Training Wheels or No Training Wheels The Great Parent Debate
There are the balance bikes, tricycles, training wheels, trail a bikes and the list keeps going. There are even handles to put on the back of bikes to help the poor parents hurting backs from bending over sometimes hours at a time! I know there are so many different ways to teach riding a bike but I personally am not sure what is the easiest.
When our first son was born I would day dream of the time that I would be able to go on bike rides with him. I still am looking forward to when we can head over to Reimers Ranch together after school and get in some miles.
I had heard about balance bikes and that they were super popular in Europe and had been for quite sometime. There were even companies out there teaching little kids to ride. Very adorable. When my son was about 15 months old one of our Outpost Wilderness Adventures campers and their mom gave our child a balance bike. It was a blue strider and he was so proud. That gift made the decision for us and we decided not to use training wheels. While 15 months was a little too young around 18 months he started playing more with it more. By about 2.5 years old he would ride that little bike with its purple hippo bell (Thanks Dale) all over the place.
When he was 3 years old we were living that summer in Woodland Park, CO. He was able to ride a few miles and we would go to Starbucks and have hot chocolate together on those chilly nights. He was independent and got a great work out riding on that bike. Plus the idea of hot chocolate was a huge motivator for this kid! He even enjoyed some very easy mountain bike trails. Youtube has some amazing videos of little kids on these bikes.
When he was 4 I thought maybe it was time to try the bike with pedals. I made the mistake of having too small of a bike for him. It did not work and he was not interested. He loved his strider and did not want to add the pedals. So a few months later I found an orange bike for sale. He LOVES the color orange. It was at a thrift store and I figured was worth a few dollars just to see if it would be the right motivation. He jumped on and was pedaling on his own literally within about 5 minutes. We did have to work a lot on the stopping and starting. He was nervous but kept trying. He often still wanted to go back to the balance bike. But I think he enjoys plowing down huge hills and being close to the ground. The crashes don’t hurt so much when your that close to the ground!
I firmly believe what allowed him to transition easily was taking the Strider down hills. He gained speed confidence but most importabtly learned how to balance. He liked to ride in the grass at first which also helped his confidence.
The other day we had not gotten his bike out in a few months. I was worried that he would not be able to ride well and we would be back to step one but I guess the saying is true “it’s like learning to ride a bike” Once you learn you don’t forget! I’m super happy with the balance bike and think that by not using the training wheels he was able to quickly make the transition to the pedal bike. I have not tried using training wheels with kids but we have two more boys to teach and will be using the balance bikes as well!