Learning to ride a bike

Seems often kids learn to ride a pedal bike with parents running alongside or behind them to try to catch them if they fall. But they can still fall, and a fall on asphalt or concrete can be painful. Possible also to fall sideways just standing still with feet on the pedals.

Any other way to help learn? Perhaps with less chance of pain?

And any places around here good for learning? Seems an empty parking lot can work, but perhaps there are other places. Would be nice to learn somewhere with a softer landing for falls, but perhaps not possible.

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RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

Helmet, knee, elbow pads and gloves. These should protect you from most falls. They even have Butt pads. Get the kids learn to balance without pedals and then add pedal. We taught our child by removing pedals first. (Kid was too tall/old for balance bike at that point). Beach elementary school in Piedmont has a very slight slope on its playground that helps and that is where my kid learned to ride a bike. A very cautious child who is afraid of many things was able to bike after about 2 weeks. Kid didn’t fall while lot as they could control their speed with breaks and feet. When they did fall, pads did a great job. Good luck!

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

My son nearly gave up learning to ride a bike until I found an area on the Park Day campus that was carpeted with synthetic turf. This was several years ago, and not sure if it's there anymore, but after an hour, he was riding his bike. Good luck to you!

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

I relate to this question so much.  Our kid was having a really difficult time learning how to ride, and nothing my spouse or I did seemed to help.  We wound up enrolling him in REI's "how to ride a bike" class and it was an absolute godsend.  The instructors are patient and really good with kids, and after one class he basically had it (although we put him in a second class a little later to boost his skills).  I cannot recommend it highly enough!

https://www.rei.com/events/21795/how-to-ride-a-bike-for-kids 

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

Hi! Not sure how old your child is, but I highly recommend starting with a Strider bike before going to a regular bike. My child did a Strider bike for a year when he was 3, and when he turned 4, began using a regular bike. The Strider helped him understand how to balance his body and feel comfortable controlling the bike. Also, depending on your location, Alameda Point is a great place to learn. There is a huge empty lot that is barricaded from cars, next to the new Seaplane Ferry, and tons of kids practice bike riding there. Good luck!

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

I second the recommendation to start with no pedals. We went from a little balance bike to a pedal bike with no pedals. After a while, our little guy started coasting so he could figure out how to balance on two wheels. Then we put the pedals back on and it was very easy for him to incorporate the pedaling with the balancing. I don't even remember him falling more than once or twice after that (helmet is obviously essential!). He learned in the pedestrian area of Jack London Square, along the water, which has both grassy and concrete areas. Whatever you do, avoid training wheels. They only make it harder to learn. Good luck!

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

I know our instinct is to protect our kids and no one likes to see their kid hurting, but kids are tougher than we think they are and falling, literally and figuratively, is part of life and learning - get them a helmet and they'll be okay. I don't mean to diminish your concerns, just to reassure you that it's not as big a deal as it seems at first. We all learned to ride a bike on asphalt, skinned our knees falling off the monkey bars, etc. and turned out fine. I suppose you could find a playground with a "sport court" type surface, but while softer surfaces are nicer for landing, they'll make biking frustrating because it's harder to stay up and it's really not that much cushier when you fall. It will be okay!

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

I recently attended a  6 year old's birthday party at Richmond's Miller Knox Park and there's this thing called  The Slab that's next to the parking lot that's across the street from the railroad museum that's seems perfect for this. The whole birthday party for the kids was just them tooling around on their bikes, skateboards, and roller skates. But it's probably pretty crowded on weekends. It's basically just a giant flat concrete slab the size of the parking lot. 

I have no advice for you since I didn't learn to ride till I was an adult and am still only pregnant. I have heard balance bikes are better than training wheels and peddle bikes, and that kneepads and wrist pads are super helpful. I think any surface that's soft would also be difficult to ride on. 

