Welcome to Chain Gang, our new weekly bike blog– your guide to Bay Area bike culture and happenings, and news.
Think back to when you learned to ride a bike, maybe the first time you successfully raced down the street on your BMX (mine was fluorescent pink) or a big banana seat Schwinn. Now go back even earlier, to the arduous process of learning to ride. For most of us, that involved months of clunky training wheels, which were really nothing more than glorified shopping cart wheels that rattled along behind us. Not so anymore. Training wheels have gone the way of…well, banana seat bikes.
Kids are now learning to ride faster, easier, and more natural without training wheels…or pedals. No pedals means kids use their own legs to glide down the street, and learn the toughest part of biking—balance—the first time they sit on a saddle. When they’re ready, you easily introduce them to pedals, and since they already have the balance and confidence and it’s just a matter of putting feet to pedals and riding.
There’s a whole array of pedal-less or “balance” bikes on the market, including some really designy like the wooden Skuut, which looks like it was pulled from the pages of an IKEA catalog. But you can also just take an existing bike, remove the pedals, and lower the seat. Best part about it is that adults can learn to ride the same way.
Not sure where to teach your tot (or yourself) to ride? Sunday Streets is happening this week and next. With open, carless roads and a gorgeous sunny forecast, it’s a great time to teach your kiddo to ride.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition offers free “Freedom From Training Wheels” classes at Sunday Streets from 11-3 pm, where instructors help kids as young as three learn to ride. If you have a bike, bring it and they’ll take off the pedals for you. If not, the SF Bicycle Coalition has a few balance bikes to share. This week’s Sunday Streets is Western Edition (classes at Grove and Baker), and next week is Chinatown. Though Chinatown is a bike-free Sunday Streets, they’re still running the Freedom From Training Wheel sessions.
So this Sunday, bring your kid, a bike if you have it, and leave those training wheels at home. Heck, maybe it’s even time to dust off that pink BMX or old Schwinn. After all, retro is in. Training wheels are out.
Kristin Smith started riding bikes at 3-years-old and hasn't stopped since then. A long time rider, racer and commuter, Kristin has spent the last five years writing about San Francisco's active bike culture. She is the newly appointed Communications Director for the SF Bicycle Coalition.