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Teaching her to ride a bike is driving me crazy


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My daughter's godmother offered to get her a bike for her 5th birthday. I told her my daughter probably needed an 18 inch bike but she just gave us her niece's old 20 inch bike. I figured with training wheels, it would be fine. But it turns out my daughter, who is as tall as a 7yo, is too heavy for training wheels so they keep bending and she just rides tilted to one side. I tried taking them off but she can't reach the ground beyond her tiptoes and I can't run with the bike holding her up because I have bad knees and she just puts all her weight on me. We both ended up losing our tempers. 

We spent the full birthday budget on other stuff because we thought the bike would be fine and there are no used bikes available within reasonable driving distance. At target, the 18 inch bikes are $90+.  I know the right answer is to buy a smaller bike but I've been trying so hard to be frugal. 😭

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We haven't taught any of our kids to ride a bike.  I was kind of sad that I never was the parent running after holding onto the seat.  Lots of people have luck with the balance bikes.  We always had them get good on it on a small bike on their own.   Maybe look on CL, Facebook Market place, or garage sales.  We just give away our old bikes and they always go fast.  

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Take off the pedals and use it as a balance bike. There is ZERO need to use training wheels because the whole point is the gain balance. Not learn to pedal.   My last two have completely taught themselves after using an actual balance bike from 2-4 or so.  My youngest picked up her cousins bike and took off down the street.  

 

My neighbor, after seeing my success, took off the pedals of an older (8 years old?) Girl whom she was helping.  She rode it around a few times balance bike style and that was the end.  

 

Of all the things I wish I have known about with my older ones this is it.  We taught 7 kids the traditional way and it was SO much harder than the balance bike way.  

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Can you lower the seat so she can reach the ground more easily?  

Once the bike is sized correctly, it really helped my daughter when we found a gentle hill she could glide down.  That way she didn't have to focus on both learning to pedal and learning to steer and balance.  Once she was comfortable gliding down the hill, we added in the pedaling. 

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you can take off the pedals and try as a balance bike?

Don’t hold onto the seat, hold onto the child.  They go slightly slower and also learn to keep the bike below them.

when in doubt, hit a goodwill!

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Yep.  Balance bike.  It should be low enough for her feet to touch the ground with the pedals off.  Or find a used balance bike.  They are really fun, so she will enjoy it while learning.

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6 minutes ago, busymama7 said:

Take off the pedals and use it as a balance bike. There is ZERO need to use training wheels because the whole point is the gain balance. Not learn to pedal.   My last two have completely taught themselves after using an actual balance bike from 2-4 or so.  My youngest picked up her cousins bike and took off down the street.  

 

My neighbor, after seeing my success, took off the pedals of an older (8 years old?) Girl whom she was helping.  She rode it around a few times balance bike style and that was the end.  

 

Of all the things I wish I have known about with my older ones this is it.  We taught 7 kids the traditional way and it was SO much harder than the balance bike way.  

She's too short to do that with this bike so we'd need to spend money on a smaller one. It's why I tried to emphasize to her Godmother that it needed to not be too big.

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5 minutes ago, Kebo said:

Can you lower the seat so she can reach the ground more easily?  

Once the bike is sized correctly, it really helped my daughter when we found a gentle hill she could glide down.  That way she didn't have to focus on both learning to pedal and learning to steer and balance.  Once she was comfortable gliding down the hill, we added in the pedaling. 

Even with it all the way down, she can barely reach.

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17 minutes ago, mommyoffive said:

We haven't taught any of our kids to ride a bike.  I was kind of sad that I never was the parent running after holding onto the seat.  Lots of people have luck with the balance bikes.  We always had them get good on it on a small bike on their own.   Maybe look on CL, Facebook Market place, or garage sales.  We just give away our old bikes and they always go fast.  

Yeah, I should have done a balance bike but by the time we thought she was old enough to handle the hills around here, she was too tall for all but the really expensive bigger balance bikes so we decided to wait and just get her a bike when she turned 5.

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I think you need a new bike for her.  Learning is hard enough without the extra anxiety about not feeling safe.  You might find someone willing to loan you one for a short time (or even give you one) if you ask around or post on local groups.  

Edited by Kebo
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Can you get someone else to teach her?

When I was 4yo, I was taught by the neighborhood kids.  😛

If she is as big as a 7yo, the 20" bike really should be an appropriate size.  It's OK if only her toes touch the ground.  Better actually.

It's harder to learn on a bike that is too small vs. a little big.

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So, if you have a gentle slope of grass, you can try just letting her learn balance riding down it. No help except to hold her on the bike at the top. When she feels herself falling, she catches herself with a foot on that side (the bike has to fall quite a ways) or she falls/lands on the grass. Then she gets up and tries again.

Eventually, she gets the balance thing. Or, you put away the bike for a season and try again when she is taller. Or you try one of these other options.

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2 minutes ago, Kebo said:

I think you need a new bike for her.  Learning is hard enough without the extra anxiety about not feeling safe.  You might find someone willing to loan you one for a short time (or even give you one) if you ask around or post on local groups.  

That's another idea - I have a friend whose neighborhood has a little bike that they hand off from kid to kid as each child gets ready to learn to ride.  If you know someone who is keeping a training wheel bike to eventually use on a younger kid in the family, they might lend it to you temporarily.

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17 minutes ago, Kebo said:

I think you need a new bike for her.  Learning is hard enough without the extra anxiety about not feeling safe.  You might find someone willing to loan you one for a short time (or even give you one) if you ask around or post on local groups.  

I found a cheaper one on walmart so we're going to try that.

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14 minutes ago, RootAnn said:

So, if you have a gentle slope of grass, you can try just letting her learn balance riding down it. No help except to hold her on the bike at the top. When she feels herself falling, she catches herself with a foot on that side (the bike has to fall quite a ways) or she falls/lands on the grass. Then she gets up and tries again.

