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Old 04-06-2020, 12:27 AM
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My son doesn't want to learn to ride a bike. Should I push him to?


My son turns 13 next month, and he's never learned how to ride a bicycle.

Now, this is something he's been actively avoiding for, well, ever. We have an old bike that he fits but he's adamant that he will never need or want to ride a bike. I've considered taking him to a bike shop to let him check out their selection thinking that maybe having his own, rather than a hand-me-down, will entice him. But he has no desire to go (not that we could right now anyway). His older brother can ride and has since he was not much bigger than a toddler, but the youngest just doesn't want to.

I feel that learning to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage. My wife feels that we somehow failed him. So I'm curious what opinions here are: should I push this or finally drop it?
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Old 04-06-2020, 12:32 AM
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Further data point: he seems to want to learn to drive, go to college, and pretty much every other "normal" kid thing. He's a high achiever in school and isn't particularly lazy. As far as I know he's never had or seen or heard of any traumatic experience regarding bicycles, although when I mentioned buying a motorcycle he lectured me on how dangerous they were. I tried to talk him out of that notion but wasn't particularly successful.
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Old 04-06-2020, 12:37 AM
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I feel that learning to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage.
Maybe for some people, but I suspect that almost all of those people learned before they were 13.

If he hasn't learned by now, and doesn't want to, let it go.
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Old 04-06-2020, 01:00 AM
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Oh, god no. Don't force it on him.
The lil'wrekker never wanted to learn. When her 2 older sibs and cousins were riding circles around her, she happily played with her dolls.
She's 21yo now and hasn't had a reason to miss it.
Not all kids do the same things.
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Old 04-06-2020, 02:22 AM
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My son turns 13 next month, and he's never learned how to ride a bicycle.

Now, this is something he's been actively avoiding for, well, ever. We have an old bike that he fits but he's adamant that he will never need or want to ride a bike.

I feel that learning to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage. My wife feels that we somehow failed him. So I'm curious what opinions here are: should I push this or finally drop it?
So, I was your son. Generation X and had zero interest in riding a bike, even when I lived in the suburbs. I wasn't a homebody - I loved roaming around the neighborhood to all hours with my friends. But in my social circle none of that really revolved around bikes( sometimes there might be one guy riding along with a bunch of the rest of us walking ).

However my mother felt exactly like you did. To her it a rite of passage which also had great utility. Further she was quite certain that once I knew how, I'd take to it like a duck to water and have great fun. To be fair I was a lazy kid in some ways, so she figured I just needed a firm push. So about 6th grade she forced me to learn . Bought a cheap used bike, drove me to large, unused, out of the way parking lots for privacy and kept doing so until I had satisfied her that I had achieved basic competency. She was certain that I'd thank her later.

I never did and I never will . After that last training session I never touched that bike again and haven't been on one since. I don't look back on that time with seething resentment or anything( though I sure felt some at the time ), but it was an utter waste of my time and hers.

So in my very, very biased opinion you should just drop it. It's a useful skill and good exercise, there is no denying. But it also isn't a necessary one.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 04-06-2020 at 02:25 AM.
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Old 04-06-2020, 02:32 AM
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I loved my bike, can't imagine my childhood without it, and still think you should drop it. Your kid has a right to be wrong about this.
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Old 04-06-2020, 02:49 AM
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When I was a kid, I had a little Huffy bike and my older brother had an adult-size Schwinn. I never rode my bike, just couldn't balance on it. And nobody offered to teach me. So my little Huffy just sat there, neglected. One day, when I was about 11 or 12, I just jumped on my brother's Schwinn and rode off. It just happened.

That said, your kid has the right not to ride a bike. It's not a "rite of passage" that he MUST do. Leave him alone.

And you mentioned buying a motorcycle??? And he's not even 13 yet? Are you crazy?
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Old 04-06-2020, 03:04 AM
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While there are many great things about riding a bike it is certainly not a necessary skill.

I'd say drop it. If in the unlikely event he changes his mind later he can learn then. Until then drop it.
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Old 04-06-2020, 03:16 AM
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I won't argue with the opinions of the previous posters. All I can say is that when I was that age, I loved my bike, because it gave me mobility and independence that I otherwise would never have had. It gave me the opportunity explore the neighborhood and discover things that I would never have known existed. A bike to a kid that age is much like the first car to an older adolescent.

