One of the iconic Dad moments is teaching your kid to ride a bike. You can all picture it clear as day – little kid all wobbly on their little bike, dad running next to them holding on, kid telling dad not to let go, and dad lying to them telling them that he won’t. A classic right of passage for kid and parent alike. A tradition as old as bikes. I imagine sepia toned scene in which a young father with a handlebar mustache running beside his knicker-clad child as they try not to take a header off one of those giant front wheel bikes. Well, this is one tradition I have no interesting in maintaining.
Right now my kids are little and in the tricycle and training wheels phases of bike riding. This means they spend roughly as much time getting their helmets on as they do actually riding their bikes. Most of the times they ride their bikes ends about three houses down the street when they either fall over or just give up because its too hard to ride the bike over a stick, an ant hill, or the crack in the sidewalk. Either way, it ends with me carrying the bike back home while they cry.
For my younger daughter, the one exception to this is when she did manage to ride her tricycle all the way around the block. It took roughly three hours. My older daughter has been able to go multiple blocks, but no ride has ever been successfully completed. At some point she falls, almost falls, or forgets how to stop, panics, and ends up taking a pedal to the shin. Any combination of these end in tears, and me carrying the bike home. I get that they are young and they are just learning, but this also means that they are not yet committed to it. Now would be the time to pull the plug and go bike-free. I am seriously considering it. Here’s why.
Bike Riding Is Not a Valuable Life Skill
Kid’s minds are like little sponges. They can learn pretty much anything, so why waste the time and effort on teaching them to ride a bike. Take the time you would have used waiting for them to skin their knee and come back crying and use it on teaching them another language. Bi-lingual employees can increase their base pay by 20% more per hour than those that only speak one language, even if the person that only speaks one language had a really sweet Mongoose when they were 12. Studies on pay rates compared to whether or not somebody’s bike had pegs are inconclusive.
Or a musical instrument. Kids that play a musical instrument tend to do better academically, and helps them regulate their emotions. No official word on the academic performance or emotional intelligence of kids who took their bikes off sick jumps.
I have wanted to get my kids a Power Wheels Jeep from the minute my first kid was born. At that time my wife’s argument against it was that they can’t even hold their heads up yet. Valid point. Her argument against it now is that she fears they will just want to drive that and won’t want to learn to ride a bike. Which is a valid point for getting the Power Wheels Jeep. Driving a car is a much more important skill to master than riding a bike, why not get a jump on it early? And it is a skill they were use longer too. My oldest daughter is almost five, so even if she masters the bike tomorrow she has about a 10 year window for prime bike riding. She’ll get use of her skills behind the wheel for 50 or 60 years. So yes, I’d rather spend a few hours showing my kid how to drive a plastic car than spend months showing them how to ride a bike. That’s just basic ROI.
Bike Riding Is Not Great Exercise
I know what you’re thinking, kids need to be outside and be active and riding a bike is a great way to do that. I agree with almost all of that. Yes, kids need to be active, I totally agree. However, bike riding is not a great way to do that. If we look at it as purely a means of exercise, it is not as good as running. So I’d rather my kids run around in the yard playing tag or soccer or whatever than ride a bike. Or better yet, go jogging with me. They are a little young now to keep up, but they have already shown an interest in it. When they get older that could be a great time for some father-kid bonding, and a better workout than riding a bike. Also, little to no learning curve. One foot in front of the other and don’t trip, sticks or ant hills or cracks in the sidewalk be damned!
I also understand the counter argument of bike riding being a way to add exercise into transportation. For me, if something is close enough where I want to add exercise to the equation of me getting from point A to point B, just walk. I’ve walked an 8 mile round trip to the brewery. Got my exercise in and didn’t have to worry about operating any machinery under the influence. Win-win. If it is so far that walking isn’t an option, then drive. Time is a limited resource, so if you’ve got some place to get to, don’t waste it pedaling.
Bike Riding Is Not Actually Fun
A family out for a bike ride looks like a pure family fun, right? Or is it a row of people looking at the butt of the person in front of them? No conversions are had on bike rides. No skipping, hopping, or pretending to waddle like a penguin can be done on a bike ride. No stopping to pick flowers or pick up a cool looking rock. That is what kids find fun, that is family bonding. Look at the joy on a kid’s face when they pick up a really big pine cone on a walk. You want to rob them of that? How dare you.
Wouldn’t it be fun to take bikes with us when we go on a trip? In a word, no. Not only more to pack, but this also adds the element of bike rack and trailer hitch to situation. So now you’ve bought bikes for everybody in the family and additional hardware for your car all in the name of getting a sore ass while you’re on vacation. Pass.
Like most things with little kids, I am sure bike riding will get easier. They will learn eventually, and they might even be able to make it around the block a few times without bleeding or crying. But is the frustration for everybody between that point and now worth it? My gut says it absolutely is not, but we’ll do it anyway. All because in 1874 some schmuck with a handlebar mustache ran down the dirt road next to his kid on a ridiculous bike and everybody went “awwwww.” Thanks jerk.