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Thursday, June 14, 2012

How to Teach your Child to Ride

By Smokey Dymny from the Quadra Bike School

It’s often funny to see how parents repeat the same mistakes when teaching a
child to ride a bike. Here’s what happens: a mom or dad bent far over holding the
saddle of the child’s bike to help them balance while trying to pedal forward.
If the parents give up on this tactic, they then bolt on a set of training wheels and sit back while their little one wobbles left and right between the training wheels and everyone wonders why they can’t find the sweet spot of balance in the

Neither of these techniques works very well, although I think the training wheels
method is the worst of the two.

Look at history and you find the way out of this dilemma.
Before bikes there were swiftwalkers.

Dudes rode on a two-wheeled contraption while their feet ran along the ground.
No one had invented the pedals and chain and freewheel yet.

When the speed got high enough, they lifted their legs a bit and coasted.

Well now these little bikes have made a comeback in a children’s version. Two wheels, a wooden frame and a handlebar.

Here’s the beauty of the swiftwalker: the child learns how to balance and coast
along WITHOUT having to master pedaling at the same time. Trying to pedal
while still not having learned how to balance is a big challenge. As you push
down on each pedal in turn you have to counterbalance slightly to make up for
the downward push first on one side and then the other.

But if we duplicate the swiftwalker and the kid learns the balance first.
Learning to pedal next is much easier.

My problem here is that I see the bicycle industry has responded by making
themselves a niche market for these bikes without pedals. They are made like a
bike in all other respects except there’s no hole down below for the crank. Your
problem as a parent is that as soon as your junior cyclist masters the balancing
act, you get stuck buying a bike with pedals next because the original unit had no
bottom bracket or freewheel you could connect up with a chain.

Solution? Don’t buy one of these bikes without pedals.

Get your child the right size of small bike and remove the cranks and chain at
home, till they get the balancing part figured out. Then reassemble everything
and they’ll have a normal bike for part two of the lessons.


Or you could get them a tricycle and do it more gradually... but maybe not an antique tricycle like the one below.

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Charles Moffat is equal parts bicycle mechanic, cyclist, painter, sculptor, fantasy writer, poet, website designer and pun maker. For more details see



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