Wednesday, June 29, 2011


So, guess how many days it takes to learn to ride a big kid bike?  Well, if you've first gotten really good on your pedal-less bike, it's 4 days!  I am insanely proud of Elizabeth, and well, inordinately pleased with myself. 

What's a pedaless bike, you ask?  Exactly as it sounds, it's a small two wheeled bicycle that doesn't have pedals (and often the steering is a little restricted so it doesn't go all over the place).  The child pedals, Flintstone style, with its feet and learns the key to bicycling: balance on wheels.  I learned about these bikes in 2007, and did a ton of research.  They gained popularity in Europe (in countries with high bicycling rates) and proponents claimed they gave kids a fast track on learning to ride a bicycle - after learning balance, the child can graduate to a two wheeled bike without having any training wheels.  The thing is, since they were fairly new to the US, and came from European countries, they were also incredibly expensive.  I was intrigued, but not going to pay $400 for something that may be a little gimmicky.  But I kept looking, and amazingly Target came out with a pedaless wooden bike for $50, which I picked up at the end of summer for $40!  We gave it to Elizabeth for her second birthday.

But, she was far too small for it, so it didn't really see any action for actually a couple of  years.  I've been going through photos and only found a few from April 2009.

It's too bad we don't have more photos or videos, because she was a whiz on that bike, though it did tend to wear out the toes of her shoes as you have to drag your feet to slow down.  And of the 30+ kids roughly her age who live on our block, 4 more pedaless bikes showed up, though we still got a few funny looks every once in a while.  (and, I have to admit, last year I had to have both tires replaced on the bike, and instead of getting an estimate, I just had them do it - to the tune of $40/tire!  So the bike has not quite been the absolute bargain, but still a pretty good bargain).

Anyway, at the end of last year we realized she'd need a new bike this year, but we've been dragging our feet, unsure what to get, and not wanting to spend much money.  Elizabeth's school had a graduation/promotion for her class (another post to come!), and when my parents were here they suggested we hit the thrift store, so at the very last minute, three days before the end of school, it occurred to me that I should see if I could snag a bike for a present.  And sure enough, there were two possibilities which I debated, but ended up going with the more solid, heavy choice - mostly because I noticed it had a sticker from the high end bike shop in town.  And when I got home, a google search showed me I had paid $20 for a $180-when-new bike.  Yes!

Anyway, the night before the end of school, Rich suddenly said, oh shoot, I didn't go out and get training wheels.  I looked at him and said no training wheels!  We did the pedaless bike!  We're not going to training wheels.  He was skeptical, but since we didn't have any other option decided to see what happened.

The gift was a big success!  

My blog posts are too long.  I got caught up in looking for old pics of the trusty pedaless bike.  But anyway, here's the progression:

Day 1:  bike riding with adult running along behind holding bike upright.  Exhausting for adult.  Rich was impressed with her tenacity, and after a few passes I said, heck, 15 minutes and she'll be done. Rich was skeptical, thought it would be several more hours.  Fell once.  Practice time:  <30 minutes
Day 2:  100% confidence in stopping on her own.  Needed help starting, but able to pedal down sidewalk with no support once underway.  Beginning frustration that help was needed to start.  Practice time:  again ~30 minutes  Mommy:  patting myself on the back and acting extremely smug. 

 Day 3:  Insistent on learning how to start all by herself.  Managed 2 out of about 8 tries.  Totally frustrated to the point of tears, though really excited at the riding part.  Mommy: big mistake in saying, listen, maybe you need a break, it's ok if you don't learn to do this today.  Elizabeth: Insistence on perseverance, until it was nearly dark outside.  Practice time: about 30-45 minutes
Day 4:  Success within 5 minutes.  Grasped concept of using knee to push pedal to correct position, push with one foot and hop with other until underway.  Mommy: insufferable with smugness over ease in which she learned to ride, thanks to pedaless bike. 

Then we went camping for two days and didn't bring the bike out.  But we did at the next campground, where the road by the camping spots was paved in a loop.  I first told her she had to ride back and forth within sight, but after watching her twice, I said heck, go for the loop.  And so on Day 5 of learning, she learned how to ride while standing up on the pedals!

But besides the absolute pride I feel for how she persevered and insisted on pushing herself to learn a physical task, know what the second best part was?  When my mom admitted she thought the pedaless bike had been a bit silly but she was wrong!  Yes.  Now that's satisfaction. 

Last weekend our street had a block party which included a parade, and our little bike rider had a great time. 

And the pedaless bike has passed to Andrew, who is completely and utterly excited.  And one inch too short!  Let's hope for a little bit of growth this summer so he can ride along, too.

I was 6 or maybe even 7 before I learned to ride, of course older than I should have been, but too timid and uncoordinated to learn earlier.  I over relied on my training wheels, but once I learned I've loved bike riding - there's something very free about it.  How old were you?  How did you learn?  Seen any pedaless bikes around, or are they a big city fad?  


Laurie said...

That is AWESOME! Especially challenging on the bumpy sidewalks. Way to go Elizabeth.

We got the same balance bike from Target a few years ago, and my kids never got in to it. I still try to engage them with it, and they just aren't interested. I need you to come entice them. Zoe does want her training wheels off now and we've raised them off the ground considerably, so we may be close...

Congratulations to all of you.

Marya said...

What an amazing accomplishment. So happy for both of you! I must have not been paying attention when the group talked about the pedaless bike. I am going to get one for Ari.

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