple of children to ride by holding them stationary on the bike and having them steer whichever way I tilted them. After a several minutes it becomes a reflex and they will soon be gliding down gentle hills. Bill

I taught my son to ride a bike by having the seat low enough that he could put his feet on the ground and letting him coast down a slight incline and NOT pedal. I just told him to put his feet on the ground when he wanted to stop. In fact I repeatedly told him not to pedal. When he felt balanced he asked to pedal and when I finally allowed him to do it, he could ride. He's very athletic, but I think its good and not a scary technique. mom of bike rider

I read through the other helpful posts and thought of one thing to add. If your daughter is feeling frustrated, you might try convincing her to give it a certain amount of time. After a lot of failed efforts and frustration, what worked with our daughter was to convince her to try for 1/2 hour in an empty parking lot with my husband running alongside her with his hand behind the seat (not easy with a heavy girl!) The big empty parking lot made a big difference because it gave them enough room to really get the hang of it and the flatness helped. She almost gave up in anger at the 10-minute mark, but by the end of the half hour she was proudly pedaling independently and has loved it ever since. -Allez! Allez! (and bon chance!)

Hi, in June my son was adamant that he was not ready to ride a bike and that we could forget it. We really wanted to be able to go bike riding with him and felt he was ready and just didn't know it yet (He was 8 and had been riding a scooter for several years and on a trail-a-bike also, so he definitely had the feel.) We took the pedals and the training wheels off his bike and told him to scoot around on it. (His feet could reach the ground.) We told him to balance so he could glide as far as he could which gave him a sense of balance and confidence. After 10 minutes he asked for the pedals back so he could try the real brakes and was able to ride perfectly. Don't put the pedals back on if your child can't easily glide a few hundred feet. It took a few days before he could remember to use the brakes and not his feet to stop, but he really got it quickly. We've done a lot of riding this summer and have had a lot of fun. He went on a 12 mile ride from El Cerrito to Berkeley and back in July and just had his first fall a few weeks ago but got right back on. a proud Mom

Timid 10 year old can't ride a bike

Jan 2009

Help! My somewhat timid daughter is almost 10 and still can't ride a bike! We live in the hills, so it's been pretty inconvenient to practice. She outgrew the old kids bike w trning whls yrs ago. Neither of us rides much, but we don't want her to grow up unable to ride. Bike stores don't carry larger kids bikes with removeable training wheels. Does anyone have either suggestions or an old bike with training wheels appropriate for a 10 yr old 4'6'' girl? Thanks.

Based on my own experience learning and recently teaching my son to ride a bike, I say skip the training wheels and just get out there and practice with her, holding onto the seat and running behind. It takes some courage (I was shy about it, too, and finally learned when I was about 7) but it seems like once you overcome that fear and just go for it, you can learn faster when you're not relying on the training wheels. Fellow Scaredy Cat

my daughter learned at age 9 by using a bicycle about 2 ''sizes'' smaller than the regular size for her height (lower to ground =easier to maneuver, and where feet comfortably touch the ground, I think it was like an age 5-6 y.o. bike.) No training wheels, instead by scooting along on it (like the toddler skuut bike): scoot along ground with feet then lift up feet for a few moments. We didn't need to remove the pedals but you can if they are in the way. She was then able to pick it up pretty quickly, only wanted to ride the tiny bike for a long time, and then moved upto a much bigger bike the next year. Don't despair! She'll be able to learn and the training wheels are not necessary, may even impede learning to balance. anon

Here's what was recommended to us, and it worked: Get your daughter a scooter. When she has gotten very good at it, take the pedals off a bike that fits her and lower the saddle so that she can push with her feet. Then let her use the bike like that until she's comfortable. Then put the pedals back on and raise the saddle to the proper height. Do the bike part in a flat place--it should take a short amount of time. Our son was riding a bike in about 15 minutes. Francesca

Instead of doing training wheels, buy a bike that is a appropriate size for her and then lower the seat a little and take the pedals off. She can then learn to ride the bike by first learning to coast on the bike, thereby learning the balance before adding the complication of pedalling. Put the pedals back on once she's mastered the balancing and coasting skill. I have actually found that this method was much better than having training wheels anyway! The training wheels can easily become a crutch for many children. Have fun!

You could try her on a skuut (if it fits) or maybe you could remove the pedals from her bike so that she can scoot it along and practice balancing while the bike is moving. She may pick up riding more quickly this way than relying on training wheels. anon

My daughter didn't ride a bike till she was 9+ as well, and she was feeling very frustrated about her lack of progress. My advice: get her on a bike with a small frame, so she can straddle the top bar and her feet can be firmly planted on the ground. Best to learn on a frame that's small so her feet can find the ground easily. Don't use the training wheels. Find someplace flat or gently sloping - Golden Gate Park on car-free Sundays is ideal for this, and you can make a day of it. Then I had to run alongside, holding the seat to steady her for the first few runs before letting her go. My kid has some sensory issues with the bike wobble, and I did find that having her ride on the back of my bike (I have a long tail with an extra ''seat'') for a few weeks helped her get used to this, which eased her into learning on her own bike. It really is a rite of passage, and I wish you both success. sarah

I had a conversation with a friend just this week about how a young relative of hers never got the hang of a two-wheeled bike and went to an adult tricycle, which a quick Google search assured me that there are a lot of. I don't know if at 4'6'' she's quite big enough for an adult size, but it's worth looking into. Carrie

We're going through the same thing. We live in the hills too, and our nearly-9-year-old, and her nearly-7-year-old sister, can't ride bikes yet. It's a real drag piling the bikes (they have a 4 year old brother too) into the car and schlepping down the hill, but I really want this to happen.

