Monday, 15 July 2013

Riding without Training Wheels

JahJ has loved his run bike. He has ridden it every possible moment. The proof is in the worn soles of the shoes he has used as brakes. He has learned to steer, balance, brake and propel himself forward with his legs. This summer we wanted him off of his run bike so Nae-J could start using it. We wanted him to ride a regular bike without going through the training wheels phase - after all, isn't this the purpose of starting on a balance bike? Both Jose and I have spent weeks offering him his new, big bike. He just hasn't wanted anything to do with it. He has hated everything about it other than the very loud horn. "It's just too big and I'm little! I want to be being bigger." The way he was rolling on the run bike - lifting his legs in the air, tilting from one side to the next, seeking out hills to fly down - who could blame him for not wanting to give it up? We decided not to push the issue. This is his childhood; there is no rush to skip through it.


A couple of weeks ago, Nae-J suddenly noticed the appeal of the run bike for herself. She insisted on sitting on it - clamping her legs around the "top tube" and begging us to push her around. It was fun ... the first time. It was cute ... the second time. Then it got old... because we're old! Jose and my backs were sore after ten seconds of awkwardly bending over. The seat needed to come down so Nae-J could hold herself up. Last weekend, I noticed the tire was busted from the 40-lb child who was riding it daily - the final nail in the coffin - so I lowered the seat. Unfortunately, the seat doesn't go low enough for Nae-J's feet to be flat on the ground, but now it is obviously too small for JahJ.

We spent this past week practicing pedaling and balancing on the big bike. Our neighbour suggested we put on training wheels or at least sign him up for bike camp. Our observant son caught on and complained that there just weren't enough wheels on his bike to ride it on his own. We continued with the short, two-minute practice sessions. At least he knew his big bike was his and that the run bike was now his sister's. He understood that he had graduated, but was uneasy with his parents letting him go. Quite simply, he didn't want to fall. (Incidentally, this is the child who will tight-rope walk the armrest of the couch in a pair of frog costume flipper feet without batting an eye.) 

On Saturday, when we arrived home from blueberry picking, we saw another neighbour's kid zooming by on her two-wheel bike. Being a social kid, JahJ asked if he too could ride his bike with his friend. I got his bike and prepared myself for another two-minute lesson. I tried to let him know he should start with both pedals parallel to the ground and to push off with the front one. I held on to his hips and he asked me to not let go. I did let go - for about three seconds. He didn't fall! The lesson ended and he went on to play with bubbles and trucks with his sister and friend. I chatted with his friend's mom. Some time later, the mom invited me to the Oval (a nearby high school running track) where the kids were going to ride around and around. I declined her invitation, since it sounded like a nightmare for any parent of a child who could not pedal independently. 

"Did you see that!?" asked JahJ excitedly.

"No? What happened?" I answered.

And he showed me. 





You will notice that he starts on a downward incline and runs his bike to start pedaling. It is not the way I thought he should do it, but he devised his own plan to pedaling. I am amazed that he knows how to ride a bicycle. I shouldn't be amazed, considering the minutes of back-wrenching lessons, the training tool (run bike, occasional tricycle) and the innate wonder and willingness to learn, but still! My son rides a two-wheel bike - independently! Now, he wants to go ride on the street, ride downtown, ride to the park, ride to the sprinkle water park, ride to the store. JahJ even asked Jose to put Nae-J in the car and drive on the road so he could chase them on his bike. He loops around the building trying to keep up with his seven-year-old friend. He can't make it up hills yet and his dare-devilness is predictably absent on hill descents, but I bet next week, he'll be zooming past me on hills in both directions. This week, we will work on using the coaster brakes and differentiating "right", "straight", "left" and "stop".

He is so happy and eager that I don't think I will be able to get him to ride on the back of my bicycle ever again. Do you have any tips on how I can convince a thrilled, new, four-year-old rider to not ride his bike when I need to commute? He wants to ride it every possible moment.


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