When working with children in our learn to ride lessons it is often the case that I’m teaching a child aged 5-8 yo and for the majority they are open to learning new experiences – as this is what most of their life is about. Yet when I am asked to teach children 10+ it’s when I see children at their ‘rawest’ for kids at this age ‘know that they can’t ride’ and in their opinion this is something they will never be able to do.
Then they meet Ride-a-Bike Right instructors.
Last week, we started our 4wk cycling skills program at a Hills school, across years 2-4. I was taking the Learn to Ride children for their skills development, and in a Yr 3/4 class there were 5 boys and 3 girls with me developing their balance skills.
One lad, about 10yo was clearly thinking, ‘phhhffft why do we need to learn to ride’. Off I sent them to gain their balance – all at varying degrees to developing ability. I could see however that this 10yo-Lad was going really well and had in fact ‘got it’ and soon enough after a few clear instructions from me, he was pedalling around, albeit shaky. While assisting him to take off his training wheels his bike I was able to talk to him about the appropriateness of it and passed on a message to his family to contact me to discuss a suitable bike for him now that he could ride. (They called, thrilled he could ride and so happy to learn what to look for in a new bike)
When we go back into a school on subsequent week we like to spend a bit of additional time with those who got off training wheel from the previous week, to ensure that they are confident enough to go up to the Riding Group. I asked 10yo-Lad to come out to practise; fitting him out with a 24” bike that was much more suitable than his 20” ‘trickster’ BMX (I don’t know how one could imagine a child could do tricks on such a tank!) So off he headed pedalling, to master cornering and braking on a bigger bike.
I noticed he wasn’t doing the best at corners (he continually slowed to a stop at the apex and walked it around the corner); following a demonstration, he could identify what he needed to do, yet in practise he wasn’t able to perform it.
I rolled over on my bike to have a quiet word with him; ‘I just can’t do that corner; its not working’, he said. I asked: If I could ‘give’ him something to ensure he could make it round what did he think was the missing bit. His answer was ‘speed I think if I went faster…’
While I could see that speed would help him, I knew that wasn’t it. I replied: “Speed hey… yeah well I think it’s something bigger; I think you are missing ‘heart’. I can’t see that you really want this and believe you can … I know you can but it’s you who has to believe’.
I left him to practise for a few more laps, and then suggested he head back to class, but that I would see him in the afternoon for his class’ lesson.
Both recess and lunch time came and went, and 10yo Lad’s class was ready. I asked him to collect his bike while I sorted out the other learners from his class (4 boys 3 girls remaining). From the corner of my eye I could see 10yo Lad start riding with a good power position, pedal, ride the corner, follow it through and head to the other end of the course. Cool – he’s finally got it. After a few more minutes I rolled over to him (I use a bike to get around at school as walking is just not a as fun!) ‘Hey mate – you are doing really well, you can go up to the riding group now. How’s that feel?’ –
‘Yeah good; you know what you said about not having Heart when I rode, well I went back to class after thought about it, and yeah what you said made sense: I didn’t have it. Now it feels so much better and easier.’
You could have knocked me over with a feather – to have such insight at his age and ability to recognise it is awesome.
At Ride-a-Bike Right with our specialised instruction we are able to address learners individually, to work out what will flick the switch – finding out what the trigger for each learner is part of the cyclolgy of cycling.