A couple weeks ago we were ''practicing'' down by the BART tracks on that nice flat path, and had taken the training wheels (which keep rotating and being ineffective) off my 8 year old's bike, but the pedals kept scratching her legs as she tried to just push along and balance, like little kids do on Skuut bikes (those wooden ones without pedals).

A dad with a 4 year old girl who was riding without training wheels shared his secret--temporarily, get a bike that is very short for the child, so they can put their feet flat on the ground easily. Then take off the pedals. Then find a big area with a relatively flat space, or a very slight hill. We tried this last week, at Hillside School (the old school that is no longer used, on the corner of Buena Vista and LeRoy.) My 8 year old was delighted, as she pushed the bike along, and slowly realized she could lift her feet up and balance. The big fancy bike we got her last year is still in the garage; we're using a hand me down we received for her 4 year old brother--her confidence level has soared. We still have practicing to do before the pedals go back on, but this is a HUGE step for her. That playground is perfect-- a very slight hill, and it's usually deserted. Bike mom

My kids learned to ride bikes late too. They both learned by using a very small bike. We were staying with friends who had a younger child and he had a very small bike. My kids learned to ride in about 30 minutes on this small bike. No training wheels or anything. good luck! anon

Your daughter doesn't need training wheels. Lots of kids and adults learn to ride without them. Learning how to balance first on a two-wheel scooter (like a Razor) will help. But you can also just get her a regular bike and have her first practice going down a slight slope without pedaling - that'll teach her how to balance and brake gently on a bike. (King Middle school has a ramp - first start off towards lower part - and is pretty empty on the weekends.) Once she's comfortable with that, then she can practice pedaling when the slope/ramp flattens out - that's much easier than trying to start pedaling from a full stop. Good luck! - Been There.

I have 2 suggestions. Skip training wheels and get a bike that is just her size or a little smaller, lower the seat and remove the pedals so her feet comfortably touch the ground. Have her learn to coast w/ her legs just hovering above the ground on a slight incline. Once she's got a sense of the balance (tell her to hold her tummy in), you can try, depending on her height, with the pedals on and you gently touching/holding at her ribs. She learns to balance by feeling the pressure on her ribs--ideally there's space between your fingers and her ribs if she's got it. If she doesn't she's feeling too much pressure from one of your hands and finds her balance by 'righting' and 'tightening' her core. This depends a lot on her and your height--whether you can get close enough to her on the bike (from behind) to do this. I suppose a parent on each side could work too. But the thing to remember is hold the child, not the bike. She has to learn to manage the bike. Jessica

Forget the training wheels at this point. Go to an empty parking lot and practice (we took our daughter to the Lake Temescal lot- it's a good space, although I'm sure there are others). Our daughter really doesn't have a good sense of balance and found the basics of learning to ride a bike REALLY hard. ( she couldn't even really ride WITH training wheels!!!) She was probably 9 before she learned. Having a big open place like the parking lot, where steering straight didn't matter too much , helped her a lot. She did fall a few times, but she did eventually get it. The open space allowed her to practice turning around, going up and down rows etc... things that are hard to try out just on your average neighborhood street. - go for it

I did not learn how to ride a bike until age 11. It was humiliating. The training wheels just never helped, because I never learned to balance on a bike with training wheels. And the bike salespeople always made my parents buy a bike that was too big for me to learn on, so I was scared of falling off from way up there. Then they put training wheels on so I couldn't learn to balance. (This went on for years with me feeling worse and worse.)

What finally worked is I decided to take my learning into my own hands. I told my parents I needed a small bike without training wheels. (I used my little sister's.) Then I found a very gentle incline, and would glide down with both feet just slightly off the ground. I felt completely safe because it was so easy just to put a foot down if I lost my balance. I learned the knack of balancing in a day or two, and was soon happily riding my own bike all over town.

I used this method to teach both my children at age 4 and 8, and they learned just as quickly (two days). They never used training wheels. I think this method removes the fear of falling and allows children's natural sense of balance to develop. Not a believer in training wheels

This is the great secret to learning to ride a bike:

Steer into the fall. When you start falling, turn your wheel the direction you are falling.

Have your child practice this while not riding: lean the bike, turn the front wheel the direction that the bike is leaning.

Take your daughter to a big parking lot or school blacktop with a smallish bike and let her go. If she turns away from the fall, she'll jackknife the bike. Point out how that didn't work, and how when she steers into the fall, she just rides right out of it.

