Peter (left) and Bubba Ludwig are learning to ride bicycles. | Howard A. Ludwig~For Sun-Times Media
Here are steps for teaching someone to ride a bike, according to the League of American Cyclists:
1. With the seat positioned so the student can comfortably sit on the bike with feet flat on the ground, have student sit on the bike and “walk” it. This will help get them comfortable with the bike and introduce them to the bike’s movement.
2. Once they are comfortable with the bike, have them glide. To demonstrate: Sit on the bike, push off, raise feet off of the ground, and glide for a distance. Encourage the student to glide for longer duration. Find a short hill and use gravity to your advantage.
3. Once progress has been made, and you feel it’s safe to go forward (the student can glide comfortably, steer the bike and keep their balance very easily), put one pedal on the bike. The pedal should correspond with the student’s dominant leg. To determine this, have student get off bike, and take one step forward. Whichever leg is moved, put on that pedal.
4. Place the pedal at the 2 o’clock position. The student will push this pedal down and continue to glide.
5. Before placing the foot on the second pedal on the bike, be sure the student is familiar with the brakes and how they work.
6. With the second pedal on the bike, have the student repeat step No. 4, but once the first pedal is pushed down, they will try to find the second pedal with their other foot and continue to pedal.
7. Practice riding and using brakes. Raise the seat to a more appropriate position as the student gains confidence.
Updated: July 10, 2013 6:12AM
My two sons began riding bikes last month. I wondered what took so long.
My oldest son will celebrate his 7th birthday on June 14. I’ve seen kids half Bubba’s age zooming around the park on bicycles. Meanwhile, Bub seemed content to cruise the neighborhood on his Razr scooter.
I theorized that perhaps my timid boy was afraid of falling. And it’s impossible not to fall while learning to ride a bike.
Bubba’s fear was fully realized on his second day of training. I’d grown tired of running alongside my boy while he attempted to balance and pedal his bike. Plus, he was getting better. So I let him go. He reached the corner before attempting his first turn. He promptly fell into a rose bush.
The screams brought neighbors to their front windows and made dogs bark. I ran over and pulled the bike off Bubba. His head, face, arms and legs were scratched and bleeding. I estimate more than 100 tiny thorns were stuck in his skin.
“Why did this happen?” Bubba wailed, cursing the gods of two-wheeled motion.
We headed inside where I placed him in a bath. I was able to brush off most of the thorns. Others pried loose with the help of the handheld shower head. But some left nasty slivers. Out came the tweezers, followed by the tears.
To my surprise, Bubba was back on his bike the next day. He’d learned to fall on soft grass whenever possible. His 5-year-old brother soon followed. Peter’s not quite as skilled on a bike as his older brother, but he’s not far behind.
Still, I wondered why this milestone arrived so late (based on my own amateur evaluation). Turns out, I’m entirely to blame, according to Alissa Simcox, education director for the League of American Bicyclists.
“Often times, parents buy bikes that are too big because the child will one day grow into it. This is never recommended,” Simcox said.
She explained that the key to riding a bike is balance. Thus, she strongly recommends balance bikes — those tiny two-wheelers without pedals. If you don’t have one, a normal bike will do. Just be sure that the seat is down far enough for the rider to comfortably touch the ground with his or her feet.
“Once someone can balance, pedaling will come quickly and easily,” Simcox said.
I .. er, I mean Santa brought Bubba and Peter new bikes for Christmas 2011. I thought these were wonderful gifts. Bubba’s bike has pegs, and a trick steering wheel that spins 360 degrees with dual hand brakes. Peter’s bike is Spider-Man-themed with training wheels.
I would have wanted either of these bikes as a child. Of course both bicycles were too big. And according to the Simcox, training wheels are never recommended, as the devices prevent riders from learning the all-important lesson of balance.
Thus, these bikes hung unused from the ceiling in my garage for two years. Bubba and Peter’s bikes were too big. They knew any fall would be a rose bush-type catastrophe. I’d certainly put that off as long as possible too.
I’ve since lowered the seats and removed the training wheels. My boys are bigger than they were Christmas morning of 2011, too. They can kind of touch the ground with their feet as recommended. And they’re becoming better cyclists each day. They still fall, but I’m not worried.
As painful as it may be, they’ll grow into those bikes eventually.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former business reporter for the SouthtownStar who traded his reporter’s notepad for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org