Teaching my son to ride
For my son's third birthday, he got his first pedal bike. After riding his balance bike for over 18 months, it's now time to progress to pedals.
There are many different options for children's bikes. There are a lot of cheap versions in large high-street shops, but the majority of these are heavy. The best way to get started with anything is with a good experience. Small children struggle with heavy bikes, so finding something as light as possible was the primary focus.
There are plenty of new brands which are built with this goal and understand what makes a good children's bike. I looked at Frog Bikes, Islabikes and woom, all of which come recommended online. I loved the look of the Commencal Ramones 14, with its proper MTB-looks of burly tyres and disc brakes.
After much research, I fell in love with the Early Rider Seeker 14. It is clean and light and is a proper mountain bike with its nobbly tyres. It features a cool-looking belt drive, meaning less maintenance, no oily clothes and is also less likely to cause injury in case of a crash.
Not quite ready
For a few months, he wasn’t quite big enough for his new pedal bike, so he continued to use and love his green Strider balance bike.
As the days were getting warmer I took both bikes on our adventures over Cannock Chase. I found safe areas on the grass in case of falls, with a slight gradient to help maintain momentum while he learned to pedal. After some persuasion, he tried a few times, but he spent most of the time on his balance bike.
Every time we went out I asked him which bike he wanted to use and the answer was always the same; “the small green bike”. Even though I managed to push him around the block with his feet on the pedals and he could free-wheel down a hill – even learning to use his brakes – he was always more excited to be on his balance bike.
Removing the pedals
The newer bike is larger and heavier, so the addition of a new mechanism to move the bike added even more hindrance to riding. To help his confidence I decided to remove the pedals. Since then I have not heard a thing about his “small green bike” and every time I ask him, he enthusiastically replies “the big bike”.
Riding with pedals!
On the 1st of September, after an afternoon splashing in a local paddling pool, we took his bike including pedals and walked up a grass hill. We started with a quick ride through some trees, using his feet on the floor as he always did. Then we exited to a gradual grassy downslope – as Monty gained a bit of speed and with the littlest of encouragement, he started pedaling!
As the hill flattened out, he struggled a little, but continued to pedal, looking directly at me and exclaiming “Me do it! Dad…”.
At the bottom of the hill, we reached a gravel running track. I increased the height of his seat – only leaving his tip-toes to reach the floor – and with a little push he was able to ride without any help.
From then on there was no stopping him. We started on pavements that offered the least pedaling resistance. He needed a few push-starts to get going, but soon managed to scoot a few steps before moving his feet to the pedals. This slow speed control is the direct benefit of moving from a balance bike. Being able to maintain his balance when going slow means he‘s comfortable reducing his speed for turns and looking where to go.
The following week we moved to some off-road riding at Cannock Chase. Although he was able to ride the entire 2 and a ½ mile blue route (Perry’s Trail) on his balance bike, he’s not quite ready for the undulating nature on his pedals.
Luckily there are the new “Pedal and Play” areas – part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games legacy – and they are perfect. They are designed to help kids gain confidence with each individual self-contained trail offering progression. He kept doing laps of each, including berms, rollers and small rock gardens. He’ll be hitting the trails for real very soon.
I’m proud he has progressed to pedals and I’m looking forward to the riding adventures we’ll have in the future.
It’s been a year
One year later, the balance bike has long been forgotten and pedalling isn’t the only trick Monty has learnt. He is now riding standing up and even copied other people by riding with one hand! Now it is time for a bigger pedal bike…