Like many cyclists, my love of all things two-wheeled began when I was very young. I learned to ride my first bike, a purple Raleigh Bianca, the old-fashioned way, with my long-suffering mum or dad running along behind me holding onto the saddle promising not to let go. Then promptly letting go.
Things have moved on a little since these good old back-breaking (for parents) days. There are numerous wheeled gadgets for children, or more accurately for parents who want their children to ride bikes. New inventions are springing up all the time. Recently my 20-month-old was sent a Toddlebike, billed as a ‘pre-balance bike’ for the extremely young.
This little bike is light as a feather but quite durable enough to withstand the demands of an active toddler (not to mention aforementioned active toddler’s older sister and friends).
As anybody who has spent any time around children will know, however, it’s not really the equipment that matters, it’s the intention. Present a toddler with a bike and you have three possible reactions. They may love it and hop aboard. They may hate it and throw themselves face-down on the floor at the mere sight of it. Or they may take a slight passing interest then move on to the next thing, probably the box the bike came in, and spend the next six months completely ignoring the bike and either shrugging or, worse, crying loudly if you so much as suggest it.
For bike-lovers the latter reaction isn’t ideal, because one of the great joys of parenthood is sharing your passions with your children. Plus children on bikes is just a no-brainer. Physical activity - check; great fun - check; getting to the shops/pre-school/end of the street and back with the kids in tow in less than four hours - check. Not to mention the endless environmental and social benefits of a future generation of cyclists.
Fortunately the good news is there is one guaranteed, sure-fire way to get your children interested in bikes. It really couldn’t be simpler or easier.
Ride your bike.
If there’s one thing I know about children it’s that they want to be doing what you are doing. You don’t even need to particularly talk to them about it or explain painstakingly what a lovely time you have on your bike and wouldn’t they like to try it too? Just ride that bike, as much and as often as you can. Before you know it your little ones will be begging to join in.
Case in point my older daughter, a strong-willed bundle of contradiction. A kind soul sent her a balance bike when she was about 18 months old and she couldn’t have been less interested.
As soon as I had her sister and started riding my bike again, she was champing at the bit. All she wanted to do was ride her bike ‘like Mummy!’
She learned to ride that balance bike in about two weeks. Admittedly they were two of the slowest-moving weeks of my life, as we trudged endlessly up and down our cul-de-sac and she paused from her efforts every now and again to wave to passing snails. But once she got it, she just got it. By the age of two and a half her bike was basically her primary mode of transport.
The process was even easier with her younger sister, who just wants to be doing everything big sis is doing. She got on her Toddlebike and rode away – that was that.
And just like that I have a gang of cyclists, two tiny Lycra louts tearing up the pavements. All I had to do was ride my bike.
Cathy is contributing monthly articles exclusively here on the VeloVixen blog - for more from her, follow her on Twitter.
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