Unsupported Riding

This week we are focused on practicing unsupported riding and using the skills we learned in the previous lessons to ride safely. These lesson may be a challenge for some riders, if it is, congratulate them for how far they have come and how hard they’ve practiced. Continue to practice the part 2 skills every day or every other day to build their proficiency and encourage them to keep practicing.

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Progression:

  • Step 1: Practice “one, two, three, feet up!” with their pedals. Encourage them to try to make a few pedal circles before they put their feet back down.

  • Step 2: Have them practice braking using the “squeeze, feet down” method, this time moving their feet from the pedals to the ground.

  • Step 3: Set up an obstacle course and challenge them to pedal around within the course.

PROFICIENCY Test:

  • Your rider should be able to start, stop, and pedal around an obstacle course on their own.

One, two, three, feet up!: Continue practicing gliding with the pedals installed and having them push off with two feet, three times before placing their feet on the pedals. Riding with their feet up on the pedals will be far more comfortable with them than trying to glide with their pedals installed and may encourage pedaling on their own.

Some riders may naturally pick up using one foot to push down on the pedal as the other foot pushes off the ground. This is a more intermediate starting technique and can be used if preferred. If your rider is struggling to start pedaling on their own, however, we advise using the three pushes technique.

Note: It may be tempting to try to physically support your rider by pushing them or holding them while they are starting to move. While we don’t advise doing this for most riders, if you feel it would be beneficial, please see our providing physical support guide for the proper technique.

Braking – “Squeeze, feet down”: As your rider is starting to pick up on how to ride on their own, we want to remind them how to slow down and stop. Once they have demonstrated the ability to ride for 10-15 seconds on their own, have them practice braking using the “squeeze, feet down” command.

Obstacle Course: Once your rider can ride around for 20-30 seconds and demonstrate safe braking, it’s time to challenge them to an obstacle course. Have them practice steering around objects and starting/stopping.

 

Common Issues

The following lists solutions to some of the most common challenges we see with riders learning to ride on their own. If you are experiencing a persistent issue that is not listed, please submit a help request using this form.

My rider can’t seem to get enough momentum to start pedaling: A certain level of momentum is required to give your rider enough time to move their feet to their pedals and start pedaling, if you feel they aren’t getting enough momentum to do this, try having them start on a very gradual slope. If they are still struggling, check out our providing physical support guide.

My rider is too nervous to ride unsupported with pedals: This is typically a sign that your rider does not have enough self–confidence to feel like they can ride on their own. If this is the case, keep practicing the skills in part 2 and encouraging them to keep trying. Show them how far they’ve progressed by taking a video of them while they are gliding. If you feel like they just need a little push, check out our providing physical support guide.

My rider keeps trying to pedal backwards rather than forward: This is common for young riders who are excited to ride. The best way to fix this issue is by showing them how the pedals work. Show them that just like walking, pushing their feet forward and down makes you move forward. Have them use their hands to move the cranks forward as you lift the back wheel off the ground.

My rider is loosing balance because they are leaning to one side or the other: This is a common issue for riders who have bikes that are slightly too large, are placing too much weight on their handlebars, who don’t have a lot of core strength, or who have started learning with physical resistance (either stabilizers/training wheels or physical support/holding).

To fix this issue, have your rider practice sitting up tall on the bike, this will help them engage their core help them balance over their weight, not on their hands/handlebars. Have them practice the drills in part 2 while trying to stay up tall.

My rider is very wobbly and will start pedaling, but can’t keep the bike moving in a straight line causing them to lose balance: Similar to the issue above, this is usually caused by a weight and strength imbalance, whether from your rider putting too much weight on their handlebars, or not sitting up tall. It could also be caused by your rider trying to push too hard on their feet resulting in a pulling motion with their hands or shoulders.

To fix this issue, have your rider practice sitting up tall on the bike, this will help them engage their core help them balance over their weight, not on their hands/handlebars. Remind them to look or spot where they are trying to travel. Set up an object at the end of the riding area that they can aim toward.

My rider keeps looking down at their feet or everywhere except where they are moving, causing them to run into objects or crash: Some riders, especially younger ones, may still be developing their sense of proprioception (or body awareness) and will tend to try to look to see where their feet are, rather than feeling where they are. If so, have them practice finding their pedals from a stationary position like in lesson 6. Then, when they start trying to ride again, have them start spotting object in the distance that they can aim for.

My rider skids out when trying to stop: This can be a scary issue for both the rider and parent/adult. This is nearly always caused by the rider squeezing the brakes too quickly. If this happens, have them practice the “squeeze, feet down” drill and remind them that squeezing with their hands should take as long as it takes them to say the word squeeze. If needed, help them with the timing by squeezing lightly on their hands on the brakes as you both say squeeze. Also remind them that their two first fingers should always be on the brake levers and the brakes should be used at the same time and evenly.

My rider is riding independently, but is frequently out of control (too fast, too erratic): This usually occurs when riders are both very excited to ride and also naturally athletic or strong, but it can be concerning for parents. If your rider is riding out of control it’s time to start teaching them the part 4 lessons and helping them stay in control by setting up an obstacle course that facilitates control.