Older kids can often learn in a day with this knowledge (they'll be wobbly, and need practice, but they'll get it). 6-8 year olds usually take 3-5 outings. bike teacher

10 year old has never learned to ride

Nov 2004

I am at wit's end. My 10-yr-old daughter is naturally very cautious, and has never learned to ride her bike. A couple of years ago we took off the training wheels on her little bike, at her insistence, but she complained that the bike was too small. Last year for her birthday we bought her a big bike, which she says is too big (we can borrow a smaller bike if we want). At this point she only wants her father to help her learn, but in fact she's not particularly eager to spend the time or to take the chance riding in the BART parking lot on weekends. I've read posts on how your children learned, but I don't think they will work for mine. Her father, who has much less to gain when she finally learns to ride, also has less time than I do. I fear I have too much invested and therefore I can't be patient enough. If she could ride her bike it would make my life much easier, and we would both get more exercise. Now that it's getting cold, dark and wet, we'll have fewer chances to try, but I want to be ready when the weather gets better again. Any suggestions? frustrated mom

I too was a very cautious child. When I learned to ride my bike, what worked for me was to just put the training wheels on and leave them there until I felt totally confident. It took about a year, and I probably spent months with unnecessary training wheels on. Is there someplace other than the BART parking lot that you could take her? Perhaps a park, away from her home if she's sensitive about people seeing her with training wheels, where you could take her and let her practice? Karen

I forwarded your post to my best friend who lives in Alabama because we had long conversations about how her eldest daughter didn't take the training wheels off her bike until age 7. Here's her story:

Oh, man. This is such a touchy subject. And you thought talking about sex was going to be difficult. Just kidding!

Let's see....when Em learned to ride her bike we were on Dentation Drive in Baton Rouge. She used to ride in tight little circles in the driveway because we wouldn't let her out on the street. She finally took the training wheels off at age7.

About two months later Maggie rode hers without training wheels. She was 4. HOWEVER, since moving from the flatlands of Louisiana to these oh-so-rolling hills of South Alabama, she refuses to ride her bike. I think peering down the hill from our lofty perch scares her.

And I think about those killer NO. VA. hills I coveted on my skateboard. Man, those were the thrill seeking days of my youth, I tell ya.We're not sure WHAT to do about this. We keep telling her what a bad-ass she was at age FOUR riding all over the place without training wheels. Sheesh. Ya grow up, ya get skeert I guess.

We also are considering doing the ''new'' (well, newish) bike thing to get her to ride. Maybe we should do like her friend Sarah's folks and say ''no new bike until you learn to ride the crappy-looking one''. Anyway, now she's 9 and it looks like we'll be that Berkeley family in crisis soon! THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER. But, as you know, Emily, at 13 is quite an accomplished ballerina and Maggie is a fantastic artist so who needs a bike anyway? Good Luck. anon

It sounds like you want her to ride a bike more than she wants to. My advice would be to let it go. If she's anxious about it to start with, added pressure from mom isn't going to help. When I was young (about 7, I think), my dad tried to teach me to ride a bike. He's not very patient, and I'm not very coordinated, so the whole thing was a disaster. The afternoon ended with him getting mad and refusing to work with me on it. About 6 months later, I got the bike out of the garage and taught myself. Leave your daughter alone, and she'll probably come around.

One word: bribe. No, bribes should not be used on a regular basis, but sometimes it's what works. Just think of it as a motivational bonus that you might get at work. If her resistance is big enough, then the bribe will have to be big enough and/or something that she really, really wants. It might work best to discuss it with her, let her have some input about fears, etc. I didn't learn to ride a bike myself until I was 9, so can sympathize. I think I ended up more or less learning by myself, my incentive being that then I could ride around with the other kids. Basically, you must get her to want to learn herself badly enough to risk the hurts and falls. Good luck. Dianna

My friend taught her 8-year old in one afternoon. First, take the pedals off. When she has her balance, put them back on. Try grass instead of asphalt. I saw a little girl learning on the grass in the park next to Fairyland. good luck

I can completely relate to your frustration over the bike riding issue. We had a similar experience with our son. At the heart of it, he was afraid. But he wouldn't let us help him learn, and said he just didn't care if he never learned to ride a bike. Don't give up! When you least expect it, something can happen that will help your child overcome their fear. In our case, we just let it go for a while and then - out of the blue, one of his friends called up and invited him over for a playdate....and said, ''Bring your bike!''. He was excited and eager and went over and rode his bike with his friend. I prayed that they wouldn't ridicule him for still having training wheels on his bike, since his friends little brother 2 years younger was even riding without them, and fortunately they didn't. After that, he was motivated to learn to ride without the training wheels. Although he didn't want anyone to see him learning, and would only practice if no one was around. And, I should add, he was a real pain about it too. But he was so proud of himself when he mastered it, that it was worth putting up with him. Now you would never know that it was such an issue in our household. So, I guess my advice is to try and be patient, and hope for a breakthrough. Maybe you could engineer one...family bike rides with mom & dad, or something that would motivate her enough to get the focus off her fear. We also got good advice from Hank & Frank on the right size bike. My son's old bike was much too small and made it difficult for him to balance and learn. Hang in there. Been There

Ok, here's what you do. Find a big parking lot. Like at a school on the weekend. She should be able to ride a good long distance without the possibility of running into anything. Next: teach her THE KEY to bike riding: steer in the direction you are falling. If you are falling to the left, you turn your wheel to the left, if you are falling to the right, steer to the right. This is counterintuitive to kids who want to steer away and then they really do fall, and quick, too. So you have her sit on the bike. You hold the bike from behind and she puts her feet on the pedals. Then, while holding the bike you tip her one way or the other and she has to turn the wheel in that direction. Do it until her reaction is automatic. Then its time to set her free. You really need a big open space because since she will be concentrating on steering to stop herself from falling she won't be concentrating on steering per se. A ten year old will probably set off riding after half an hour of this. Oh, by the way, the bike should be low enough that her feet comfortably reach the ground. Put the seat all the way down or use a small bike. Good luck. been teaching kids to ride

