What price freedom?
While working on my bike in a DIY workshop, I overhear a customer speaking to the mechanic about his child’s bike. Can you fit stabilisers? he asks. I cringe. Stabilisers are the cycling instructor’s nemesis. They are an anti-teaching tool – how not to allow your child to learn the one thing that is essential in being able to ride a bike: balance.
The American name, ‘training wheels’, is wholly misleading – it trains nothing other than pedalling motion, which on its own doesn’t constitute riding a bike. Time and again I have adult clients who, in their second or third decade, have not learned to ride a bicycle because their parents were too cautious to remove the stabilisers. It’s a false picture of safety, the desire for the child not to fall; a bicycle can still tip over even with stabilisers, and the only way to truly prevent your child from falling is to teach them how to balance. Stabilisers might delay the falling stage, but they will have to learn eventually, and learning is arguably harder if they have relied on two extra wheels to be able to ride.
The mechanic doesn’t have any stabilisers to hand, and asks the customer to come back when he’s had a look. He could just teach his kid to ride a bike instead, I suggest. The stabilisers, it transpires are £40. Forty quid! In that moment it becomes more than just the concept of being able to ride a bike. It suddenly has a price tag on it. He should save himself the cash and take his kid to the park. For £40 (or for free if you live in London) you can even hire someone to teach your child how to ride. And by that you will be giving them a gift that is worth far more than a pair of plastic wheels: enjoyment, empowerment and a low-cost form of transport they can use for the rest of their life. The gift of freedom.
For advice on how to teach your child (or anyone) to ride a bike, see this post