Help me teach 8 yr old to ride a bike (poor balance skills)

(18 Posts)
hillyhilly Tue 05-Feb-13 13:31:55

My dd is 8, she has poor balance (I have wondered about dyspraxia) and is extremely cautious.
I would really like to get her riding a bike before we go away with friends in May as all the other kids will be on bikes.
We took her out on her old bike with stabilisers at the weekend but it is so small that her knees were bumping the handlebars so we went to Decathlon and bought a 24" bike for her.
She's not been out on it yet but it is v heavy (13kg) and a friend has just advised buying an Isla (8.8kg).
Many people have advised putting her on an incline and freewheeling but this would not work as she would just grip the brakes.
To be frank, I'm dreading trying to teach her as neither of us have much patience!!
So is it worth returning the heavy decathlon bike and waiting for an isla n eBay, and are there any other tips for poorly balanced kids please?

Wallace Tue 05-Feb-13 13:36:29

Take the stabilisers and the pedals off the small bike. Have the saddle where she can easily have both feet flat on the ground.

Then just let her scoot around for days/weeks/months until she feels confident.

I must say that the only thing that has worked with our 6 yr old is putting her on a slight incline and letting go. We have been trying for over a year with us pushing etc, but as soon as we let go she fell straightaway. She did it at the weekend. I told her that she would fall off, that everyone falls off and that if she learns now or in ten years she will still fall off at first, but once she can do it she'll never forget. The first time she went about 5m then fell off, but was so pleased. I still have to start her off, but she was able to cycle on the flat too.

The other thing to consider is can she scoot? Could you take her scooter instead? If she can't scoot maybe focus on that first, I found two wheeled scooting helped with learning to balance, etc. Hope it's not too painful, arnica at the ready!

JiltedJohnsJulie Tue 05-Feb-13 17:03:31

Our dd (5) went on a bike course recently with the local council. The first thing they did was to take off the stabilisers and then show them how to get on the bikes properly.

They then got them to practice scooting. This involved leaning the bike slightly and putting one foot one the floor (the bike leaned towards this foot) and the other foot on the pedal.

They then scooted up and down for half an hour. Once they'd got the hang of that they put both feet on the pedals and cycled with us gently adjusting the balance by holding onto one end of the handlebars. The course was free and she was riding within an hour. Won't say it was painless though as she counted 9 bruises that night in the bath. It might be worth seeing if your council does something similar.

As for the Isla bike, the only people I know who have bought them for heir DC are serious cyclists themselves and the children cycle everywhere. I wouldn't bother with one unless you are all going to be doing a lot of cycling.

If you can't find a local course, we took DS to a very flat, very empty and very long beach and he learnt very quickly once he realised that falling onto the sand didnt actually hurt that much smile

lljkk Tue 05-Feb-13 17:09:06

Put her back on the old bike, raise the seat a bit maybe, and get her to scoot around on it with both feet up. When she can manage that confidently see if she can pedal. Knees up around her elbows is perfect size for learning. She has to know she can get her feet to ground in time before she'll be confident at pedalling.

You could phase thru sizes, borrow a 20" size bike for her to try before tackling the 24" bike again, too. Can she easily reach the brakes on the 24" wheel bike?

No one ever explains what they do about the cranks when the remove pedals advice is given. Unless it's a welded crank to pedal thing, maybe?

PeanutButterOnly Tue 05-Feb-13 22:20:45

DS8 only learnt to ride his bike last year. He is naturally very cautious and reluctant and finds coordination tricky. After various attempts with him over a couple of years which often ended up in him storming off we got him a teacher and she taught him for us! She took him out for an hour on two subsequent weekends and after that we were able to carry out practicing with him and now he can ride! I would recommend this approach as she just knew what to do! www.ctc-maps.org.uk/training/ for a list of teachers by area.

