Why to Skip the Training Wheels
Most parents remember their own experience learning to ride a bike—it’s like comparing battle scars, a painful rite of passage. Other childhood memories fade, but you never forget the sheer difficulty and frustration of the day your mom/dad/grandparents took your training wheels off and sent you, terrified and careening, down the driveway or sidewalk to what was 99.9% certain to be a crash landing.
woom doesn’t sell training wheels as an accessory for our bikes because we don’t believe training wheels are necessary; in fact, we’ve found that training wheels are counterproductive to a child’s learning experience. The trials and tribulations of generations past have shown us that training wheels teach all the wrong things, and that there are much simpler, better ways to start out.
Kids will have plenty of struggles in life; learning to ride a bike shouldn’t be one of them. Skip the pain of training wheels and go straight to the fun!
Balance Bikes to Pedal Bikes.
A balance bike (or pedal-less bike) can seem like the Flintstone version of a car—is it “really” a bike with no cranks or chain or pedals? Balance bikes teach a child to glide, not to pedal. What’s the point?
You can compare it to learning a language. By the time a child is proficient on a balance bike, they’ve learned all the fundamentals: balancing (the most important skill of riding a bike), steering, turning, and stopping. When your child is ready to transition to a pedal bike, they are fluent in the language of riding, in all its complexity—with the exception of pedaling, every other component of riding is fluid, automatic, and intuitive; they have only to add the final (and, relative to all those other skills, easy!) vocabulary of pedaling to have mastered it entirely.
The woom 1 balance bike (12”) has a very low step-through entry point, adjustable seat length, and other kid-focused features that make it well-suited for the youngest of riders.
Many customers purchase the woom 1 for children between 18 months and 2.5 years old, but there’s no true limit—a child can enjoy balancing and riding as soon as they start walking. And older kids won’t miss out, either: the woom 1 PLUS balance bike (14”) is designed for children 3 years and up. Both the woom 1 and woom 1 PLUS feature hand brakes, allowing riders to learn the important skill of braking at the earliest stage.
For children who need a larger bike or who’ve already begun using training wheels but are now trying out a woom for the first time, we suggest applying the same balance-bike concept: take the pedals off, and adjust the saddle height so that the rider can comfortably put their feet on the ground. Practice, practice, practice; when balancing and braking are easy, add the pedals back on!
More tips for first pedaling:
- Start by showing your child how the pedals move the bike. One suggestion: while the child is seated on the bike with their feet on the pedals, spin the pedal forward with one hand while guiding the bike at either the handlebar or seat. This can help your child more easily understand the required motion in their feet and legs.
- Starting and stopping are often the hardest parts in learning to ride a pedal bike. In the beginning, provide extra support at these moments by holding on to the back of the saddle or handlebars. Starting can also be easier on a slight downhill slope—having a little extra momentum can help your child learn how to balance while getting their feet on the pedals.
- Find a wide open space to practice in, such as a cul de sac or parking lot. Your child can then focus on the motion of pedaling versus avoiding obstacles or staying on a narrow sidewalk or path.
- Skipping the terror of training-wheels removal will make learning to ride much more enjoyable, but you still don’t want to do too much too soon. Even short attempts help kids make huge strides. Their brains are always working, even or especially when at rest, so sometimes a good night’s sleep is all it takes for things to “click” the next day.
- As your child gets the hang of pedaling on their own, you can try walking or running behind the bike, holding your arms out on either side to catch them if needed; some riders will appreciate the sense of security this provides.
When's the Right Time to Start?
There’s no “right” time to start the transition to pedal bike. Many woom riders who have experience on the woom 1 balance bike start riding the woom 2 pedal bike between ages 3 and 4, but consider your child’s comfort and interest level. Similarly, there’s no standard for how long it will take to learn to pedal once you start—sometimes it’s less than half an hour, and other times it takes days or weeks. What’s certain is that the process will be much smoother without training wheels, and that your rider will soon be on their way to big new adventures.
At woom bikes USA, we offer lightweight, high-quality woom bikes for children of all ages, starting at one and half and going up to 14-year-olds. View all of our bikes and accessories here.