I read the post about teaching your 10 year old to ride a bike by steering into the direction the bike is leaning. This method works wonderfully (!!!) and was developed by a person who was never able to market it, supposedly because it would have put the training wheel companies out of business! The method is called ''Pedal Magic'' and can be found at www.pedalmagic.com. The method is basically as described in the post, but for a few dollars you can download the 12 minute streaming video for parents. The video has a lot of tricks to take your child from steering while you hold and tilt the bike to riding on her or his own. There are special tips for children who have been riding with training wheels and need to unlearn bad habits, etc. It certainly worked for us. In less than 45 minutes our non-rider was pedaling away. - parent of a happy rider

Getting rid of training wheels (6 yo old)

June 2004

I would like to take the training wheels off my daughter's bike (she's 6)and she also thinks she is ready but, I would like a plan. Do I hold the bike from behind or do I hold her? What if she falls and gets hurt and doesn't want to keep trying...I would appreciate any advice or tips. ready to roll

For this message and the following one on training wheels: I taught my neighbor's son to ride without training wheels. I very lightly held on to the back of the seat and let go when he started pedaling fast. He was 6 and learned in about 15 minutes.

His parents had taken off and put back on the training wheels several times but he seemed to have no confidence in their ability to teach/help him nor did he want his parents see him in a potential moment of weakness. My advice is to have an adult friend or relative that your child likes and trusts to take your child and bike to a playground or path to practice. LC

I applaud you trying to start early with your daughter. The older she gets, the harder it will be for you to help her learn because she'll be heavier (harder to help balance or catch) and she'll ride faster (which makes running to keep up that much harder) Here's what worked for me. Take off the training wheels. Find a really large unobstructed section of pavement that requires absolutely no steering. Streets, paths and sidewalks won't do. I used the large paved playyard of Marin School in Albany (which is now torn up, unfortunately). Hopefully you can find something similar, like an empty parking lot or basketball court. Longfellow School on Sacramento would probably work well. Tell your child not to think about steering or braking yet; you'll stop her if she's about to hit something. All she needs to do is concentrate on balancing. If her balance is really shaky, or she's overly nervous, you might need to start with one of your hands on the handlebar and one on the back of her seat. Help her get started with a small push and run alongside. As soon as you think she's capable, try to get her going with just one hand placed firmly in her lower back, right next to the seat. Keep your other hand near the handlebars, ready to grab before a fall, or to stop her when she gets to the edge of the pavement (or other obstacle). Tell her to remember to always pedal. The words ''Keep pedaling!'' should become your mantra. Once she stops pedaling, she's likely to start losing her balance and get wobbly. ; It make take a few sessions like this to get the balancing act together. Once her balance is steady, have her try the steering and braking part. The hardest part about braking for my daughter was remembering to put her foot down when she stopped so she wouldn't fall over (she was used to training wheels holding her up). Once she had steering and braking down the other big hurdle was getting started all by herself - getting a pedal up in the ''10:00'' position before pushing off, etc.

The most important thing is to be ready to break any painful falls, have first aid handy, and of course, have some rewarding snacks or drinks. Good luck! Jeff

Getting rid of my daughter's training wheels was a wonderful project and I would be happy to share it here in the hope it helps you. My daughter was not yet 5, and wanted her training wheels off. I took her to a flat playground (Thousand Oaks in Berkeley) and held her, while she pedaled. You could try holding the bike, but I found that I would need to lean over too much, and it seemed to make her feel more secure to be held. I held her on both sides of her rib cage, under her arms, which is what felt most solid. Once she seemed to have balance, I let go of my grip a bit. I found that it helped her most, for meto hold her strongly, and to assure her I had a good hold of her and that she wouldn't fall. Once she gained confidence in the ''being held'' and riding, I let go a little bit gradually. At the end of that first session, she was able to go by herself several times. I stayed close enough that I could catch her when she started to wobble. It was a bit tiring, and I stopped before I overdid it on my back. Perhaps better to do several shorter ''training sessions''. Point out each improvement, and tell her when she is doing it alone. Come with a big dose of confidence ''You Can Do This''. Also, say that at times when learning something new, she may fall. Make sure she has long pants and long sleeves to protect the skin a bit on those first tries. I found that the second session was when my daughter really took off, and on the third she could start and stop on her own. It was a bit nerve-wracking for me, but so very empowering for her. I hope you have a great experience! Mom of bike riding girl

After having similiar difficulty with our daughter balancing after I let go of the bike seat. I tried lowering the seat until our daughter's feet could drop off the pedals and touch and balance the bike herself. As soon as I did this she took off. If she started to loose her balance she would skim her shoes and balance that way. Within a minute she was confident enough to ride without taking her feet off the pedals, but she knew she could when she needed to. When she was more skillful with her riding I raised the seat back up adjusting for her leg length and a small bend at the knee. mbarone

I can tell you what worked well for my son: find a gentle, grassy slope (important that it is not too steep) and start your daughter at the top of it. You stand to the side, one hand on the back of the bike seat, one on the handlebar in front of your daughter's hand. She starts pedalling down the slope and you run along side, gradually letting your grip soften until you let go, but keeping your hands close to where they were so you can reach out and grab the bike if it starts to tip over. Repeat as many times as necessary. Depending on what kind of shape you are in you may get quite out of breath, but it should work. You can stop, or at least soften, any falls. If she's ready she will soon be able to find her balance and be off. What not to do: do not just push your daughter on the bike down the hill and let her crash on her own until she gets it. This is what my father did for me. It worked for my sister, but I must have a lower pain threshold because it did not work at all for me. I don't think I learned to ride a bike until I was 8 or 9. For the mother of the 8 year old who wants her daughter to start riding: one thing that might help is that this process with the gentle, grassy slope, etc. can work so well that she can be riding without those training wheels within an hour. And once she gets it, she'll be off and no stopping her. Good luck. Dianna

