Friday, May 20, 2011

First bike-iversary

The rain let up enough for a little ride. The ladybug boots are there for the puddles.
Today was a big day. It was the last day of school and our girl's first bike-iversary, a term we've decided appropriate for marking the occasion. It was one year ago today that she first rode a pedal bike. In the year that has passed, she's become an ever more accomplished rider. This may be the summer of learning about mountain biking.

Recently I had a question from a reader regarding how we liked the Electra and how it has worked out for her. This prompted me to spend some time reflecting on not only the bike, but the learning to ride process. I thought it deserving of a bit more prominence than to reside in the comments section of an old post, so the following is a brief synopsis of our experience.

We used the balance method of learning to ride, and never used training wheels. It was quick, easy and fun for both parent and kid. We started out with a Scuut balance bike followed by a 12.5 inch wheeled pedal bike, followed by the larger 16 inch wheeled Electra.

For those unfamiliar with the balance method, the gist is to learn to balance a bike first, then introduce pedaling once balancing is mastered. Any bike can work, but smallish bikes are easiest. A cheap second hand 12.5" bike is a good starting point, depending on the kid's size. Just take the pedals off and lower the seat so that the rider can put both feet flat on the ground. The kid pushes herself along with her feet, quickly learning to lift them to coast, and thus learning to balance. The whole process can be mastered in as little as a few hours of practice, but easy, never forced practice spread out over several days or weeks is probably more typical. After balancing feels comfortable, then you can introduce pedals.

She rode her balance bike on and off for a couple of months. I slapped together a balance bike for myself out of an old frame I had, so that we could ride bikes together without her being too inquisitive about the differences between our bikes. One day, on her own volition she asked to try her pedal bike of the same size, and immediately took to it. Within an hour, she was riding reasonably well, starting, stopping and turning with increasing confidence.

It should be noted that during this whole process and for at least a year prior to this experience, she rode on the back of the Big Dummy many, many miles. It's possible that riding on the Dummy helped her internalize balancing skills and assisted her body and mind to absorb what it feels like to be moving on two wheels. If this hypothesis is correct, then a child riding on the bike of a parent before learning to ride on her own could contribute to the learning process. At some point I may investigate this in more detail. At any rate, we continue to enjoy riding together on the Big Dummy as well as on separate bikes, and hopefully she picks up practical skills and an understanding of safety on the road.

Below are a few short movies from a year ago on the first day she rode a pedal bike, taken within an hour of her first attempt. My favorite is the second clip during which she announces excitedly, "I made a heart." Here's to the first year of a long lifetime of riding.


  1. I'm relatively certain that the key to riding a bike for little girls is a pink bike. :-) Congrats on one super year Stella!!

  2. It's painfully obvious that I am a male and a Daddy because I overlooked such an important feature. Yes, pink would appear to be essential to success. Stella says thanks!

  3. I appreciate your post as my own daughter is making the transition from a push bike to a pedal bike.

  4. Mark,
    Congratulations to your daughter for making the transition. It's really a magical time that you will always remember.