Brooklynn has been riding her bike for the past two years with training wheels. She’s comfortable with them on and rides pretty quickly, but the entire time, she’s been aware that the training wheels are something big kids don’t have. She also hasn’t learned to lean into turns and when she pedals hard up hills, she sometimes lifts the back wheel off the ground leaning entirely onto the small training wheel.
Last month, we told her that maybe this summer would be the year she learned to ride a bike without them. And she immediately demanded that we take the training wheels off. She was FIVE! No balance aides required. Because she’s five. Of course a birthday automatically imparts the ability to balance on two wheels.
I took them off, and since her bike seat was set too high for her to reach the ground, I held on while she climbed up. The first trip to the corner and back I held on tight and kept her upright. I imagine it felt to her much like having the training wheels on. The bike stayed stable and vertical regardless of her body position. The next trip, she informed me that I didn’t have to hold on so much. So I didn’t.
Two seconds later, she was yelling at me because I almost let her fall and how could I do that!? She’s just a little kid.
The training wheels went back on.
We’ve been looking at the strider bikes for Maddi, the kind where there aren’t any pedals and kids learn to balance by walking with their feet and gliding. Brooklynn wanted nothing to do with it, because that was for little kids. She has a pedal bike, don’t you know. But after visiting a store with them and letting the girls ride around the small strider bikes, Brooklynn admitted that maybe it would be ok to try it.
I lowered her bike seat all the way and took off the pedals. She could just reach the ground enough to push along and she started by basically walking. Our bike and walk outings went from a few miles around the hills of the neighborhood to around the block and back home. And little by little, we started to see improvements. She would glide the last 10 feet down the driveway. She would almost come to a complete stop before she put her foot down to catch herself.
Last night, we watched her glide down a slight hill on the sidewalk for almost 100 feet without touching her feet. Her balance wasn’t perfect, and it really looked like she could use someplace to put her feet. Maybe it was time.
I put the pedals back on, and she was immediately more concerned with pedaling and braking than balancing. I helped her by holding on, but it did not go well. She put her bike away, told me I didn’t do a good job for her, and went inside.
Brooklynn will quit on things if she doesn’t immediately succeed. It’s one of the things we are a little worried about her with as she starts school this fall. Rhiannon told her to try one more time. To just push along like she knows how, and if she felt good about it, maybe put her feet on the pedals. And if she still felt good, maybe pedal once around.
She got back on the bike. One more time, she told us. But that was it. And then…
I had to kick her off the bike to get ready for bed. She told me that she’s going to ride all afternoon today.
I’ve never been so proud.