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Help - DS with mental block over bike-riding, how can I help him?

(13 Posts)
fluffyanimal Mon 17-Oct-11 15:31:54

Sorry this is very long and seems trivial but I'm concerned DS will lose out on a useful skill. DS1 is 5 (6 in March). For his 4th birthday we bought him his first bike with stabilizers. He was quite keen at the time, wanted reflectors and bottle holder fitted like Daddy's bike, etc. Later that year my mum got a second hand bike to keep at her place, and again, he was always very keen, asking for it whenever we went to stay with her.

Over the last winter, obviously due to bad weather, it didn't get used. Then this spring and summer, we seem to have fallen into the habit of not getting him out on his bike, so he hasn't used it so much. The few times we have been out he has struggled to stay balanced. We have had to fit the stabilizers so that they are not completely level with the back wheel, but very slightly higher, as the pavement to the park is very uneven and in several places he could get beached. We soon realized that he was leaning so as to have the bike always resting on the stabilizers, and consequently he wasn't balancing properly and gradually started to fall off.

DH reckons the solution to this problem is for him to learn to ride without the stabilizers. Now unfortunately, my DH, who is in all other respects wonderful grin can be a bit of an idiot in that he can get impatient and critical if the children aren't doing something that seems obvious and easy to him. So on one occasion he was a bit hard on DS about how he was riding, and I think this has put him off.

Now DS has nearly outgrown this bike and still cannot ride it very well with the stabilizers, let alone try without them. I tried to persuade him to ride it to the park this weekend. He took some persuading, saying he was frightened of falling off into the road and getting run over. He got very anxious as he got on, so we compromised by my saying we would walk the bike to the park and then he could ride it there in the football/basketball court where it was very flat and level, and completely safe. When we got there, the court was free and I tried to get him in, but he saw some friends and went off to do the monkey bars. Then some older boys went in the court with a football and that was our chance gone.

I'm worried that DS will miss out on things with his friends if he doesn't get over this anxiety. Lots of his school friends are now riding bigger bikes without stabilizers. I know it's not a competition but I don't want him getting teased for still having a 'baby' bike, or being left out if his friends want to play on their bikes. And I'd love us to be able to have family bike rides when DS2 is old enough. But I don't feel inclined to buy him a bigger bike until I know it will get ridden, so in a way the window of opportunity for learning is getting smaller, especially as we head into winter again and might not get the weather. BTW he enjoys lots of other physical activities - swimming, kicking a football around, climbing trees, bat and ball games etc. By way of comparison, he had a similar block around swimming lessons - was adamant he didn't want them, but since he wasn't really learning or progressing despite our best efforts whenever we took him swimming, I signed him up for lessons anyway, and of course he loves them and it has done him no end of good, both in confidence and technique.

Any ideas please?

GrimmaTheNome Mon 17-Oct-11 15:41:10

Have another go at riding on the basketball court - DD mainly learned on the tennis courts in our park, nice and flat with lines to practice with.

You may want to try taking off the stabilizers and the pedals and letting him ride it as a 'balance bike' for a while. My DD learned before balance bikes became popular so I didn't think to take the pedals off but did get her to essentially use it that way before trying to pedal. Apart from on the tennis court she would just freewheel down the drive, practising braking at the end (quite important!)

Alternatively - if you can ride on the courts, can you get those stabilisers readjusted so he gets out of his leaning habit? just have them a little up so its possible to get them off the ground if you're correctly balanced but not really leaning far.

I think he's quite wise not to want to ride to the park at this stage, tell him that's sensible!

fluffyanimal Mon 17-Oct-11 15:47:32

Thanks Grimma, I'd like to persevere on the courts. Hope weekends stay dry! Balance bike technique is interesting!

scrappydappydoo Mon 17-Oct-11 15:55:46

Fluffy - you could be talking about my dd - also 6 in March. She's almost there but when I'm running behind her holding her seat I'm just about to let go to see if she can go alone and bam she sticks the brakes on (I continue going forward though hmm) claiming that its too fast and scary... I'm losing the will to live - we can't get stabilisers to fit her bike properly though so its without or nothing..

fluffyanimal Mon 17-Oct-11 16:11:32

Scrappy - glad to know I'm not alone! If I could only get DS to that stage, I'd be pleased. it's the fact he's so unwilling to try that gets me down.

PandaG Mon 17-Oct-11 16:15:47

do you live anywhere near the coast? I learnt ot ride a bike on very slightly damp sand. You sunk in a little so it gave the bike a bit of stability, wide open space so you can go in a straight line and not worry about turning, and if you fall off quite a soft landing.

BleachedWhale Mon 17-Oct-11 16:18:22

Ditch the stabilisers,and take the pedals off. Then let him enjoy 'scooting' about as if it was a balance bike. You may have to lower the seat a little. Find places for him to scoot down gentle slopes. Make a little course or track and time him as if in a race - have fun. Once he is freewheeling well and using his weight to help steer, and confident, put the pedals back on, and away he will go!

Stabilisers encourage them to do exactly the wrong thing with their weight, apparantly. And 'np pedals' is very re-assuring because they can just put their feet down whenever they like.

fluffyanimal Mon 17-Oct-11 16:21:12

Panda, no - nowhere near coast, but I remember learning to ride my own bike in a field, so would happily encourage him to ride on the grass at the park.
Bleached - another vote for the balance bike, thanks!

Beamur Mon 17-Oct-11 16:21:52

I would suggest using a scooter for a bit too - just as much fun, can join in with his friends and much easier to master. Once he is more confident and has better balance skills he might find cycling more appealing. Pushing it will probably just make him hate it!

PrettyCandles Mon 17-Oct-11 16:25:20

Does he have a scooter? We found that the dc struggled without stabilisers until they had mastered freewheeling on a two-wheeled scooter, after which the penny dropped.

Other things that helped were taking the pedals off (you can do this on any size of bike) and loosening the brakes.

We loosened the front brake almost completely, so that it had virtually no effect, and weakened the rear brake. This was so that if the child braked in a a panic they would not jerk to a sudden stop, just slow down gently. It was safe to mess with the brakes because this was only ever in safe places for learning to ride without stabilisers. Once they had got the hang of it and were cycling freely, we tightened the brakes properly.

Both dc were 6-7 when they learned to ride without stabilisers.

fluffyanimal Mon 17-Oct-11 16:28:01

Beamur and PrettyCandles - he has shown interest in having a scooter, but I have been reluctant in case it means he doesn't use the bike at all. But will give it some thought (generally skint so trying to avoid buying more things to solve the problem!)

Beamur Mon 17-Oct-11 16:31:34

My DD is only 4 but was really hopeless with a balance bike and not much better with a bike with stabilisers, she is scared and reluctant, but is perfectly happy to pootle about on a scooter. I think it must feel less risky.
Have you got some friends with similar age kids who could let you try out on their scooters first before you shell out, just in case he doesn't take to that either.

ASuitableGirl Mon 17-Oct-11 16:35:04

DD was 6 recently and has very recently learned how to ride a bike. She had been trying on and off for what felt like years and I was wondering if she would ever be able to manage (not helped by DS reminding us all how he could do it at 4.5).

I think that in her case visiting a friend who hadn't been able to ride a bike and then could helped a bit and possibly in her case having her birthday made a difference. Whatever, she went from wanting me to hold the handlebars with her and the back one day, to holding just the back the next, and her keeping going the next. Was amazed grin.

I asked her what she thought made the difference and she said "keeping on pedalling" which may or may not be helpful.

I kept reminding her that I couldn't ride a bike until I was 9 and that Grandad (my dad) still can't which I think helped her a little.

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