First, find a flat area with wide open spaces, such as a playground, without too many people or obstructions (not a bike path). 100 Oaks, MLK Middle School, and Oceanview Elementary have worked for me. You should hold the bike, not the child. I would usually hold the back of the seat with one hand and the end of the handlebar with the other. You will need to run with the bike while she picks up speed. Once she has reached cruising speed, you should be able to tell, by easing up on your grip, whether or not she is self balancing. If she's not balancing, or can't reach an adequate speed, she's probably not ready (tho it's probably still good practice to have her ride w/o training wheels while you hold her). If she seems to be balancing, you can let go for a few seconds, but keep running with her and be prepared to grab her bike if she begins falling. Once a child realizes that they are riding on their own, my experience has been that they are so excited by this they will tolerate a few falls. two for two

Here's what we did: I took off the training wheels, and then I also took off the pedals. My son then had the equivalent of a scooter, where he could push himself along for short spurts (on level, or slightly downshill slopes), and if he tipped to either side, he could push gently off the ground with either foot to regain his equilibrium. If the pedals were still on the bike, they would be banging into his shins (ouch). After an afternoon of this, he was ready to have the pedals put back on. I also see that they sell this long-armed handle that grabs onto the seat, or seat post, of the bike, so you can run behind the bike without having to bend over too much. Wish I had one, when I was training our older son There is nothing like the look of joy on your child's face, when they master the freedom and fun of bicycling. Jim

For teaching our son to ride a bike, we found the easiest way for him to get used to the bicycle-riding ''feel'' was riding a ''Trail-a-bike'' tandem extension that fit on the back of our grown-up bike. He was able to get the feeling of the balance required without training wheels in a safe environment. When he went back to trying his own bicycle without training wheels, he picked it up in no time. I expect you could try one out, borrowing or renting from a bicycle store to see if it seems to work with your child. Leo

Helping 8-year-old learn to ride a bike

June 2004

I need advice on helping my 8-year old to overcome her fear of learning to ride a bike. She nearly had it 3 summers ago, with training wheels off. Then the bike broke and by the time I had it fixed, she wouldn't get on it again. I've tried to persuade her to try again every summer since then and have offered to put the training wheels back on, but she's refused, since she knows most kids her age don't need training wheels. I believe she wants to learn, and is embarrassed that she can't. I should add that she is otherwise very active, athletic and well-coordinated. This is one of those things I feel is my job as a parent to teach her, and I've failed. Any suggestions? Lorraine

I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 11. Yes, I was embarrassed that a big kid like me didn't know how to ride a bike and scared of falling off.

What worked for me was a combination of the following: a relatively private (so none of my classmates could see me), slightly sloping but flat area (with an uphill at the end so I didn't worry about accelerating out of control), and using my little sister's bike without training wheels. In the bike store they always put me in a bike so big that I couldn't reach the ground with my feet, which was scary. On my little sister's bike, I could straddle the seat with my feet on the ground, so I knew that if I lost my balance, all I had to do was put my foot down. Training wheels were useless at my age because I already knew how to pedal; riding a bike with training wheels didn't address the fundamental problem. They didn't teach me how to balance, and they made me look like an idiot, being such a big girl.

One day I just took my sister's bike out and decided to learn, starting by sitting on the seat and letting the gentle slope carry me along. Within less than an hour I got the hang of it. By the next day I was riding my own big bike, and after that it was hard to get me off my bike! So you might try a smaller bike in a private spot. A very gentle slope helps too, if there's a safe area at the end. That way you can start by just taking your feet an inch off the ground and you'll start rolling. Good luck!

This is a foolproof, 1 day, hands off method and it will save your back.

You need:

  • 1 small bike, seat adjusted so the child can put both feet firmly on the ground on either side (tip toes does not work).
  • 1 motivated child.
  • 1 pair of bike gloves.
  • Open area with smooth asphalt/cement/hard dirt. (Open in all directions.) With a slight - very slight- incline. I use LeConte playground usually. King has too much of an incline. Rosa Parks is on the small side. The idea is for them to be able to go in any direction for a while and not have to worry too much about steering around obstacles.

    Sit the child on the bike and instruct him/her to push herself with both feet, (as if there were no pedals like they ride the push toys), down the incline (which is only intended to keep them going not to gather speed).

    They are to keep their feet off the pedals and close to the ground. They can hold their legs slightly out just above the ground. Their feet are there to catch them and if they have to put one down they can use it to push. Look ahead not down. This helps them get the balance concept without the interference of the pedaling (which challenges the balance). They don't fall either. I have taught 5 children this way. Three of my own, a friends and a grandchild. The latest one was three weeks ago (4 years old - he insisted). The oldest child was 8 and embarrased not to be riding. It is easier with the older ones because they understand the explanation. I had to show the little one on my own bike.

