Born to Ride: How to Grow a Rider

Sep 12, 2017 View Comments by

As a parent, I want the best for my child. I want to offer her the opportunity to explore all that life has to offer. So when she first showed an interest in riding motorcycles, I began scouring the internet for options and opinions on what might be the best “first” bike. With a short list in hand, I turned to craigslist, and by the following weekend one lightly used Yamaha PW50 was added to the stable.

Learning to Fly
My wife Kris and I are both riders, and truth be told I was looking forward to the day my daughter first threw a leg over the saddle of a motorbike, knowing I had done what I could to prepare her for the possibility. For her first birthday, she was given a YBike balance bike. This all-plastic bike is freestanding and recommended for ages two and up. Alli, who is tall for her age, immediately jumped on and just as quickly fell over. At first, she was a bit discouraged, but after a few days she was scooting around the house, and within a few weeks, around the neighborhood. By age two, she had all but worn out the large plastic tires on the YBike and was ready for something a little more challenging. Enter the Strider balance bike.

With its steel frame and adjustable seat, the Strider proved to be the perfect next step. While the YBike stands freely on its own, the Strider does not, but after a few “oopsies” Alli managed to get the hang of it. Soon she was out patrolling the sidewalks and park near our house. Fast-forward another year and she was on her first pedal bike, putting on what she called “stunt shows” for anyone willing to pay admission.

It’s safe to say both the YBike and the Strider were key to her achieving the skills and confidence to begin riding a pedal-powered two-wheeler (sans training wheels) right out of the gate. It didn’t take long before she began to ask when she could “put a motor on her bike.”

Birds of a Feather
Shortly before Allison’s fourth birthday, we paid a visit to a nearby motocross park that has a Pee-Wee course. I thought it might be a good idea to let her see other kids riding. There we met a couple with three children, ages four through nine, all of who were on the track that day practicing. Not sure what my daughter’s reaction to seeing and meeting these young riders would be, I asked her what she thought. Without hesitation she said, “I think I can beat them.”

Upon returning home, we spent some time with her motorcycle, explaining how the controls on the clutchless PW50 work, and discussing the different parts of the bike and the importance of safety. She sat mostly silent before asking, “Can I just go now?”

Letting Go
It is no understatement to say that watching your four-year-old twist the throttle and roll off on her own for the first time is extremely nerve-racking. While I had done all I could to prepare her for this first ride, I hadn’t quite prepared myself for it. For the first few rides, Kris and I would alternately run behind the governed PW50 in an attempt to have some sense of “control” or in case of a fall. Which was inevitable. On the occasions she did take a spill, she was never injured (thanks to proper riding gear) or overly discouraged. After some help uprighting the bike, she was back in the saddle and off.

Practice, Practice, Practice
We are fortunate to have a motocross park with a Pee-Wee course not far from our home. We try to make it out a couple times a week, and Alli continues to develop her skills and grow as a rider. While she enjoys motocross, I have recently begun to look into Mini Moto school and hope to have her on the track soon.

Kris and I both have many miles of motorcycling under our belts and have always believed in the “all the gear, all the time” mantra. “Safety first” has been in place for our daughter from day one. Thankfully, most major manufacturers offer helmets, boots, and protective gear designed specifically for young riders.

It is true that time does fly. While I am enjoying watching my daughter grow, I look forward to the day that she joins me on some great two-wheeled adventures.

In the next issue, we’ll introduce more motorcycle products for children.

Strider Bikes,
Mini Moto School,

Text and Photography: Brian Shaney


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