You think you’ve got it bad?

Yesterday I lent a balance bicycle to a 2 ½ year old, and during the fitting (of the bike, not of the child) his dad casually mentioned that the Super Tuesday tornado had destroyed their home, so now he is working from home due to COVID-19 - while living with his family in an AirBnB rental. 

However, this dad has decided this is all an opportunity to teach his son how to ride a bike!

Dad teaches child to ride at WaterFest 2019

So if you are at home with your kids around, maybe now is an opportunity to teach them how to ride a bicycle. Here’s how:

Teaching children how to ride a bike is best achieved in short bursts, say 20 to 45 minutes long. Perfect if you have regular short activity breaks scheduled into your new work-from-home-while-caring-for-children routine.

I recommend the balance bike method, as shown in these two videos: Watch them both, in this order:


Note when the instructors in both videos give the same tip; those are the important tips.

  • You can convert your child’s pedal bike into a balance bike by lowering the saddle until the child can just reach the ground flat-footed on both sides at once (but no more - the child in the REI video has the saddle too low) and removing the pedals with a 17mm wrench. Remember the left side pedal has a reverse thread, which is undone by turning clockwise!
  • Check that the child sits with their full weight on the saddle, not simply walks along with the bike between their legs.
  • Ask the child to look ahead, not down at the front wheel or their legs. For some reason, balancing comes a lot quicker when the child is looking at the horizon.
  • A gentle downhill is easier for the child to experience moving forward during those first few minutes, than a completely flat surface. But don’t choose a gradient so steep that the child loses control and becomes too afraid.
  • Once the child demonstrates going along with both feet off the ground for 10 feet or more, put one pedal back on - but only to use as a foot rest. When they can go along with one foot on the pedal, put the other pedal on - and off they will go!

It might be one lesson, it might be 10, but before this summer your children will be ready to ride the greenways of Nashville!

Boy learns to ride at East Library rodeo 2018


Robert Johnson, Safe Routes to School Manager, Walk Bike Nashville