    They go down one or two times and you can see when it clicks. Every single one has suddenly put their feet on the pedals and started pedaling when they got it. The 8 year old crashed into the only post in the whole area after she started pedaling and didn't want to do it again so we took her back to the previous, and succesful stage without pedaling and she was fine halfway down. IMPORTANT! Make sure the incline is slight or they will gather too much speed, which is scary, and can fall. Make sure that the incline flattens out well before there is an obstacle. Best of luck. Granny on wheels

    Here are some things I learned teaching my 2 kids, (and several in the neighborhood) how to ride a bike: run along next to them with your hand firmly grasping the back of the seat. Try to get a head of steam up which makes balancing easier, though it usually freaks the new rider out a bit. You may have to also lightly grip the near end of the handlebar to help keep them upright, but DO NOT hold onto the rider- just the bike; it helps to experience the feeling of the bike being upright and balanced and not you holding them up. (The downside to training wheels is that the new rider gets used to relying on them instead of learning how to balance the bike, so it makes for a greater barrier to overcome when the trainers come off).

    The other technique that I've found very helpful is to find a large, paved open space with a very gentle decline, (the paved play area behind MLK Middle School is ideal). Position the bike just a little up the hill and encourage the rider to pick up his/her feet and just coast, heading in a straight line down the hill. (The fact that there's no road to run off of and nothing to crash into is a big psychological plus). This builds confidence really quickly because they don't have to pedal and have the knowledge that they can always put their feet down to keep themselves from falling over. (I should add that it's helpful if the bike has a hand brake if one's feet aren't on the pedals). As they gain in confidence, you can position them a little higher up the hill each time. With increased speed comes easier balance, and then it's just a matter of having the confidence to put their feet on the pedals and start riding. Once they get the feel of being balanced on the bike the rest comes easily. Good luck! bcamenga

    Son age 8 refuses to learn to ride his bike

    March 2004

    I am interested in advice from anyone who has dealt with this situation before. Our son who recently turned eight, adamantly refuses to get on his bike and learn to ride it. He used to enjoy riding it when he was younger, but when his dad took the training wheels off of it for him to try without them - everything changed. He got on the bike and rode it up the street (without the wheels) but then seemed to feel insecure and got off and has never wanted to get on again. We have put the training wheels back on and he still won't get on it. We tried a few times to encourage him to try it again, and when that met with stubborn resistance we decided to just let it go. It has been many months now, and he still doesn't want to get on the bike. He even said it was okay to get rid of it. The only conclusion I can come to is that he was scared without the training wheels, and now can't conquer that fear to try it again. It saddens me to see his friends having fun riding their bikes and him not joining in. He has always been somewhat timid and risk averse and had a similar reaction to swimming lessons. He still doesn't know how to swim, and that is another area that concerns me. I feel that if he could just get past his inner anxiety, he would really enjoy these activities. Does anyone have any advice for me to help him overcome his anxiety and resistance? Concerned Mom

    My son was similar-he loved riding with training wheels, but then became scared, and wouldn't ride a bike. Now he is 9 1/2, and suddenly loves riding. So I would suggest you give your son time-some kids take a lot longer and are more cautious, but I bet he will do it when he is ready. I think there is this expectation of what kids are supposed to do at certain ages, but some of them don't fit the mold. Monica
    Sounds to me that, like my daughter, your son may have a vestibular problem, a balance issue, an inner ear issue tied directly to the neurological system that causes his un-sured- ness and therefore anxiety of non-training wheel riding...it may be something to consider...does he get car sick at all? Averse to roller-coaster or the like rides now that he is a bit older and can discern when he does not feel right about something? If so, the HANDLE program does address and remediate these vestibular, and neurological developmental roadblocks, as short- term, non-drug and movement oriented. www.HANDLE.org and Sindy Wilkinson, M.A., Lafayette, local practitioner,(925)962-9506. Daughter can now read in a car!
    My daughter (6)is on the careful side and I appreciate it and respond to it accordingly. She just learned to ride her bike without training wheels. It is a process that takes several days. The first day we had to send her dad back into the house. He may not be the only man out there who thinks that he will teach his child and that it shouldn't take longer than 10 minutes or an hour if the child would only listen. (She almost had a tantrum trying to deal with all at once). It doesn't work that way for careful and sensitive children. They want to learn at their their own pace and as they struggle they cannot listen and follow instructions for a while - it's too overwhelming. I started listening to her and realized that what she needed was an assistant, not a teacher. I told her that I would be her horse and she can give me orders as she pleases (hold on - let go). Then we practiced in an alley way for over an hour. (Yes, my left arm muscles were sore for the next 2 days). At first I had to hold on to her back and one side of the steering wheel, then only the steering wheel. The next day she drove half the alley way by herself, the third day she drove the whole alley way by herself. Then daddy was allowed back for real training (not just showing off her accomplishments). Now she was competent enough to listen to instructions. He taught her how to get on and get moving by herself without adult help. Last weekend he took her to the Berkeley Marina to practice in public and to do turns/curves. She is very motivated and he proudly calls her a cyclist. My advice is to invest half an hour per day for 5 consecutive days and let your child be in charge. Last year I taught her how to swim in deep water applying the same principle. She never attended a swimming class in her life. Practice the movements on land and in the tub, get your face under water in the tub, cross half the pool with my hand supporting her under the belly, the whole pool with supporting her belly, two strokes by herself from me to the ladder, increase to crossing half the pool from mom to ladder, cross the whole pool length with a mommy stop in the middle, cross the whole pool without stop in the middle. Put your face under water in the pool while holding on to the ladder. Jump from the pool rim into mommy's arms (not exactly, but you'll catch the child right after it hits the water, increase the distance, so it has to swim two strokes towards you after the jump. Increase the distance to half the pool length when the child realizes that it automatically starts swimming after going under. Before you know it, your child will jump in and swim on its own while you get to do your own swimming. That process took us about 7-10 days of going in the pool daily for about 20 minutes. Remember that your child needs to agree on any progress you're trying to achieve. Put your child in charge of its advancement and just follow the steps. I come to think this is all about trust, being there for each other - unhurried and devoted - and not violating that trust in the child's eye by pushing it to advance. I am working fulltime, but finding that time now that the days are longer is much easier. Anonymous

