We heard recently about a new initiative to get children under 6 riding bikes. Great! We’re all for promoting riding and encouraging kids to explore and discover the world on two wheels. And we are avid believers that a balance bike should be a key part of every child’s development from the moment they can walk. Cycling is one of those skills that transcends age, size, ability – if you get on a balance bike at 2 or 3 you’ll be set for a life on two wheels. No exceptions, every child can do it. But the more we looked into these ‘courses’, the more we were confused by the concept.
‘Balanceability’ – a pre-cursor to ‘Bikeability’, the modern day Cycling Proficiency – is designed to be run in conjunction with schools and leisure centres. The idea is that you sign your child up to a 6 week course at the local sports hall and they teach you how to ride a balance bike. Now forgive me for sounding slightly negative about this very worthy initiative, but there are 2 question marks here. 1) why would it take 6 weeks to ‘teach’ a child to ride a balance bike? They are designed with simplicity at the core, using the child’s natural gross motor skills. There is very little to teach, in the same way that you don’t really teach your child to run once he can walk. It’s kind of a natural progression. And more importantly, 2) why do all this inside?
It’s a confusing one. Anything that converts parents to the joys and benefits of the balance bike should be supported and promoted. But cycling is enjoyed best out in the open air, through the woods, on the way to nursery, down the hill at the park, to the post office, along the boardwalk at the beach, through the local market – it’s an outside activity. It’s about more than the physical act of balancing. It’s about exploring, it’s about discovering the world, it’s about the feeling of the wind in your hair and the bumps on the road. It’s about family and racing your brother and sister to the swings. It’s about getting out there and doing it. Doesn’t that sound so much more enjoyable than 45 minutes in a sports hall once a week?
So, if you want to encourage your children to ride, buy them a balance bike and use it every time you go out.