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This question about learning to ride a bike focuses on keeping the balance. For my son, balance is not a problem because he already has mastered his balance bike. We're trying to transition him to a bicycle with pedals now and he's excited about it but doesn't grasp the concept of pedaling and promptly gives up trying.

He never had a trike with pedals to learn pedaling. We thought it was neat that his balance was so good that he skipped the trike and went straight on a balance bike, but today that is beginning to look like a pedagogic mistake.

I guess if I gave him training wheels he could learn how to operate the pedals without bothering about gravity and momentum, but I feel that it would be counterproductive to let him rely on training wheels at a stage where balance is not the challenge.

I don't have the option of giving him something like a Kettcar but that would help him understand pedaling without sacrificing his bike-balance skills. He's too old for a trike.

Should I give him training wheels, find a Kettcar, or something else?

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This article at bicycles.SE may help: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/452/… –  James Bradbury Mar 11 '13 at 10:15
    
Every child is different and develops the ability to padel at different age- as talkind, toilet training, eating with a spoon and so on. Give time and patience. My older son was ridding his bike at 2 1/2 yoa. The younger one is 3 and can not ride even the tricycle. : ) –  user9364 Jul 11 at 4:15

7 Answers 7

I apologize, I don't remember how old your son is, but I feel like the first part of my answer probably won't apply to you.

If exposed to a bike/trike/whatever with pedals, it seems like most kids will master pedaling between the ages of 2 1/2 and 3. I would definitely say this was the case for my son. He got his first bike at 3 1/2 (having all ready mastered pedaling on a trike) and was riding it with training wheels easily.

However...

I will also tell you that my best friend's daughter had not yet mastered pedaling (she was 4 1/2) at that same time. I don't know why. She's 6 now and she can pedal fine.

I'm guessing, though, that since your question is listed under the "preschooler" tag that he's older than a toddler.

On the plus side, since your son had a balance bike, he's presumably mastered balance and steering pretty well, he's just unsure of how, exactly, to propel himself forward. I can't find any resources online that specifically addresses how to teach your child to pedal. Most resources focus more on teaching your child how to balance the bike, assuming that your child has all ready mastered pedaling before you put them on a regular bicycle. So my suggestions are going to be things I can think of and you may or may not have tried some (or all) of them all ready:

  1. Demonstrate If you own a bike (and I'm going to assume that you do), then take it with you when you go to work on learning to ride. He may just need someone to show him how this whole pedaling thing works.
  2. Explain If your child is somewhat mechanical (and even if he/she isn't), explaining to your child how a pedal works might help. He's older, so if you explain to him that you're simply pushing the pedal and it moves the wheel, that might help him grasp the concept a little better. The key is he has to understand that he has to do this to both pedals to keep the bike moving.
  3. Determine Is it that he finds pedaling difficult to grasp or is he afraid of falling? Sitting on a bicycle and sitting on a balance bike are a different feeling, so even though he's presumably mastered balance with the balance bike, sitting higher up on the bicycle might be shaking his confidence a little. If that's the case, I'd throw the training wheels on there to make him feel more comfortable. Once he's mastered pedaling, removing the training wheels shouldn't be too much of a problem since he all ready understands balance and steering.
  4. Practice You can practice "pedaling" without sitting on a bicycle. When I was a kid, my grandmother and I would lie on the floor or on the couch with our feet facing each other. Then I would put my feet on her feet and we would "pedal" in the air. I thought it was awesome fun! It will help teach his muscles the motion that he needs to use to push a bike pedal, and you can adjust the speed starting off slower and gradually increasing. It also gives you the added benefit of being able to mirror his movements and you can explain while you're going along (ie. "bend your knee, now straighten it out" etc.) until he gets it. It's a little more low-pressure than sitting on a bike.
  5. Attend If there are any biking clubs in your area or bike safety days in your area, go and take his bike. Seeing other kids around his age biking might be the push he needs to tackle pedaling. Or schedule a little play-date with another kid who is biking. The other child doesn't have to be biking on two wheels, just pedaling since that's the skill you're trying to encourage. Sometimes other kids are the best teachers for things like this.
  6. If all else fails, buying a Kettcar doesn't look like a bad alternative.

