Pedal or push?
March 29, 2008 10:35 AM   Subscribe

What do I do when my kid has outgrown his balance bike but doesn't want to pedal yet?

We have the Target knockoff of a LikeABike. It's basically a heavy wooden 12" bike with no pedals or chain. My four-year-old is too big for it, but not yet coordinated enough to pedal his 16" big-boy bike.

He's a pro at the balance bike, cruising all over our yard and driveway, easily coasting for at least 30' at a clip. But put him on the 16" bike (with training wheels) and he's a wreck. He either tries to pedal, but doesn't have the strength to keep the pedals going, or he coasts like he does on the little bike, but I think he feels a little more top-heavy than he's used to, probably just enough to make him feel unable to stop efficiently. He's used to really stopping on a dime, Flintstone-style, on the little balance bike.

What should I do to make this experience less traumatic? I'd like to just take off the pedals and training wheels on the bigger bike, but I'm not sure how far to go? Cranks off? Chain? Sprocket? I'm not a bike mechanic, but I am mechanically inclined, so I feel somewhat confident in my ability, at least to DISassemble. I'm more worried that I won't be able to get it all back together when he does want to pedal.

Or should I leave the pedals on and just wait for him to "get it"? I'd say the strength to pedal is quite a ways off at this point, and I don't really get the point (nor do I think he does) when he can go as fast as he wants without pedalling.
posted by iscatter to Grab Bag (11 answers total)
Maybe you cold swap the rear cog out for a larger one? This would make the bike geared lower and easier to pedal. Probably beyond what you could do at home without bike specific tools, but a local bike shop should be able to do that quickly and rather cheaply. Might be worth checking into.
posted by entropic at 10:46 AM on March 29, 2008

Put him on the bike with training wheels and encourage (bribe) him to ride it.

With my daughters, I put them on the bike a pushed them around until they were more confident on the 'big bike'.

At 4, it's not a coordination issue, it's a confidence issue.
posted by Argyle at 10:47 AM on March 29, 2008

If the rotational range of the pedals is too large, it can be difficult for a little child to work them. A 16" bike can be on the largish side depending upon the size of your 4 year old. My kids were on their 12" bikes with training wheels for a while. I let them decide when they wanted to start out on their own. In order to make the experience more gradual, I eventually just raised the training wheels until they were only providing support instead of balance.
Good luck!
posted by mcarthey at 11:11 AM on March 29, 2008

I read this trick somewhere, and it works great.

On a kid bike:

- lower the seat all the way
- remove the pedals (not the cranks - just the pedals)

Now the kid can scoot along with their feet comfortably on the ground. As the do so, they'll naturally work on balance and they'll have no fear because they know they can put their feet down. After a day or two of this, they'll be scooting and lifting their feet and hey, look, they're coasting and balanced without training wheels.

Then you can put the pedals back on and they can work on that skill separately.
posted by zippy at 11:33 AM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

By the way, removing the pedals is easy. Get a pedal wrench and work on the bolt-thing between the pedal and the crank. I believe one of the bolts turns counter-clockwise, and the other turns clockwise.
posted by zippy at 11:40 AM on March 29, 2008

Response by poster: zippy, that's what we were planning. I'm just wondering whether the cranks get in the way?
posted by iscatter at 11:41 AM on March 29, 2008

I'd suggest taking the cranks off - they'll be more of a hindrance for riding than you'd think. You ought to be able to get a bike shop to do it pretty cheaply. I would also suggest you think about getting the bike at a local shop (if you are buying new). They will be surprisingly competetive and you might convince them to take off and, eventually, reattach the crankset for free.
posted by jmgorman at 12:18 PM on March 29, 2008

When removing pedals, you'll turn the wrench towards the rear tire. So the right pedal is "righty tighty, lefty loosey" but it's opposite for the left pedal.

I think if you want to turn your 16" bike into a like-a-bike, removing the pedals and training wheels would be enough. If you post a pic of the pedals and cranks, we could advise you if you wanted to go further. Most pedals take a 15mm wrench, or a 6mm allen wrench on the back side of the pedal, but on a kids bike this could be different.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:20 PM on March 29, 2008

Pedals off - yes. Cranks off - no!

Taking the cranls off an adult bike is only moderately difficult. Taking them off a kid's bike is a ridiculously complicated task (one-piece crank, bottom bracket, chainguard, etc.)
posted by Rafaelloello at 1:49 PM on March 29, 2008

Re: the confidence issue, once he sees his friends on "big-kid" bikes he'll be more likely to try his own bigger bike.
posted by Brittanie at 2:53 PM on March 29, 2008

rrange for him to hand out with some 4-year-olds who are riding two wheelers. Peer pressure is more effective than daddy pressure. Also I agree that the 16" might be a bit big, could you borrow a 12" bike or pick one up at a thrift store for him to use for a couple of months?
posted by LarryC at 3:47 PM on March 29, 2008

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