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

We started our daughter with schoolyard playgrounds on the weekend. They are generally smooth enough to play sports on, so not too bad when you fall. Helmet and biking gloves (less than $10) to protect hands, which are the worst impact most of the time during low speed falls. I found this video super helpful. It focuses on training the kid what to do instinctively if the bike falls. Once they have that down, it makes the rest a lot more straightforward.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOlQg5THqhE

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

How old is your little one? We taught both girls over the 2020 pandemic summer, starting with balance bikes/no pedals and practicing a LOT in the empty bart stations. They fell, scraped up a bit, but nothing serious. They still fall sometimes :) Our kiddos only wear helmets. Agreed that a slight slope really helps!

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

In my experience, my daughter learned to ride with pedals and no training wheels on the young side, around 3.5 years old, I think a bunch of pads and gloves are a bad idea, as they hinder natural movement. Just a helmet is fine. Anyway, I must be a bad mom because pain in falling literally never crossed my mind, and I don't think my daughter had any bad falls anyway, kids on small bikes are pretty low to the ground. The bike should be low enough that they can put their feet down if necessary. Bikes "to grow into" are a also bad idea because young children cannot control them well and are more likely to fall. My daughter learned to ride at the Thousand Oaks elementary playground.

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

This is an exciting time - you're opening up an exciting new world and hopefully also teaching your kid to overcome some anxiety. With my youngest, we spent a couple of days on the dirt infield of our neighborhood softball field; it was like magic for improving his confidence. In Berkeley, many of the schools have paved areas in their yards (King Middle, Emerson Elementary, Sylvia Mendez Elementary) that are fun to ride around on (especially King!)

I second the recommendation to remove the pedals at first - depending on the bike you'll need either a standard Allen wrench or a special pedal wrench (or a bike shop can do it for you). After a few weeks of learning balance, we added the pedals back and put on training wheels for just a few days to get used to starting up. You may skip the training wheels though. This was also the only time in my parenting career that I've used an explicit bribe - I promised my initially reluctant son a Lego set after 10 straight days of practice. No regrets!

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

Find an open, paved area (school yard).  Ride with one trainng wheel.  It will look riduculously awkward at first.  Soon (this is different for each rider), it will be obvious that the other wheel can be removed.

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

A few tricks that had my kid riding in no time:  

Start with a scoot bike ( there are many brands, but basically any bike that has no pedals, whether by design or whether you remove the pedals from your kids regular bike).   Note if you buy a scoot bike from someone at BPN / Craigslist / yard sale, etc, and use it for a short time and take good care of it, you can probably sell it for nearly what you paid for it.  

Go to a park that has grass, and start your kid out riding on the grass.  With this technique, they probably can't go fast enough to get scared, and when they fall, it is a softer landing.   Perfectly flat grass is a bit boring, and of course you don't want to start on a hill, but look for a flat-ish park with the most gentle of slopes, the kind of slope you probably wouldn't even notice unless you were looking carefully.   Then there will be a slight momentum from gravity without anything scary. 

Next, look for a school with a kindergarten playground that has a rubberized surface.  

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

https://www.rei.com/events/21795/how-to-ride-a-bike-for-kids

We took our son to this class and it totally worked! He was a confident rider by the end of the class. The classes book up fast, we ended up taking him about an hour away because there weren't openings closer. Check it out!

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

Three alternatives to falling on concrete: Start with balance bikes (bikes without pedals, e.g. Skoot). Use training wheels until ready. Ride on grassy surfaces for softer falls. 

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

Our elementary-school daughter learned to ride a bike at a one-day class at the Fremont REI.  Highly recommend it.  Worth the drive.  The website shows that June 2022 classes are sold out, but there are still spots for July and August.

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

Grass! I taught my kid in the park near our place (Snow Park in Oakland). Much softer to fall on, and the park has a gentle slope to help with momentum. Later we graduated to parking lots. 

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

My kids started with the bikes without pedals - scoots?? This helps kids learn to balance before integrating pedals. My four easily transitioned to riding pedal bikes. Very different than how we learned to ride. So many crashes and skinned knees. Or maybe they was just me. Ha! 

