This morning I dragged my family out of our Daylight Savings Time confusion into the ultra foggy morning. I love fog—it's so quintessentially Bay Area—and I love the way it makes everything feel slow and suspended. This morning, though, I was in a hurry: I wanted to get to the learn-to-ride workshop hosted by Family Bike Collective at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School (my dad's alma mater!) before we were obliged to turn back for Dino's naptime.
"Training Wheel Liberation" is a monthly learn-to-ride workshop aimed at kids from 18 months and up. Family Bike Collective, a non-profit affiliated with Spokes Bike Lounge in North Berkeley, dedicated "to getting children on bikes that match their sizes, personalities and lifestyles." Because kids grow so fast, it's impractical to buy a new bike every time they grow. Too many kids ride bikes that are ill-suited for them, and FBC combats this trend by providing educational events and offering memberships that allow for trade-ins and size-ups as needed.
FBC, and many other bike advocacy organizations, discourages training wheels for novice cyclists. Training wheels slow down a rider and more importantly, counteract our instincts to balance by allowing the rider to rest the weight of the bike on the training wheel, instead of cycling at adequate speed to maintain a natural balance point. I learned about this method of teaching through Chris, who volunteered with Bike New York's adult learn-to-ride workshops. The method involves removing a bike's pedals and lowering the seat far enough that the rider's feet can rest comfortably on the ground. The rider then strides on the bike in order to practice balancing with speed (the faster you move, the easier it is to balance). When the rider gains confidence, the pedals are replaced, and eventually, the seat is raised up to its proper height. With that, a new cyclist is made! It sounds too good to be true, but it works on tiny tots and grown ups alike. It's amazingly fast and effective: I've personally seen the most stubborn "I can't ride a bike!" adults turn into savvy city cyclists with this method.
We had a great time at MLK Middle School getting Dino set up on the smallest, 12-inch balance bike. He's still a bit too short to stride on it, but he gained valuable experience on the bike nonetheless. We also got the opportunity to meet other cycling families and talk with the instructors and founders of Family Bike Collective—when they weren't busy coaching toddlers and 'tweens on two wheels.
The monthly workshop is free and it's a fantastic way to test ride an impressive array of kid's bike equipment. The next "Training Wheel Liberation" is on Sunday, April 8th from 9am-12pm at MLK Middle School. You can learn more about Family Bike Collective on their website.