Saturday, March 08, 2008

A father's chronicles (Learning to ride a bicycle on two wheels)

I should have written this in late January, or was it in February.... in any case, the time dragging part of me won the better side of my being.

I did write on a post previously on teaching Theophilus how to ride a bicycle. I often wonder how we "magically" learn how to ride a bike. It is a strange thing. How to start? Where to start? For me as an engineer by profession, I have the evil tendency to sit by the side of the road. Dig out the Bike's User Manual. Read from page one, and until the point I get too bored and then locate the index page or content page, and zoom in to the specifics... perhaps - Which direction should your bike be facing while you peddle forward? in the FAQ section. OK OK common sense (some call it cow-sense or horse sense is not that common, OK?)

Anyway, credit really have to go to Yan. She has determination that surpass mine in teaching the boy how to ride a bicycle. We have two different approaches: I usually hold the handle of the bike while the boy rides on and I will let it loosen as the days goes by. While, she does it differently. She holds the back of his bike, allowing him to freely handle the bike (which can swing from left to right and back to left again... you know? How first timers does it?). There are many times, I sit by the side of the pavement and watch how she does it (and yes, mock at the idea and methodology of it all). I think it is a human thing to always think YOUR method is THE method. Anyway, I now know that it was wise of me to marry her! And [her] wisdom have a way to mock at [my] folly.

OK OK OK... the bottom line is: Her method works better (at least on Theophilus).

Shorting of writing a manual or an Idiot's guide on "How to teach your child riding a bicycle". I am giving out some pointers from the lessons that I have learn from the entire episode:

1. Gravity is still switched on.

Yes, your child will fall off the bike. So, don't get too stressed out over that. I put this as the FIRST pointer because well... to be honest... I often felt Singaporean parents tend to get too upset over the bruises and scratches that comes along as a learning fee to how to ride on a bike.

One way to minimize the bruises or cuts is to wear gears. Theophilus was wearing them initially, but along the way felt they are very uncomfortable and getting into the way of things.

It is natural to get bruise. It is part of the learning. It is part of the cost to learning. And I must say... unless you get really hurt... the price is a small price for a skill of a lifetime!

2. I recommend that you hold the hind of the bike and not the handles.

This is something that came out of the lessons of Yan. And I must admit that it is more effective. Just ask the kid to peddle and waggle the handle (never mind of that). Hold the back of the bike for balancing and control... but let him control the bike.

I must say it is a back-breaking experience. So a little warning here.... because their bike is a little small and lower than our adult ones... we need to bend over to hold the hind of the bike... and you are running or walking fast with your back bent... for some period of time, and it is painful after some time - believe me, it will take more time than you anticipated and your back will tell you so.

3. Go to an open space to train

We started out lessons in a pavement at the sidewalks. Naturally, this is one of the more challenging places to learn and to teach. Why? Because he got to maneuver in a rather rigid straight line. So, forget it. Go for a big open area. Maybe a basket ball court?

For us, we went to the highest level of a multi-storey car park. Yup, we carried his bicycle (with water bottles and such) up to level M (or was it M?... ok, many many levels up).

Teaching him there is easier, and when he finally master the basics, he has a lot of room to really move around and execute turns and bends and try out foolish stuns.

If you trying out on the top level of a multi-storey car park - do still be on the lookout for cars. We teach him in the mid-morning, so there is very few cars coming up.

Now, some photos.

Evidence that Mommy carried the bicycle up and down the flights of steps.

Now, some evidence that Theophilus is really brave and determine to learn how to ride on a two wheeler. Falling is a common experience in the beginning.... you have to respect gravity - it is a good teacher.

Victory comes only many attempts of working on a problem. It is a basic principle of life - only tough people last, tough situation won't.

You should see the satisfaction on his face whenever he sees someone older than him riding on 4 wheels now...

Since then, we have many sessions riding as a family together. Gracia is riding with me, of course.... it is a very nice family experience.