1. Skip the training wheels
|Like-a-bike "mountain" bike. Courtesy: LIKE-a-BIKE USA.|
Here's the problem: A child who learns to ride with training wheels does not learn the most fundamental of bicycle fundamentals: How to balance.
That's why I like Like-A-Bike. Kids learn how to balance first; then they're ready for pedals. Like-A-Bikes are well-crafted and safe. They are, however, a bit pricey.
There is an inexpensive alternative. You know that Toys R Us bike you bought? Take off the training wheels and the crankarms/pedals. Let her scoot around on that for awhile, and soon she will have mastered balance and will be ready for you to put her cranks and pedals back on.
2. Introduce new concepts gradually
As discussed above, start with balance. Then braking. Then turns. But don't expect your 4- or 5-year-old to know how to shift. Once the basics have been mastered, the next bike can have more bells and whistles.
|My 8-year-old's six speed. With bell.|
3. Buy used
I'm not big on spending money in the first place, but why would I want to spend it on something that will be mistreated and quickly outgrown?
|My 11-year-old's bike. It has a kickstand, yet he's let it drop to the ground on the drivetrain side.|
There are many used kids' bikes for sale that have hardly been ridden. I've had great luck finding cheap, tough, functional kids' bikes at the local co-ops. When your child has outgrown her bike, donate it back to the co-op.
4. Spend lots of time teaching
This is a big deal. I'm not just talking about teaching your child how to ride a bike. I'm talking about bike safety issues like seeing the whole road, being visible, and being consistent.
I often see kids riding on the left side of the road, riding in the center of the road, or riding back and forth between the sidewalk and the road. These are future car drivers. Take this opportunity to teach them the rules of the road.
There are lots of bike rodeos and other kids' safety programs - enroll your kids. They'll have fun, learn stuff, and maybe get a free helmet or some stickers for their bike.
These are the four suggestions I share most often with other parents. As always, feel free to disagree with me or add your own thoughts in the comments.