Tips on learning to ride
It may seem odd, but we do have clients, young and old turn up to rent a bike who actually can not ride- or not ride very confidently. I have to admit, I enjoy renting over selling because I am all about getting people outside doing cool stuff. So it comes as no surprise to people who know me well that I enjoy spending time with kids and adults alike teaching them some skills to improve their riding experience.
Tip 1. Don't teach kids using trainer wheels. It is often obvious watching how a young person approaches a bike and mounts it with the tell tail signs that they learnt on a bike with trainer wheels. One of the tells is they let the bike go and it drops to the ground, expecting the trainer wheels to support it. Alternatively they instinctively lift both feet while stationary and lose balance. I personally believe trainer wheels slow the child's ability to ride confidently. And the key word there is confidence.
Tip 2. Walk the bike. I often have padawan's walk a bike around, making them walk beside it and do figure 8's. This process helps train the new rider (and particularly those who started on trainer wheels, or who had Mum or Dad running behind holding the seat) where the balance point of the bike is. Kids bikes in particular can be heavy in proportion to a child, relative to an adult with an adults bike (adults being stronger). But this self management helps the rider learn THEY are in control of the bike and not the other way around. Resist the old time habit of holding the bike up, or even holding the back of the seat and supporting the bike for the child. Most kids I have seen (hundreds through the shop) are more than capable of picking a bike up.
Tip 3. Hand brake use. Introduce the use of the hand brake while walking the bike. This will aid the learning that the rider is in control. So often I see riders ride across the lawn only to crash to stop!
Tip 4. Remove the pedals. The rotation motion of Pedalling is similar to what we do while we walk. So remove the pedals so the new rider can sit on the bike and scoot along. This aids stability having feet close to the ground and it won't be long before balance becomes achieved. And as they already know how to use the hand brake they won't be using tree trunks to stop.
Tip 5. Look ahead. We don't walk along looking at our feet, so don't ride looking at the front wheel. Lifting our head and looking forward helps us keep our balance.
Tip 6. Put it all together. Put on the pedals. Have the rider apply the hand brake before mounting the bike. This puts the rider in control and the bike won't be rolling forward while climbing aboard. Apply a bit of pressure on the pedal while holding the brake, then let the brake go! This powers up the bike a bit and assists with the initial forward momentum.
And with a bit of practice we are on our way. And hopefully not bouncing of hedges and using trees to stop. Teach one skill at a time, be patient and have fun!