Somewhere in the catacombs of our childhood memories are at least a few unforgettable moments involving a bike. Whether it be learning to ride one, your first fall, what your first bike looked like, riding around the neighborhood with your friends, or all of those, a memory with a bike is hard to forget.
My parents bought me a bike with training wheels when I was 3 years old. I remember it, it was purple with a white basket on the front. My legs weren’t quite long enough to reach the pedals, so I had to ride it in a sort of standing/hopping motion. According to my mom (she loves to tell this story), I would wake her up at 5am to go ride it on the sidewalk outside of our house on the weekends. It was early enough that the paper boy was able to hand my mom her newspaper and chuckle, while my mom, with bed head and coffee in hand, gave him the stink eye, because anything at 5am was not amusing to her. As tiring as those weekends may have been for my mom (thanks, mom), they helped cement the always-present companionship of a bike throughout my childhood. A bike meant freedom and adventure in the otherwise repetitive and quiet daily life of the suburbs of Raleigh, NC. Not only that, but while some of my neighborhood friends were glued to their Playstations and Nintendos, I was breathing fresh air, getting Vitamin D, and staying healthy. My bike helped me connect with the outdoors in a way that other activities never did, and that appreciation has lasted my entire life.
These warm and fuzzy memories of when we were just kids on bikes exist within nearly every cyclist. There’s a reason we make time to still ride our bikes. And it’s important that we help foster similar experiences in the next generation of kids. We have more of an uphill battle than our parents did to get this next generation on bikes. Instead of getting them outside on a bike (or outside at all), tablets, smart phones, TV shows, and YouTube have taken over the free time of many kids. But, we’re confident that once they experience the excitement of riding a bike, the wind in their hair, the freedom of traveling throughout their neighborhood, and the smell of fresh air, that they’ll want to do it more often. To ensure these things happen, we encourage you to make their first cycling experiences positive and fun.
Here are some tips from a few of our resident experts:
- (Subtley) Get them pumped about getting on a bike with YouTube videos, watching a cycling event with them, or reading a book about kids on bikes (“Emmanuel’s Dream”, “Bicycle Book”, “Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen”, and “Everyone Can Learn To Ride A Bicycle” are our recommendations)
- Be patient and pick a day that you have time to commit to it
- Pick a location that isn’t crowded, has a slight incline, and is grassy
- Dress them in durable clothes, such as jeans, sturdy shoes, and a long sleeve shirt (to lessen the booboos that will probably occur)
- Be sure they wear a helmet – hand, arm, and knee pads are optional
- Depending on personality types, you might want to hand the reigns over to your spouse or partner on this
- Get a bike that fits them physically, is built properly, isn’t too heavy, and fits their skill set
- In fact, start with a balance bike. If your child is too big for one, teach them balancing on a regular bike. Here’s a video we made with more instruction.
- Bring snacks and water…. whatever you think is enough, bring more than that
- Make bike riding a family experience – if they see you riding, they’ll be more excited to follow suit
- Keep your rides short and give them space
- Give lots of praise and encouragement
- Stay calm, have fun, and treat yourselves to cupcakes or ice cream afterwards (If all else fails, this is also a great bribe to get them to give riding a bike a try ;))
How did you learn how to ride a bike?
What’s your favorite childhood cycling memory?