    Teaching 4-year-old to ride a bike

    Jan 2003

    Does anyone have any tips for teaching a child to ride a two- wheeler? I want to know whether it's best to go the training wheels route or to buy a very small bike, one that would allow my daughter to put her feet on the ground when she loses her balance, rather than depending on the training wheels. I want the experience to be fun, but I also want not to drag out the training-wheel dependency or make it harder to learn to ride without them in the long run.

    I'd also like recommendations for a good ''first bike.'' My daughter is a very tall soon-to-be-4-year-old. She loves the idea of riding a bike, but doesn't have much experience and is not particularly athletically inclined. I also don't want to spend a fortune. Thanks. Lauren

    Here's what we did with our two young childern. The first bike was a 16 inch with training wheels. At age 4, we felt they were too young to learn how to ride without training wheels. We felt they needed the experience and gain the confidence of riding the bike, turning, braking, etc, before taking the big leap. Even with training wheels, there is a lot for them to learn. We waited until they told us they were ready to try without training wheels. I feel it was important not to push them, but wait until they were motivated, (and when the parent is fit enough to run the equivalent of a dozen wind sprints). Generally, it was about a year on training wheels. We bought the bikes at Target for around $30-40 on sale. Anon.
    We found the best way to get our 4-yr-old started with bikes was using a trail-a-bike that hitched behind our adult bikes (our brand was ''Adams'' but I think there are others available now). Previously we had tried training wheels, and our son was getting pretty frustrated. He took immediately to the trail-a- bike and had no problem keeping his balance. It also made for great family outings. Riding on the trail-a-bike seemed to give him confidence, and a few months later he tried his own bike without training wheels and picked it up in a flash. Leo
    My husband, an avid cyclist, read that learning to ride a scooter gives you the balance needed to ride a two-wheeler. We tried it with our son, who was 6 or 7 at the time. After he learned to ride a scooter, we took the pedals off his two-wheeler so he could use it like a scooter and get used to its feel. (This advice was given in a different article about teaching children how to ride a bike.) After about 10 minutes of this he was ready for the pedals. Once the pedals were on, it took about 5 minutes to get his balance and go riding off. No training wheels. I don't see why this wouldn't work with a 4-year old as long as she can touch the ground while sitting on her bike. So for the sake of money, buy the largest bike that the seat will adjust low enough on. Fran
    My son, age 5 + 21/2 months, just started riding his bike without training wheels a few days ago without any help from me or my husband. On Tuesday morning, he told me he had dreamt that he could ride his bike without training wheels. That day, at preschool, he rode the little 2- wheeler that they have there, and at night, at home, we took off his training wheels and he rode his own 12-inch bike all around our patio. I guess he knew when he was ready, and he just did it!

    We got him his bike when he was 4 + 3 months, and he rode it with training wheels up until now. One time, about a month ago, we raised the training wheels so he could practice balancing more, but this was harder for him, so we lowered them back down again.

    Almost all of the children I know started off with training wheels. Some still have them, some don't. It's purely developmental, and each child can do it easily when they're ready. I don't believe they are a crutch at all.

    We bought our son's bike at Target for about $40. I would recommend getting one that only has foot breaks, (some have a hand break, too, but these are a waste of money since the children can't use them anyway). Yvonne

    Adults Learning to Ride

    Mom needs a refresher course

    Aug 2011

    I have a great bicycle, leaning against the shelving in my basement, just sitting there. Many years ago, I really enjoyed tooling around on my bike, but now, I just have this huge resistance to falling, and it stops me entirely from hopping on and riding off. I'm worried about traffic, I can't for the life of me remember how to shift gears, and I'm just generally too anxious to start again. So I'm wondering if there are classes, easy bike paths, and other things I can do to get over the fear and return to the pleasure and fun and great exercise of biking. I'm a mom of two teens and would like to model well-being and fitness and am hoping one day we could all enjoy this activity together. Not like falling off a horse

    Check out the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. They have some great classes that will teach you basic riding skills (the classes start in the classroom and move to the streets). They also have a great program called the 1000 New Cyclists Campaign, which pairs up new cyclists with experienced riders. Good luck and email me if you need any more help; I'm an avid bike commuter and love encouraging people to ride! Susan
    I just dusted off my own bike after 10 years, after having 3 kids, and first I took it to a bike shop to get a tune-up (estimated $70, but only cost $30). Feeling safer, I hit the Bay Trail down by Costco. It starts between the gas station at Costco and the Pt. Isabel dog run parking lot--you'll see it when you drive around behind Costco. It's not crowded, yet it feels safe, and is wide and totally flat. Another good one is the Iron Horse Trail in Walnut Creek. Again, flat and safe, and there's a Peet's you can stop at, along the way... Buy an iPod, load in some inspiring music, and hit the road! heidilee
    walk that bike over to the Missing Link (but not on a weekend if possible)... get that bike tuned up if they think it fits you. Maybe the bike is the wrong size?