For different reasons -- not mobility, but just sheer fun -- I felt the same way about my first motorcycle. Those things are dangerous as hell, but they're fun and I have no regrets. Among the most wonderful memories permanently etched in my brain are riding down to a marina on that motor bike about 40 miles away from our town, on a beautifully warm sunny day, with my first really serious girlfriend, whom I ended up marrying a year or two later, to go out sailing with friends who had an impressively big sailing yacht. I know this post is about 13-year-olds and bikes, but the analogy is that he's missing out on life experiences. It's probably wise not to force him if he's not interested, but it's unfortunate.
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Old 04-06-2020, 03:17 AM
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My parents taught me to ride a bike at around 4 years old, and I have made much good use of that skill in the 30 years since - playing with friends as a kid, getting to school, cheap transportation at university, and now commuting to and from work. I have taught my now 5-year-old son to ride and he loves it. But if he had not enjoyed the experience (OK, a few early and inevitable hiccups aside), I wouldn't have pushed on with it. I certainly think a 13-year-old is entitled to their own opinions about this, and given what you have said, I'd leave it. If he changes his mind and wants to learn later, it might be a little harder, but not by much - it's not like getting vaccinated or learning a language, where there are significant, demonstrable benefits to doing it sooner rather than later.
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Old 04-06-2020, 04:52 AM
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Eh, I think if you're going to pressure a kid to ride a bike, you do it when they're 8, not 13. I was "pushed" into at 8 and already felt a little old at the time (I grew up on a kind of scary sloped street, and they didn't try until after we moved). Took me a long time to pick it up too, and my mom uttered expletives I haven't heard since then.

Will there come a time where somebody, someone he might want the approval of, is going to give him a WTF look when they find out he is a grown man that doesn't know how ride a bike? Sure, and that will be on him. Maybe that will prompt him to learn on his own. Not your problem.

I was lucky, my kids picked it up when they were little and I didn't have to do a darn thing.

Last edited by Ashtura; 04-06-2020 at 04:55 AM.
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Old 04-06-2020, 07:06 AM
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My son went from crawling, to standing, to riding a bike pretty damn quick. His bike was a huge part of his childhood.

His sister, a few years older, still cannot ride a bike, and she's 29.
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Old 04-06-2020, 07:08 AM
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Stop pushing him. This is certainly no reflection on you and not a "sign you have failed him." Holy cow. I'm not a parent so I do not understand this kind of parental thinking.

I always wanted a bike but my parents would never get me one. I taught myself to ride on the bikes of neighbor kids who would leave them in their front yards while they were inside having dinner. I bought myself my first bike with my own money when I was a SENIOR IN COLLEGE. I lived at home and my mother wasn't thrilled. I rode it a lot for a dozen or so years, but not all over town-- strictly in pretty safe, low-traffic areas. No helmets back then. Frankly, I don't trust car drivers to watch out for bike riders. So sue me.

It's one fewer thing for you to worry about anyway. Worries you won't have: can you make him wear a helmet or will he see it as dorky? What about bright clothing? And will he watch for cars or operate out of a sense of entitlement to the road? This is a Pandora's Box he chooses not to open, so leave it alone.
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Old 04-06-2020, 08:27 AM
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Lancia, both as a kid who got a lot out of riding a bike, and as a parent, I understand how you feel. It would be my impulse as well. And I grew up with a rather authoritarian family; if Mom decided I was going to do something, then that's how it was.



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Will there come a time where somebody, someone he might want the approval of, is going to give him a WTF look when they find out he is a grown man that doesn't know how ride a bike? Sure, and that will be on him. Maybe that will prompt him to learn on his own. Not your problem.
But this is truly the right answer.
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Old 04-06-2020, 09:37 AM
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...
Will there come a time where somebody, someone he might want the approval of, is going to give him a WTF look when they find out he is a grown man that doesn't know how ride a bike? Sure, and that will be on him. Maybe that will prompt him to learn on his own. Not your problem.

....
Oh, puh-leese. If he has enough intestinal fortitude to resist his parents' pressure, then he will be self-possessed enough as a grown man not to give a fuck about such a lame judgment. There was a time that a man wasn't a man unless he could drive a stick shift. That's over. And plenty of millennials don't even care about learning to drive a car anymore.
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Old 04-06-2020, 09:53 AM
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I feel that learning to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage. My wife feels that we somehow failed him.
There are many a rite of passage and no one person takes them all. Be a bit more flexible in tuning in to his interests. But to even ask the question here is a sign you are doing OK.
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Old 04-06-2020, 10:42 AM
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The more you pressure him, the more he’ll resist. That’s 13 year olds for ya. He’s entered that age where he needs to own his own decisions.

Drop the subject and act indifferent to it if if it comes up again.
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Old 04-06-2020, 10:44 AM
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Many so-called "rites of passage" are completely unnecessary. If he doesn't want to ride a bike, he shouldn't have to.
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Old 04-06-2020, 12:22 PM
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Thanks for the replies. I've been leaning towards dropping it (and frankly, I would not be able to force him to do it regardless).