Her approach was to break it down into small steps. She started him on a bike that he was nearly too small for, took the peddles off and lowered the seat till his feet were flat on the floor. They went off together and practiced various things like gliding on a slight incline and she had some cones he had to scoot around. Then towards the end of the 2nd hour the pedals went back on (once he'd mastered balance). Then she practiced things like starting off (quite tricky to master) telling him exactly how to do it, what to do with his feet etc. Sounds obvious but it's not for someone like DS! She also taught him things like which side to mount the bike. Again it sounds obvious now....

I think this approach really worked for DS just because of his temperament and natural problems with coordination and confidence. With DD(6) it was completely different and much more straightforward for us to teach her just before her 6th birthday. She was more confident and prepared to give it a go without getting stressed. She'd also already mastered riding on a 2-wheeled scooter which definitely helped!

Good luck! Your DD will get it and with any of these things it doesn't matter in the end what age they were when they did it (I wouldn't have believed this a year ago).

I would say that the other thing which really helped ours, with learning to ride, and also with learning to read and to swim was repeatedly telling them that they only have to learn how to do it once, as once they have learnt it they won't forget it. I think they feel empowered by that knowledge. I can now point out to them that there was a time when they didn't know how to read, now they don't know how not to read, and I point out a sign to them and ask them not to read it. I tell them that learning to ride a bike is the same, once they can do it they will never have to learn again.

Wallace Wed 06-Feb-13 15:39:25

I've only done the removing pedals thing once (for ds1) and we just left the crank arms on. They didn't really get in the way as you make sure the bike is low enough for them to reach the ground without their ankles getting bashed smile

hillyhilly Wed 06-Feb-13 19:09:43

Thanks peanut butter, I have found someone today I think who will give a small lesson to my dd and two of her friends in the same boat.

teachpeach Wed 06-Feb-13 19:19:41

I had been trying for months with DS1 - he became scared of his bike like Calvin from the cartoon! A friend gave us some advice - no stabilisers, let them sit on the bike and loop a scarf or towel around their torso - the free ends behind them. You hold the scarf and let them cycle. - it means they can balance themselves, but if they start wobbling, you can 'hold' them up. It literally took 20 minutes for him to master balancing! Then he went off, I let go of the scarf and he cycled away! Tried it with DS2 - success in one day !

JiltedJohnsJulie Wed 06-Feb-13 19:21:57

Think that sounds like the right way to go. Spending money sounds a much better idea than getting another bike and hoping for the best. Hope it all goes well smile

CarlingBlackMabel Wed 06-Feb-13 19:27:30

I fully endorse the 'remove the stabilisers and remove the pedals' approach.

We just unscrewed the pedals and left the crank arm. It was fine.

Then they can scoot along with both feet (they need to be able to put feet down) and they learn gradually how to use their weight to balance as they are freewheeling. Let her go down v gentle slopes once she is v experienced on the flat, and when she is happy scooting long distances without putting her feet down and looks relaxed and happy, can maybe use her body weight to steer (don't tell her to do that, she will learn natually), then you can put the pedals back on and introduce pedalling.

DoItToJulia Wed 06-Feb-13 19:40:59

Marking my place as my soon to be 8 year old just can't ride a bike.

pinksomething Wed 06-Feb-13 20:23:46

I did the scarf thing too. It's much better than trying to hold the seat or handlebars once he stabilisers are off - you don't get in their way and only take the weight when they wobble!

JiltedJohnsJulie Wed 06-Feb-13 20:27:50

Mentioned the bike courses earlier, our local council have just announced free bike courses for the Fed half term so it might be worth checking with your council too smile

Wallace Wed 06-Feb-13 20:30:13

I used a little life backpack when ds3 was learning which I guess is similar to the scarf - still use it as it is easy to grab!

blueberryupsidedown Thu 07-Feb-13 19:15:05

yes yes take off the pedals, and they learn to alternate feet, pushing themselves forward, and slowly 'glide' between the pushes and feel how to balance. It's safe as well, they can stop quickly. When the 'gliding' is controlled put the pedals back on.

Wallace Thu 07-Feb-13 20:31:22

I didn't answer the other part of your question. I would keep the Decathlon bike for when she can confidently ride the smaller bike. 13kg is not much heavier than other good bikes of that size.

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