T has always enjoyed being mobile (once he got there) and as soon as he could walk it wasn’t long before he could run. In turn, as soon as he could run he wanted different things to keep him mobile; from walkers and push-a-longs, to ride on wagons and, eventually, a scooter.
T loves his scooter and would take it everywhere with him if given the option, and to be honest, he’s actually very good. Since becoming an ambassador* for Micro Scooter, a week hasn’t gone by where we haven’t gone for a scoot at least once, and it’s really paid off. T’s had his scooter for well over a year, if not longer, and is now a confident little rider. His steering is spot on and he’s always very aware of his surroundings.
With this in mind, we decided a few months before his birthday that we’d like to add to his modes of transport by adding a bicycle to the mix. He’d very briefly ridden a balance bike previously, but this was interrupted when he started scooting. Since then, he’d never ridden a bike so we thought now, especially as he’s starting school soon, would be as good a time as any to start.
So, for T’s birthday, Sharon and I bought him a bike.
not as easy as “riding a bike”.
I’ll start at the beginning and let you know that T has inherited my lack of coordination. Although, unlike me, he’s very brave when it comes to trying new things and just letting go of his fears, he’s also very uncoordinated and cannot multitask. I also want to add that I can’t ride a bike, not well enough to go on rides with him anyway. I learnt the once when I was on a school trip, never practised because I didn’t have a bike when I was younger, and then forgot everything when I then purchased a bike with Sharon; resulting in a face planting situation on my mum’s driveway.
So teaching T to ride a bike was going to be fun (!)
Thankfully, Sharon is a confident rider and pretty much spent the majority of her childhood giving her mother a heart attack as she rode downhill on her bicycle with no brakes, or whilst doing wheelies.
Shopping around, we decided to go with the traditional Frog Bike which was recommended by quite a few people and had the most variety when it came to other models. It also offers an exchange policy where you can trade in your old, smaller bicycle and use it towards a new one when you’re ready for a bigger one.
In addition, we decided NOT to go down the route of stabilisers as, from our experience, we don’t see how they teach the rider to balance. With this, we decided to purchase a BikyBiky Cycle Vest which, in summary, teaches the learner the stabilise themselves and the bike (as opposed to you holding the bicycle) whilst also learning to pedal. Simply hold onto the ‘handle’ at the back of the vest and off you go.
Since giving him his bike on his birthday, we sadly couldn’t find the time to actually get out and ride until the Easter Bank holiday, but looking back, we’re so glad we waited as it meant we could dedicate some real time to teaching him to ride. Thanks to the glorious weather that weekend, we managed to get out two days in a row.
Taking him to one of our local scooting spots, that was long enough in distance but not too long that it was intimidating, not to mention flat and relatively quiet (even on bank holidays) we started by teaching him the basics – which was easier said than done with a child who isn’t coordinated and wanted to concentrate more on ringing his bell. Eventually, though, we got there, and it wasn’t long before
we he got some speed up.
I’m not going to lie and say that there weren’t plenty of hiccups along the way. As well as his lack of coordination, he’s also inherited my stubbornness and my frustration at not getting something almost right away. I now know how annoying I was/am when learning to do something.
On one hand, he was so excited about riding and wanted to do everything by himself like his friends, but when anxiety kicked in he’d ask for help (whilst simultaneously asking us to leave him alone). When he’d stumble or veer off to one side, frustration would kick in again and take over from the joy he felt as he gained some distance. After a good hour of several mini rides he began to get angry at not being able to ride properly – despite us congratulating him and explaining that this was normal – so with this we gave it a break to have some snacks and a pep talk.
Over the course of two days, T did tremendously. For someone who has never ridden a bike, and seldom pedals anything, he did surprisingly well. Of course he got frustrated, and at one point wanted to kick his bike in anger, but when we gave him the option of trying again or stopping he’d try again.
We started his riding by letting him balance both feet on the pedals whilst he adjusted himself so he could get going, and by the end of day two he was pushing off with one foot on a pedal and adjusting himself after. Each time his distance pedalling getting longer. It was amazing seeing his confidence grow, although it was hard watching him get so angry. It also didn’t help when I decided to let go of his vest after T got some speed up, resulting in T’s face forming a relationship with some nettles (in my defence, Sharon had just done this twice prior to me, with success, so I thought I was good to give it a go. I wasn’t and it stopped our afternoon of cycling very abruptly. Note to self: Bikes hate me).
I do understand his frustration, he’s gone from walking to running to scooting with minimal fuss (and harm!) so I can imagine learning to ride has been a whole new bag of feelings for him, but looking at how he’s taken to it I am feeling really
hopeful positive that he’ll get back on with the same enthusiasm for scooting. He’s always wanted to ride, and the look on his face when he chose his bike and helmet melted me. He looked so proud.
We’re probably going to give it a rest for a few weeks now and let him process everything. Once he’s ready (and forgotten the nettles), we’ll go back out and give it another try.
In the meantime, if you have any advice, please let us know!
*Disclosure: We were Micro Scooter Ambassadors for 2018 and wrote about our scooting experiences here.
We did not receive any compensation for mentioning Frog Bikes or BikyBiky, however we think they’re great so wanted to give them a mention.