When I was a kid, my parents gave me a bike with training wheels on it. After sometime, they took the training wheels off of the bike and I promptly fell over. The training wheels did not teach me how to ride the bike. In fact, they taught me nothing. Eventually, I learned to ride via trial and error. But it was not due to the training wheels.
Some years ago, I saw a kid scooting down the side walk on a “balance bike”, a two wheel bike with no pedals, such as shown in the photo above. The mother of the kid on the balance bike explained that the balance bike was a better way to teach a kid how to ride a bicycle than using training wheels. The reason that a balance bike is better than training wheels, is that he kid first learns how to balance before switching to a regular bicycle. For most kids, balancing on a bike is the difficult step. Once they understand how to balance, the rest comes naturally.
The first time a kid sits on a balance bike, they will use both feet where ever they go. But eventually, they will naturally generate enough speed to pick up their feet and balance for some distance. Once they understand how to balance, they can switch to a bicycle with pedals and quickly learn how to use a pedal bike.
When our son was three years old, we bought him a YBike Balance Bike . The YBike is essentially a plastic bike with a large back wheel. Actually, it has two back wheels that are fused together into one. What I liked about it, is that it was very stable. The big plastic rear wheels made balancing very easy. A plastic bike might not sound very comfortable, but my son loved it and learned to balance on it very fast. I think we could have bought him the bike at 2 years old, but by the time he was four years old it was small for him. The YBike is the light green one on the left in the photo below.
When he turned four years old we bought our son the BMW Kids Bike. The advantage of the BMW Kids Bike is that it is convertible. It starts out as a balance bike, but then the pedals can be mounted and it is converted to a standard pedal bike. He used it without pedals for about 1 month before he asked me to put the pedals on. I struggled a little to put the pedals on, but I sent an email to BMW customer service for help and I got a personal response the next day. That was impressive.
Once the pedals were on the bike, he needed about three 15 minute bike riding sessions in the park before he learned to ride it. The photo above is an action shot of me running beside him as he learned to ride the first time.
Convertible bikes really help teach kids to ride a bike, because they break the learning process into two simple steps that can be learned on the same bike. First, the child learns to balance and second the child learns to pedal.
Now that I have experienced how easy it is to learn to ride a bike by starting with a balance bike before switching to a pedal bike, I can not imagine why anyone would use training wheels. If you know of any reason to use training wheels, please educate me.
How did you learn to ride a bicycle?