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Like riding a bike

Started: 2013-10-06 16:45:28

Submitted: 2013-10-06 20:35:10

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator gets a tiny pedal bike for his preschooler

Two years ago I bought Calvin a Strider balance bike for Christmas. He took to it quickly and could eventually outpace us walking behind him. Last weekend, while my mother was visiting, we noticed that he was probably ready to graduate to a real pedal bike, since he was riding quickly and riding fast enough, especially downhill, that he had trouble stopping without brakes. He was interested in the hand-me-down Lightning McQueen-branded bike we have waiting for him in the garage, but it was still too big for him. I noticed that the bike had a 16-inch wheel, and the smallest children's bike size had a 12-inch wheel, which ought to actually fit him. I told Calvin we could get a bike the right size for him, but it wouldn't have Lightning McQueen on it. He thought that was ok but asked, "What about Mater?"

This weekend we went to my favorite local bike store, Full Cycle on Pearl Street, to get Calvin a properly-sized bike. We ended up with a 12-inch Giant Junior Animator in green and black. (I'm amused to see the description of the crankset and bottom bracket on the bike, which is somewhat more important in an adult bike.) Since he'd been on a balance bike, the shop took off the training wheels and Calvin pushed the bike out of the shop. We picked up a larger helmet on the way; the one he had was two years old and quite snug on him.

At home I set out to the nearby park with Calvin to try out the new bike. When we reached the path, with plenty of open space, I let Calvin mount the bike and try to ride. (I was vaguely aware that I was performing a time-honored parenting ritual but tried not to let the crushing weight of generations of tradition weigh too heavily on me.) Calvin was eager to try but needed a few minutes to get the hang of everything together. He had already balanced on a bike, and pedaled a tricycle, separately; now he just had to put the two skills together. He fell over a few times but picked himself back up. We ended up heading downhill, where he didn't have to pedal to maintain balance, then turned around to head back into the park. I helped him up the hill, then started pushing him to get him started. He had some trouble coordinating the pedaling with the steering, and kept veering off into the grass on the side of the path, but soon he figured out what he was doing. It took him about ten minutes from the time he first tried to ride the bike to getting the basic operation down.

By the time we reached the end of the path going through the middle of our neighborhood, Calvin could ride the bike. He still had trouble starting from a stop, and kept running off the path, but once I pushed him to get going he could bike for at least ten or twenty meters at a pitch, and often far longer. Sometimes I had to run to keep up with him, but he kept looking back to make sure I was there and getting pulled off-course. We joined the concrete path on the edge of our neighborhood, next to the pair of irrigation ditches around the hill we lived on, and followed it to the soft-surface path maintained by city open space (and recently reopened after the flood) out to 71st Street, then returned home via a shorter route. Calvin enjoyed his first real bike ride.

This afternoon Kiesa and I took Calvin out on his bike again to bike to the 'Mommy Park', the park inside the Gunbarrel Estates neighborhood to the east. (I am not exactly sure how this park ended up with its name according to Calvin; our neighborhood's park is the 'Daddy Park'.) This time I took more pictures. Calvin remembered what to do but needed some practice to remember the details. Sometimes he would take off ahead, but sometimes he would look back to make sure we were still following him and he'd lose his direction. I had the best results getting him to follow if I ran ahead of him. He biked all the way to the park and all the way back, a mile each way.

Calvin rides his pedal bike across a bridge
Calvin rides his pedal bike across a bridge
Calvin bikes in front of Kiesa
Calvin bikes in front of Kiesa
Calvin bikes into the 'Mommy Park'
Calvin bikes into the 'Mommy Park'

I was impressed with the speed at which Calvin took up pedal-biking. I have only one data point but the balance bike seems to have worked fantastically as a training tool. It made unlocking a key parenting achievement that much easier.