How to ride a bike without training wheels

Josh Sherman
3 min read

Training wheels are an abomination and should be forced into extinction.

I say this as someone that struggled to learn how to ride a bike because my parent’s never took off my training wheels. Fortunately my neighborhood friends thought my inability to ride a bike was absurd and they helped me get there in a single afternoon.

Fast foward twenty some odd years later, I made the same mistake as my parents with teaching my daughter to ride.

We started with the training wheels that came with the bike. Logged a few hours just getting the basic concept of bike riding down. Pedaling, steering, not getting run over by a car, the usual stuff.

After that, we graduated to having a single training wheel. Logged some more time with absolutely no gains. The remaining training wheel ended up being used like a crutch and my daughter developed a “lean” as she rode as to not fall over.

I love my daughter, but she’s just too damn careful. She also seemed to have lost interest in learning how to ride a bike. In her defense, I assume part of that was because of my own visible frustrations with trying to teach her.

Enough time passed that she forgot about that and we were back at it. This time I approached the whole thing from a different angle. Instead of focusing on learning how to ride a bike, I wanted to focus on her confidence level and her ability to balance.

How does one learn how to balance? Simple, by doing it, over and over.

To eliminate any and all distractions, I went ahead and removed both of her training wheels as well as both pedals. How’s she going to pedal? Who cares, we’re working on balancing first.

Armed with a very streamlined bike, we set out to find a park with some hills in it. This was arguably the hardest part of it all, as we live in Florida and for the most part are devoid of hills. Especially grassy ones.

Fortunately a park close to our house has some nice grassy hills. The next part was easy, start at the top and roll to the bottom. Try to keep your feet from touching.

To help celebrate the little wins, I would count how many seconds she would coast without her feet on the ground. No distractions, just learning to balance. Over the next hour or so many cheers and high fives followed!

We had to pause for a week as I was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a week with my Sumo family (BTW we’re hiring) but resumed the first weekend I was back.

The next time we went to the park, we introduced a single pedal to the mix. Not enough to introduce pedaling, but enough to help keep one foot off the ground at all times. After a bit of time riding down hills and coasting on the side walk, I added back the second pedal.

Within about ten minutes of adding the second pedal my daughter was riding a bike. She was coasting on the sidewalk, pulled both feet up and started to pedal. Once the balance is there, the rest can easily follow.

The whole process took less than two hours and lacked any and all frustration. It also somehow lacked skinned up elbows and knees (told you she was careful ;)

We probably could have condensed the whole thing into a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon, if that. If we had a paved driveway with a steep enough incline we wouldn’t have needed to leave the house!

What I find most interesting about this approach is how hands off it ended up being. No running, no lies about how I’m holding on to the bike when I’m really not, none of that. Really just needed my pom-poms to play cheerleader and let gravity do most of the work.

Oh, and a wrench, definitely need a wrench ;)

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About Josh

Husband. Father. Pug dad. Musician. Founder of Holiday API, Head of Engineering and Emoji Specialist at Mailshake, and author of the best damn Lorem Ipsum Library for PHP.

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