    then, have them show you how to operate it. love my bike

    Iron Horse trail in Walnut Creek is a very flat and easy off-street paved trail. Might be a place to start. There's also the bay trail and I think something on Bay Farm Island. Some bike clubs have introductory rides at the beginning of the season. I think some bike shops have classes on riding in the city. Maybe just call around to some shops or ask the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. You do have to ride defensively around here, but I think unless you're riding in the hills, it's not that likely you'll fall off the bike. anon
    East bay regional parks has been offering some free guided bike rides that I think are oriented towards bike skill development. Ebparks.org

    REI outdoor school offers bike clinics of 15 people max. I believe you meet at the berkeley store and then you drive in a van to earshore state park (in an overflow lot near the sports fields). I think bikes are provided.

    grizzly peak cyclists offer regular clinics at miller knox regional park in richmond...not sure if they are open to everyone or only to club members Happy trails Tiffany

    Hi, I'm a KP employee and just received this. You can attend.

    ''Learn to feel confident when cycling to work. Attend a free Urban Bicycle Safety Class at Oakland Medical Center, presented by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC). This 3.5 hour class focuses on the basics of safe cycling, riding in traffic, equipment, crash avoidance, and bicycle rights and responsibilities. Classes are open to Kaiser Permanente employees, members, and the public (14 years and older). Light snacks provided.

    The next Urban Bicycle Safety Class will be held Wednesday, August 17, 6:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. at 3701 Broadway, Conference Room G101D, Oakland.

    On-Road Instruction class A free six-hour On-Road Instruction class is available for Urban Bicycle Safety Class graduates. The class will be held on Saturday, September 10, in Berkeley, from 9:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. See link for more information http://www.ebbc.org/safety.'' Good luck!

    I think REI has a ''learn to bike'' course for adults who didn't learn as kids, or like you haven't ridden in ages. Happy bike commuter
    I was in a similar situation a few years back. Started with spin classes at the Y. Then got a commuter bike that fit me. It's outfitted with baskets & lights. I'm very safety conscience but have become more confident with time & practice. There are many streets with bike lanes & lighter car traffic. There are also excellent, free bike safety classes offered by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (http://www.ebbc.org/). But you do have to be on the lookout constantly for cars, pedestrians & yes, other cyclists. I now bike to work & do many of my errands by bike. It's been really great for me. And yes, positive role modeling to teens & others. Would be happy to talk with you offline. Rebecca

    I never learned to ride a bike

    Jan 2009

    I have a mortifying confession to make for the sake of seeking to overcome my problem--for various reasons I never learned to ride a bike. I have always, always wanted to learn but felt too embarrassed/clumsy to try. Now that I have a little one I especially would like to learn. Any advice for learning techniques, techinical tips or hidden away spots where I can look like a goof without being too embarrased by onlookers? thanks Anon

    I also did not learn how to ride a bike until I was 18 years old. Once I graduated high school, I moved to Arizona where a bicycle was my only reasonable form of transportation, so I knew it was time. It is actually a lot easier to learn when you are an adult than when you are a kid, in my opinion. I would just get on the bike and try it out. I remember the hardest part about it was getting going, and feeling like I was far away from the earth. But practicing over and over by starting and stopping again is the way to get a hang of it. I would just go to a parking lot, like the top of Ashby BART station on a weekend, and getting on and trying it. It is really not that hard, and you'll never ever regret it! Just Do It!
    I learned to ride a bike at age 35! I had a bad experience trying to learn as a kid and never did. My husband taught me, just like he taught our kids--I think any relatively strong and fit adult could do it. We just went to an elementary school playground and he held on to the bike as I rode around, gradually letting go more and more. It was very easy--only a couple of sessions, no crashes! If you scope out the playground in advance you'll have an idea of when it will be pretty empty, but try not to worry about people seeing you--you are setting a good example of being a lifelong learner. Then I rode pretty frequently but only on bike trails since I am scared of riding with cars around. old dogs can still learn new tricks!
    I think the exact same method would work for you, that is working for my 9 year old. Find a bike that is small enough so you can sit on the seat and put both feet flatly on the ground. A bike shop can let you try different sizes and then you maybe can buy a used one, cheap. Take off the pedals (you'll need a wrench or other tool). Then, go to a wide open space that has a small tilt to its surface. The old Hillside School in Berkeley is perfect, and it's usually deserted, so you'll have the place to yourself. Coast down, using your feet to walk along, and get the feel of balancing. Gradually start picking up your feet, and ta-da! You're balancing! When you feel ready, put the pedals back on. Good luck!!! heidilee
    Get a copy of the book, ''Tolstoy's Bicycle.'' Out of print but available used from Amazon. Tolstoy learned to ride a bike at age 67, I think. The book lists all sorts of accomplishments by all sorts of people, chronologically by age. peter
    Hope this isn't too repetitious, but I didn't learn how to ride a bicycle until I was 29. The tips I got were to 1) take the pedals off with a wrench 2) lower the seat until your feet can reach the ground easily to help stop yourself 3) practice balancing/coasting and using the hand brakes (supplementing with your feet if need be) and 4) practice in an area that has a very gentle slope (to help you coast) with no traffic or things to run into, such as the parking lot at a community college or business park on a weekend, preferably in dry conditions. After you master balancing, coasting, and braking, reattach the pedals and practice pedaling and shifting (if you have a multi-speed bike). It goes without saying to always wear a helmet, and gloves and kneepads are also a good idea (trust me, you'll take at least one tumble). Good luck! keyroute