He wants to be a lawyer so he can be rich and own a Ferrari , so learning to drive is something he's looking forward to. He just doesn't want to learn to ride a bike.
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Old 04-06-2020, 12:31 PM
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Yeah, if this was part of a bigger trend of being disengaged with everything and lacking general motivation I'd be more concerned. But you're describing someone who seems pretty well adjusted, and just has no interest in this specific thing. "Rites of passage" are overrated in my opinion, and I suspect are more motivated by parental nostalgia and projection.

Also, riding a bike is relatively easy to pick up anytime. If he wants to take it up as an adult he's not significantly harmed by his lack of experience. It's not like he's blown his shot at being a renowned concert pianist by not starting at five or something.

And I say that as a someone who spent a lot of time on a bike as a kid (it was my commute to school) and has taken it up again with gusto as an adult. Thirteen is too late to force it anyway in my opinion. My son started when he was six or seven and even that felt a bit late. He's motivated by a sense of independence, not just the bike riding. As a third grader we can let him ride his bike to school in our neighborhood, and being able to do that was a big motivator for him.
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Old 04-06-2020, 01:02 PM
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I had a kid who resisted the two wheeler, hated swim lessons and refused to dunk her head, and dragged out getting her drivers permit until she was 20. As a parent you feel like your kid is the only one hanging back and it makes you feel bad.

This past summer we were all on bicycles riding around Mackinaw Island. When she was 10 I never thought that would happen.
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Old 04-06-2020, 01:31 PM
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The only thing that might change the kid's mind is peer pressure. If his best friends are riding off and leaving him alone, he may change his mind. Other than that, don't sweat it.

For me, it was freedom rather than a rite of passage. My parents had no time to take me places, and being stuck mucking around on the surrounding blocks got old. I had to teach myself, as my parents sucked at helping out on things, so I fell down in our large yard a lot. A LOT. But once I figured out the balance thing, I could go anywhere, and it was like the whole world opened up.
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Old 04-06-2020, 01:41 PM
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At 13, it's probably not worth pushing him to learn anymore, and I agree that it isn't a completely essential skill to have, even if IMO it's something that all kids should try to learn since cycling is a great way to get exercise and potentially to get around (depending on where you live).

I didn't like swimming lessons when I was a kid, but I am quite grateful that my parents persisted in making me take lessons. However, that was for a 6-8 year old. I was also forced to take piano lessons until I was 12, and am happy that my parents let me quit at that point - while as an adult I sometimes wish I had continued to learn and build my skills, I recognize that it was my decision to quit and don't hold it against my parents that they didn't push me to continue piano lessons. So hopefully your son will also take responsibility for his decision to not learn how to ride a bike.
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Old 04-06-2020, 02:04 PM
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My mother forbade it because some damn fool kid in the neighborhood went head over heals, cracked his skull and died. I have regretted that ever since. I did learn sort of when I was 40 but it was too late to ever feel comfortable with it. That said, I can't see forcing him. He might change his mind of course.
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Old 04-06-2020, 02:08 PM
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Not worth it. Now, if he can't master the recumbent bike, that's a whole nuther issue.
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Old 04-06-2020, 02:41 PM
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Thanks for the replies. I've been leaning towards dropping it (and frankly, I would not be able to force him to do it regardless).

He wants to be a lawyer so he can be rich and own a Ferrari , so learning to drive is something he's looking forward to. He just doesn't want to learn to ride a bike.
Ah, but when his lawyer friends ask him to join them on a midlife bike marathon for exercise, he may change his mind.
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Old 04-06-2020, 06:00 PM
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If I thought he was avoiding it because of fear, I might be inclined to force the issue. I believe facing one's fear is an important life lesson.

If he just doesn't want to learn because he thinks bikes are lame, I'd let it go.

That said, 13 is a bit late in the game to address this.
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Old 04-06-2020, 06:40 PM
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That said, 13 is a bit late in the game to address this.
Not really. In some ways, it's going to be much easier for a teenager to learn than, say, a five-year-old.

Teenagers can grasp the fact that they won't fall down if they just keep pedaling. Little kids take a while to figure it out. In fact, people seem to be moving away from training wheels right now, so that the little kids will learn to just keep moving. I know that's how my daughter (at five) learned -- we just put her on the bike and she had it all figured out. Including how to stop.

See panache45's post above -- that's how it works.
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Old 04-06-2020, 07:52 PM
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Not really. In some ways, it's going to be much easier for a teenager to learn than, say, a five-year-old.