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

A balance bike is key to starting out and getting comfortable riding on a bike before switching to a bike with pedals. Once your child seems ready to move on, I recommend going directly to a pedal bike, without training wheels, and the sooner they start on a pedal bike the better, because when they are little they bounce back from falls more easily and seem less likely to injure themselves. We used the small track at Rosa Parks school in Berkeley for switching to a pedal bike, because the rubber track material has some give, and the grass interior provides an easy outlet for a potential crash! Once ready for longer rides, the western side of Aquatic Park is good because it is wide and doesn't have the large amount of faster moving bike and pedestrian traffic you might find on the bay trail or the greenway.

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

Hi,

Good questions. You didn't mention the age of the child so I'm thinking older than 5. So I think learning a new motor skills takes scaffolding. I would suggest that you set up the bike so the child can reach the ground with their feet - essentially a like a balance bike. That way your child could get the hang of how a bike moves, tips, goes slow, goes fast. Have them walk alongside the bike and see how to steer it, see which way it falls. Have them pick the bike up after the bike falls and see how to get it straight again. Straddle the bike, see how it falls, how to pick up it up and walk with it. There's a lot to learn before riding. Go back to the balance bike idea - feet on the ground, then feet off the ground, eventually pedals and stopping. I had my kids practice on the front lawn  or grass field because falls are inevitable. When they had the basics we went to the school yard.  Good luck.

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

Oh, one more thing. Weight of the bike matters. Don't get the prettiest bike. Get a high quality bike that is light and fun to ride. If your child is young enough to be on a balance bike, go for it! If your child is too old for a balance bike, get a high quality bike and take the pedals off. Do not use training wheels. The weight of the bike is really important. Get the lightest and highest quality bike you can afford. When kids are learning to balance, they should be able to put their feet flat or almost flat on the ground so they can use their feet. They'll fall but you can't go too fast and elbow and knee pads and gloves do a pretty good job. When you attach the pedals, if the bike is heavy, it'll be more difficult for them to learn to pedal and control. I'm a middle aged person who has had several failed attempts to learn to ride a bike and am currently using the same tips that we used for our child. I look a bit ridiculous learning to balance on a bike without pedals, but I can confirm that I'm feeling more confident being on a bike without pedals because I can control the speed with my feet while getting used to being on 2 wheels and can break if I get too scared. 

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

We did it on the part of the playground at Thousand Oaks where the play structures are and the paving material is sort of squishy. That helped. We did have a couple of instances of biking straight into the monkey bars but on the balance I think it was a good choice (obviously when there were no other kids around).

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

If no balance bike (which makes it practically seamless), "hold" the child not the bike. Place two/three fingers on each side of the child's torso along each rib cage (just below the tickly parts under the arm). The muscles you'll be contacting there by touch (not hold, touch, maybe with some pressure for security at first) are the intercostals, I believe, and they are crucial for core/balance. They are also usually a little tender. So the child should start to engage them to 'shrink' away from your touch. And voila--balance and they are riding. You save your back, you can do a two whole hands catch if necessary and only the bike will fall. A slight grade can be nice, but flat is good initially. This method (which I read about in the Chronicle of Higher Education of all places) took my 'not learning it' child to 'got it' in about 5 minutes at around 7. Less for the one who learned first on a balance bike. Like 40 seconds, at a bout 4 or 5, for that one.

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

It might be harder with a taller kiddo, but for my three year old, I wrapped a bathrobe belt under his arms, and ran next to him. This was way easier (on me) than trying to support the bike itself. I mostly held him up, and if he fell, I softened the landing. (They're so close to the ground and moving pretty slow, though, so some little bumps are no big deal and kind of part of being a kid!) As he got better I gave more slack in the belt, and pretty quickly he didn't need it anymore. 

RE: Learning to ride a bike ()

My son was a super reluctant learner, so we signed him up for a class through (I think) Alameda Bicycle. They met in an empty parking lot, and everyone took the pedals off their bike and practiced coasting, like on a balance bike. Then they put the pedals back on and just practiced putting their feet on the pedals. Then they practiced pedaling. One class and he was off! I don't know who stills offers these classes post covid, but it was great for my son. He needed someone other than his parents to teach him, and he was really motivated by seeing other kids do it too.