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Rewind: Tricycle to Bicycle

kids bike
Originally published August 2010.
As he raced down the sidewalk furiously pedaling away on his two wheeled steed, the adjacent grass rippled in his wake. He beamed with confidence evident by a smile that seemed to light up the path outstretched before him. Intoxicated by speed, the boy seemed determined to take flight. Little did he realize he’d get his wish. As he leaned into a sharp curve, the momentum of the bike hurtled the brazen rider and his steed off the sidewalk on to a nearby overgrown lawn. Shaken but not hurt, the boy began to cry. My son, just turned the age of 4, had experienced his first wipe out on the maiden voyage of his new “big boy” bike.

I have to admit, I felt a tinge of guilt witnessing my son’s crash. Especially since I could have stopped it. In short, at the moment I thought, “he’s going too fast for that curve ahead but the grass is soft there. I might as well let him take a fall.” I determined he’d be better equipped for future rides if he experienced a harmless crash that taught him a lesson about safety, speed, physics and respect for riding his bicycle. I would categorize this as one of many judgment calls a father must make to allow a child to experience failure in order to build a child’s confidence. Thankfully, my quick assessment of the situation turned out to be the correct one. As mentioned previously, my son cried out of fear rather than pain. He stopped sobbing almost immediately when I explained to him why he crashed. I made a conscious decision not to engage him with sympathy but rather provide answers. Without hesitation he hopped back on his bike and he continued to ride. “My son’s growing up” I thought. Me too.

Below are a few observations I’ve made in respect to transitioning from a tricycle to a bicycle:

  • Visit as many bike stores as you can, both toy stores and local bike shops to let your child get a feel for a two wheel bike with training wheels. Let the child try out as many bikes as you both can muster.
  • When ready to purchase a bike, avoid purchasing one at a toy store. In fact, purchase a bike at a local dedicated bike shop. You can expect to pay more for a quality bike but you’ll also receive more lasting value in terms of product reliability as well as the knowledgeable service provided by the shop.
  • The physical demands of riding a tricycle and a bicycle are quite different. Expect your child to experience pitfalls in making the transition.
  • Be supportive but resist the temptation to baby your child if he/she experiences a fall.
  • If a parent is not in great physical shape, one might want to hold off a few months before purchasing a bike for one’s child. The parent will need to build cardiovascular endurance. A parent needs to be able to run, sometimes quickly, in order to keep up with one’s child. Once the child attains proficiency riding, a parent can choose to bike ride with one’s child as well.
  • Make sure to pack along your sense of humor on each riding adventure.
  • Expect the unexpected.

Additional Information:

The bicycle I chose for my child is the 2010 Raleigh MXR Mini – Read the details about this bicycle on their site.

I purchased the bike from a wonderful privately owned Bike shop called Danny’s Cycles.

  • MB

    Great story and a life long memory for you.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks MB. Just one of those days reminding me of why it’s great to be a Dad.

  • My oldest boy couldn’t even figure out the trike. He went straight to bike (at age 3-ish, with training wheels — he’s no bike riding prodigy). I don’t remember riding a tricycle myself when I was a little kid. Now I know why, trikes suck!

    As far as the advice on buying the bike is concerned, I have a different view. Buy a bike at a garage sale. He will outgrow the first bike in a year or two, he’s going to smash the poop out of it, and he might not even like it after awhile. If you only paid $10 for it, it’s not going to make you sad to see him want a different bike, a faster bike, one with brakes on the handlebars, etc.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your comment Perfect Dad. Getting a used bike is certainly another option. As long as the bike’s in good condition and given a good once over by a reputable bike shop it may prove to be a real value too.

  • Gee, Vincent, I never took off the training wheels…on my bike! Lol. Great points. It’s so hard for parents to allow their kids to fail when they can “save” them and yet it’s SO DARN important that they learn these things on their own! Good post! Thanks.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for writing in Bruce. Always enjoy your point of view.

  • Love it! Letting our children fall (in many aspects of life!) is one of the hardest, yet most beneficial, parts of parenthood.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your thoughts Nancy.  I agree, letting our children fall (or fail for that matter) is tough for both parents and kids but provides tremendous potential for growth.