Teenagers can grasp the fact that they won't fall down if they just keep pedaling. Little kids take a while to figure it out. In fact, people seem to be moving away from training wheels right now, so that the little kids will learn to just keep moving. I know that's how my daughter (at five) learned -- we just put her on the bike and she had it all figured out. Including how to stop.

See panache45's post above -- that's how it works.
Heh, very good point.

But I was referring to addressing "Facing one's fears".
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Old 04-06-2020, 08:44 PM
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I can't fathom why he never learned as it represents both a fundamental skill and a way of transportation as a kid. when I was a teenager my friends and I would go on 100 mile runs during the summer. We literally mapped out the surrounding counties using.... folding maps. As adults we would do the same thing for exercise. The skills of maintaining our bikes morphed into working on our first cars (which we paid for).

Times have changed and by age 13 that ship has sailed.
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Old 04-06-2020, 08:46 PM
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Learning to ride is so scary (and potentially embarrassing) that I think you have to really want to do it.

It took me a year to learn. My father worked with me repeatedly, but I just couldn't get the knack for it right away. And I really really wanted to get it. My twin was riding around like a pro, just like all the kids were, and it sucked being the only one with training wheels. I don't think it would have happened if I had been "meh" about the whole thing.

I agree that learning to ride a bike is one of those transformative experiences for the average kid. But calling it a "rite of passage" is a little too much since lots of people somehow manage just fine without knowing how to ride. I think (gently) pressuring him would only make sense if you suspected he really wanted to learn but was having jitters. Otherwise, let it go.

Last edited by monstro; 04-06-2020 at 08:47 PM.
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Old 04-06-2020, 09:37 PM
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Change the OP's "bicycle" to "swim" - does that clarify the question? If someone has no desire to learn how to swim, how do you force that? What's it to you if he doesn't know how to swim (assuming you're not a boating family).

I once worked with a woman, who in her 40's was winning state-wide swimming championships and records. She couldn't understand why her own two kids didn't love swimming as much as she did. Sometimes people have different interests. (And no, she didn't force swimming on them.)
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Old 04-06-2020, 09:56 PM
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Change the OP's "bicycle" to "swim" - does that clarify the question? If someone has no desire to learn how to swim, how do you force that? What's it to you if he doesn't know how to swim (assuming you're not a boating family).

I once worked with a woman, who in her 40's was winning state-wide swimming championships and records. She couldn't understand why her own two kids didn't love swimming as much as she did. Sometimes people have different interests. (And no, she didn't force swimming on them.)
I feel differently about swimming. That's something I would absolutely force. That's a skill that could wind up saving your life one day. Boating family or not.
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Old 04-06-2020, 10:42 PM
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My parents "forced" me and my brothers to swim simply by not allowing us to go swimming without them until we could swim the length of the swimming pool. We quickly joined a club and learned to swim. In fact two of us swam competitively for years.

They had no such rule about bikes and the youngest one of us never owned one.

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Old 04-07-2020, 12:51 AM
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It's interesting that you've brought up swimming. My wife does not know how to swim and she's 41. Other than actively avoiding situations where it may be important (she will not ever set foot on a boat, for instance) it hasn't impacted her life in any negative way.

I suspect that, for my son, riding a bike will be the same way.
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Old 04-07-2020, 07:11 AM
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My wife does not know how to swim and she's 41.
Her parents somehow failed her!

No, seriously, they did.
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Old 04-07-2020, 07:32 AM
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It's interesting that you've brought up swimming. My wife does not know how to swim and she's 41. Other than actively avoiding situations where it may be important (she will not ever set foot on a boat, for instance) it hasn't impacted her life in any negative way.
Your wife may wish to reconsider boating. I've taken many none swimmers out for boat excursions, they just wear their life jacket.

Personally, I can swim, but get no enjoyment out of it. So, while I sail, canoe, kayak, pontoon, etc I never swim. I also vacation exclusively on beaches, but very rarely go into the water above my ankles.
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Old 04-07-2020, 07:59 AM
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My family pushed me. Literally. Down a hill. And abandoned me. I don't remember them explaining the brake function or steering for that matter. Ran into a coal pile. Scared the byjeesus out of me. But I survived and learned. I was maybe four years old.

Does anyone really know how to teach a kid to bicycle?
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Old 04-07-2020, 08:02 AM
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The bike's not important, but I think you should strongly encourage him to regularly exercise in some fashion. Jogging, swimming, rowing, strength training.
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Old 04-07-2020, 08:09 AM
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My family pushed me. Literally. Down a hill. And abandoned me. I don't remember them explaining the brake function or steering for that matter. Ran into a coal pile. Scared the byjeesus out of me. But I survived and learned. I was maybe four years old.