Eventually, she gets the balance thing. Or, you put away the bike for a season and try again when she is taller. Or you try one of these other options.

We're in the city and all the fields are completely flat, unfortunately! We've been going up and down the driveway for the public pool that's a few blocks away. We found a cheaper 18" bike at Walmart so we're going to give that a try.

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34 minutes ago, busymama7 said:

Take off the pedals and use it as a balance bike. There is ZERO need to use training wheels because the whole point is the gain balance. Not learn to pedal.   My last two have completely taught themselves after using an actual balance bike from 2-4 or so.  My youngest picked up her cousins bike and took off down the street.  

 

My neighbor, after seeing my success, took off the pedals of an older (8 years old?) Girl whom she was helping.  She rode it around a few times balance bike style and that was the end.  

 

Of all the things I wish I have known about with my older ones this is it.  We taught 7 kids the traditional way and it was SO much harder than the balance bike way.  

I think this is a great plan, but I don't think you can do the balance bike thing with a bike where the kid can't reach the ground from the seat.

I'd keep looking for a smaller bike, and in the meantime think about a 2 wheel scooter which is a great way to teach balance.   My older kid never used a balance bike, but spent a ton of time on a scooter, he also picked up the bike and rode it the first time I took the training wheels off.  

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1 hour ago, MoyaPechal said:

My daughter's godmother offered to get her a bike for her 5th birthday. I told her my daughter probably needed an 18 inch bike but she just gave us her niece's old 20 inch bike. I figured with training wheels, it would be fine. But it turns out my daughter, who is as tall as a 7yo, is too heavy for training wheels so they keep bending and she just rides tilted to one side. I tried taking them off but she can't reach the ground beyond her tiptoes and I can't run with the bike holding her up because I have bad knees and she just puts all her weight on me. We both ended up losing our tempers. 

We spent the full birthday budget on other stuff because we thought the bike would be fine and there are no used bikes available within reasonable driving distance. At target, the 18 inch bikes are $90+.  I know the right answer is to buy a smaller bike but I've been trying so hard to be frugal. 😭

I don't understand this statement.  When I was learning to ride the training wheels were never both touching the ground at the same time.  They were positioned so that only one training wheel touched.  The goal was to balance the bike perfectly so that zero training wheels touched.

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1 hour ago, Junie said:

I don't understand this statement.  When I was learning to ride the training wheels were never both touching the ground at the same time.  They were positioned so that only one training wheel touched.  The goal was to balance the bike perfectly so that zero training wheels touched.

This the training wheels should be slightly high. When you don't hear them anymore they can ride

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Another idea to consider

My DS started with a two wheeled scooter. Once he was really good at balancing and traveling on the scooter, the transition to a bike took about a week.

Edited by City Mouse
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A lot of children don’t learn till age 7 and there should be training wheels strong enough that a typical 7 yo or even older would not bend them.

The way we have used them, they are set at first to be slightly higher than ground so that when needed the bike does incline.   We have used them moving them progressively higher until not needed.  
 

it is often easier to balance with some speed than when going super slow so Training wheels can help allow more speed (and easier to balance) than a parent holding on. 

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I don't teach our kids to ride bikes. One, I have no interest in doing the holding on to the kid thing. Two, it would hurt my back, which has enough issues of its own.  DH has spent a handful of time helping the oldest three (think 5 or 10 minutes here or there). We provide them bikes...they learn how to ride when they want to. 

We now have a balance bike for kid #4, purchased for a steal at Goodwill (marked $5, was 50% off). He can ride that until he desires a "real" bike. If you really don't want to spend money, just tell your kid that. "Wow...this is a great bike for you to grow into. You are going to have so much fun teaching yourself to ride." And then I'd hand over the bike and let the kid work on it them-self.

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My daughter was also tall for her age and didn't learn to ride until summer after 3rd grade -- she used training wheels that whole time.  It sounds more to me like you have a bad set of training wheels than you need a new bike (and you should be able to buy training wheels that will work for her for much less than buying a new bike).

FWIW, we tried balance bike, taking off the pedals, holding on, slight hill etc.  with no success for 2 summers -- then the 3rd summer she just took off riding the first try (after winter off the bike). 

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14 minutes ago, LaughingCat said:

My daughter was also tall for her age and didn't learn to ride until summer after 3rd grade -- she used training wheels that whole time.  It sounds more to me like you have a bad set of training wheels than you need a new bike (and you should be able to buy training wheels that will work for her for much less than buying a new bike).

FWIW, we tried balance bike, taking off the pedals, holding on, slight hill etc.  with no success for 2 summers -- then the 3rd summer she just took off riding the first try (after winter off the bike). 


They already got a smaller bike, but to me too it sounds like a bad set of training wheels.  
 

Tbh, I as an adult tested my son’s training wheel bike to make sure they were solid and they could hold my adult weight without bending. 

 

It also sounds like maybe training wheels mounted too high so that incline angle is too great. We started out with just a tiny incline to where training wheels would touch ground— when that stage was mastered , they were raised a bit . 

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I tried to teach my daughter by running after her bike on our lovely paved bike paths.  She didn't care for my methods.  Dh taught her in about an hour by taking her to a (gentle) grassy hill and letting her go down that a few times.  It's really not fair.

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We only taught one to ride a bike. The rest just learned or watched their siblings. It is way easier to learn on a balance bike but if you just take the pedals off, don't forget to add a handbrake. We found an old junker that was unusable (can't remember why) and added brakes after we discovered the bike DS was pushing around (since pedals were rusted tight and immovable) had that issue and therefore had no brakes. He was stopping by pointing it up hill. 

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