Speed & Steering Control
Stopping is a critical skill, and speed and steering control are just as important. For your rider’s sake, and your own sake, knowing how to control where and how fast the bike is moving will help build confidence and skill. These drills are intended to be practiced without pedals, but we will revisit them once your rider is on pedals.
Step 1: Set up a slow-zone and have your rider practice slowing down using their brakes. Introduce slow figure–8s and zig zag turns.
Step 2: Setup a full obstacle course including figure–8 and zig zags. Have your rider start to increase and decrease their speed within the course. Encourage eye focus and spotting.
Step 3: Introduce your rider to cornering and steering on a small slope, challenge them to try to control their speed and make their turns without using their feet.
Your rider can control their speed while gliding and slow down without stopping even on a slope.
Your ride can demonstrate the ability to spot with their eyes on corners and steering.
Your rider has started to lean into the corners and can make their turns without putting their feet down.
Slow and Go: This progression is all about coordination of balance, steering, and braking and goes beyond the “squeeze, feet down” skill to introduce braking without stopping.
Setup an obstacle course with a slow-zone. Have your rider practice gliding through the obstacle course and when approaching the slow-zone lightly squeeze the brakes to slow down. When they reach the end of the slow-zone, they can return to their normal speed by pushing off with their feet.
Challenge them to see how slow they can go in the slow-zone without stopping or putting their feet down. This will help them learn slowing control and steering to balance while in motion.
Figure–8s: The next two drills introduce fine motor steering and cornering dynamics as well as target spotting and eye focus.
Set up a large figure–8 course (see PDF for format), have your rider glide through the figure–8 pattern and challenge them to use their feet only in the middle part, not during the turn. Ideally, they will begin using their body weight to lean into the turn rather than depending just on the handlebars.
To help guide them through the turn, as they approach the apex of the turn, instruct them to spot the other side of the course with their eyes. They should look toward the exit of the turn as they are approaching the halfway point. This will help them learn to focus forward and therefore have better balance and control.
You can make the figure–8 a bit more challenging by shrinking the size of the course and seeing how fast they can go without putting their feet down in the turn.
Once your rider can corner without needing to put their feet down, introduce this drill on a very small slope and remind them to practice their slowing skills. They should slow down prior to entering the turn.
Zig Zag Turns: Similar to the figure–8 drill, zig zag turns help teach body control and steering dynamics.
Setup a series of cones or toys in a straight line (see PDF for format), have your rider zig-zag steer between the objects without touching them. The closer they are, the harder the challenge.
Reinforce their eye focus by encouraging them to look ahead to the next 2 objects, rather than the object right in front of them.
Combine this drill with the figure–8s, or in an obstacle course to practice their full range of skills including slowing, stopping, and controlled dismounts. (See PDF for a course format.)
Prior to moving to the next lesson your rider should be able to confidently demonstrate the following skills. If they cannot confidently demonstrate these skills yet, continue practicing the previous lessons until they are:
Can demonstrate the ABC Safety Check without assistance and verbally describe each step.
Can demonstrate controlled mounting and dismounting including emergency dismount or “falling with style” on both sides. Can walk their bike across a crosswalk and around objects or people.
Glide for 5-10 seconds without needing to put their feet down. Can push using alternating feet as well as both feet at the same time.
Can control their speed using their brakes including slowing down and stopping.
Can steer confidently and controllably around an obstacle course that includes figure–8 corners, zig zag turns, and at various speeds.
Has expressed excitement about learning to ride with pedals. ** This is critical. If they are anxious or not interested in riding on their own, it may hinder their ability to learn or work through challenges, particularly if they experience a fall.**