Does anyone really know how to teach a kid to bicycle?
Yes, using a slight incline so that the bike moves on it's own without pedaling makes it easier to grasp the gyroscopic effect. Pedaling tends to tilt the bike off center which makes it harder learn to balance it. In order for the gyroscopic effect to work the bike has to be moving so the initial launch is the most difficult part.
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Old 04-07-2020, 08:35 AM
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Does anyone really know how to teach a kid to bicycle?
With my son, I took his training wheels off and ran alongside him, holding on to the back of his seat to keep him upright. He yelled, "LET GO" so I did and he rode away.

With my daughter I did the same thing, only she yelled, "DON'T LET GO", so I didn't. She hated the entire experience and I eventually gave her first bike away, virtually unused.
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Old 04-07-2020, 09:00 AM
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I'm 46, never really learned, and I regret it. But had someone tried to push me at 13 to learn it would have made my stubbornness really show itself and I'd have been more determined not to learn.

fwiw, the reason I didn't really learn was because I managed to coast a friend's bike down some stairs when I was about 6, scraping myself up well in the process. And that scared me enough that I was never pushed to learn again.
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Old 04-07-2020, 09:08 AM
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I tried to learn at 5 and gave up after a few crashes. I learned at 11 since I moved to a new state .

Do universities still require a swim test or swim class to graduate? That was common at least up to the late 70s.
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Old 04-07-2020, 10:00 AM
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...

Do universities still require a swim test or swim class to graduate? That was common at least up to the late 70s.
My college did. I kept putting it off until the last semester of my senior year, but there was no escape. I took the class and passed, but as much as I wanted to, I NEVER learned to enjoy swimming or be comfortable in the water. I just don't like getting my face doused with water. I don't even like lots of water on my face in the shower. Probably drowned as a witch in a previous life.
  #45  
Old 04-07-2020, 11:21 AM
Tamerlane is offline
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Originally Posted by Bijou Drains View Post
Do universities still require a swim test or swim class to graduate? That was common at least up to the late 70s.
Certainly wasn't the case when I started college in the 1980's. A single general ed class in 'active/creative participation' was required, which a lot of people covered with some form of PE. But you could just as easily take a music class or something instead.
  #46  
Old 04-07-2020, 11:56 AM
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I was never a bike person. My father forced me to learn when I was 8 or 9, and I don't regret it, even if I'm not riding a bike today. In a few situations it was handy. It's always useful to acquire some skill. But is it necessary? Absolutely not. I've never set my foot on a motorcycle either. But I do enjoy driving cars of any shape or form. If I were in your shoes, I wouldn't push it. It seems he's a smart kid who knows his goals.
  #47  
Old 04-07-2020, 12:13 PM
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Since no one has yet said "let it go, don't push him into it," let me be the first to say "let it go, don't push him into it."
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  #48  
Old 04-07-2020, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
My college did. I kept putting it off until the last semester of my senior year, but there was no escape. I took the class and passed, but as much as I wanted to, I NEVER learned to enjoy swimming or be comfortable in the water. I just don't like getting my face doused with water. I don't even like lots of water on my face in the shower. Probably drowned as a witch in a previous life.
I should have added that I graduated in 1970. PE was required every semester. As a freshman I took gymnastics then tennis every semester until the dreaded swimming class. This was at a private Catholic women's college (now a "university").
  #49  
Old 04-07-2020, 01:10 PM
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Wasn't there a Frasier episode about this? The brothers never learned to ride.
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Old 04-07-2020, 02:44 PM
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I'd probably try to teach all of my kids to bike - well before 13, mainly because it is an exercise for them to learn about balance and coordination and a good way to exercise, but also to allow them the opportunity to do it later. Same reason I would teach my kids to throw and catch a ball, run, shoot baskets, kick a soccer ball, and other activities. We also did bike rides as a family activity.

Sure, they can decide to learn them later, but if a group of kids just say "Let's go for a bike ride," I'd prefer my kid not go because he doesn't want to, rather than not being able to.

Similar for swimming. In addition to safety in a boat ride or just slipping off the bank, in my cohort it is not at all unusual for group activities to involve a pool, lake, etc. I would think it would suck to have to be the one person who had to stay on the side of the pool, or the only kid who had to wear a life jacket.

My middle kid has sensory integration issues. Learning to operate the handlebars was quite a challenge. He bombed around on a cool black tricycle, well after most kids were on 2 wheels. He eventually got the hang of it and today, at 30, he bikes all the time.

By the time the kid is 13, tho, I'd probably consider the time passed.
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