Wowsers, what a bank holiday that was. We had sun, we had Monday off, we went to the beach, we wore sunglasses, we got invited to a barbecue, we managed two 270-mile car journeys without a single toddler temper tantrum and, to top it all off, we took our little man for his first big bike ride.
I’m not sure how I expected this rite of passage to play out, but if you guessed “proud dad puffing out his chest while his ultra-talented offspring rides off into the sunset with stellar technique, perfect balance, a clear idea of where the pavement ends and the road begins and a gigantic grin on his face”, then you would not be too far off.
Sadly, my expectations were spectacularly wide of the mark. Happily, the 15-minute emotional roller coaster that actually ensued enabled me to make this hilarious and informative (if not particularly well-designed) Power Point slide.
The gory details
No way. Was it really as chaotic as that? In a word, yes. But, on the plus side…
- No-one got hurt, everybody is still friends and the world is still turning.
- The bubster has a hand-me-down Islabikes balance bike, which is extremely light and thus easy to lift and carry (yes, even if you’re also lugging a 15kg toddler around).
- My wife and I learned a few lessons that will definitely benefit us in the future and may help you when you’re taking your toddler on his or her first bike ride.
You’re better off alone
In theory, adding my 7-year-old niece and 9-year-old nephew the ‘bubster’s first bike ride’ team sheet made sense for the following reasons. First, he would surely want to keep up with the cousins he idolises. Second, they were small enough to demonstrate how to safely get on the bike and ride it. Third, like all young kids, he usually goes out of his way to impress the big boys and girls.
In hindsight, inviting them resulted in more problems than solutions. First, they quickly got bored of waiting for the bubster to get moving. Second, the little man wasn’t a big fan of sharing his bike (see Power Point slide). Third, my son swiftly realised that the easiest way of keeping up with his cousins was by being carried in his mummy’s arms. Fourth, at one point my nephew got on the bike and did a wheelie. Fair play, it was impressive, but now it’s ALL my son wants to do.
Conclusion? Extra people result in extra distractions, so make sure you keep the guest list for your toddler’s first bike ride as low as you possibly can.
Go big, but not too big
Sure, the main reason the bubster was unable to get up a head of steam was the fact that he kept downing tools and demanding to be picked up. But the fact our chosen route featured three road crossings, a handful of dogs being walked and a gate didn’t help. Subsequently, my top tip for parents planning their kid’s first big bike ride would be to do it off-road on a fairly long, quiet, straight and flat track or path.
Don’t expect too much
We’d all love our kid to nail their first bike ride by zooming off like a young Dame Laura Kenny or Sir Chris Hoy, but let’s face facts. Toddlers are a fickle species that can be sent into meltdown by a slightly discoloured blueberry, a scarcely too cold shower or a moderately overfilled sippy cup.
Thus when you take yours out for their first bike ride they are just as likely to refuse to put their helmet on as they are to perform as well as they have been doing in the garden. Really? Yes, really. And since there is nothing you can do about it, there’s no point in getting upset, stressed or disappointed. Instead, simply go out there, take a deep breath, suck your tummy in (there’s bound to be photos) and enjoy the ride. Or not, as the case may be.