Like a lot of things, I'm willing to bet that once it clicks, he'll be off like a light.

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This is how I finally got my son to ride a bike:

  • Found a gentle grass slope.
  • Started at the top with the pedals removed and the seat low enough so that he could rest his feet on the grass.
  • Sent him down a few times and gradually raised the saddle so his feet were off the ground.
  • Once he had his balance I put the pedals back, so he could now freewheel down with his feet on them.
  • As he came to the bottom of the slope and the bike began to slow - shouted 'Pedal, pedal, pedal.'

After a while of doing this he had the confidence to start the bike from stationary. It was a lot of fun to do.

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This sounds like a great method. I added some formatting, it looked like you intended that. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 14 at 18:51

I would walk beside him, holding the handlebars with one hand so that he doesn't fall over, and reach down with my other hand and grab his foot and get it going.

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This is what we're trying, but it doesn't work at all. He needs help to grasp the basic idea that pedals need to be turned. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 13 '13 at 7:55

There are two ways one could handle this.

On one hand, indeed, you could use training wheels that will make allow your child to (somewhat) postpone the learning curve of his balance.

Once he will become confident enough and learn how to manipulate his bicycle and its functionalities (ie, brakes), you'll be able to remove the training wheels, and he will be able to concentrate on the balance.

On the other hand, if you have the patience to walk/run while your child cycles, you could hold him (by the shoulders or the back). Albeit more tiring for you, it will boost the psychomotric development (the ability to use one's body properly to balance and move freely) of the child.

The key here, is that your child, depending on his age, has more or less developed capabilities. My belief is that it is better to hold the cyclist as opposed to training wheels, even if it may be a little bit tricky at first.

Another alternative, depending on your possibilities, would be to attach the child's bicycle to an adult one, such as this: http://www.trail-gator.com/images/collage.jpg

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If possible, try to avoid training wheels. Running beside the bike and grabbing the kid at the jacket/a towel wrapped around the chest worked best with my kids. –  user77907 Mar 4 '13 at 13:57

My parents ran a mom-n-pop retail outlet selling cycles for kids all their life.

The suggestion they usually had for parents was to gently tie the kid's feet to the pedals (you can use shoe laces if you will) and push the bicycle. This would give them a feel of how to move their legs while the bicycle moves. Also, try to get out of their view so they get a stronger feel of 'riding the bike'.

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As an aside, I know of this approach to have worked on a child born with weak feet (he could not move them much on his own accord). This practice helped him gain some strength and better control as he grew up over the years. –  hitec Mar 7 '13 at 11:56

Both pedaling and balancing are skills that need practice. In The Netherlands (where I live), most kids start with balancing bikes before they can pedal. They later learn to pedal on a tricycle, and eventually combine both skills. This was the case for my son, who, at 3 years and 3 months sat on a pedaling bike for the first time, and could immediately ride it.

I think that there is no huge difference between a tricycle and training wheels, frankly. Both serve to let the kid practice pedaling without falling over. If your son has a good sense of balance, I don't think training wheels for a short while will particularly hinder him.

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If you already have a bike you could try something like these. I'm not saying you should buy from this shop, or those brands I that link, but it gives you an idea of what I mean. We have three boys and my middle child, age 4, can ride a bike pretty well now, but did initially struggle with pedaling. As such, his stamina is not very good, and when he gets tired he puts his feet down and tries to walk his bike while still on the seat. It sounds awkward right? Because it is. We got him a tandem trailer because he's too big for the "baby" trailer. Indeed, having him plus my youngest plus the trailer is too much for out of shape middle aged me to haul! With the tandem trailer, he pedals himself as much as he can, at his own pace and can rest if he needs to, without slowing us down.

I understand that it's not exactly a perfect solution, since your child would be able to not be "forced" to pedal. Perhaps being able to watch and imitate someone pedaling, while experiencing the ride without having to concentrate on balancing, would be a good environment for him to practice? We love our tandem trailer and nobody else suggested it so I figured I'd add my two cents.

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