NEXT EVENT IS JULY 17th 2019 >>>
I remember learning how to cycle. My dad – an engineer, and fond of taking things to bits – removed the pedals from my bike, and I set off with only a little trepidation. I reckon Dad was ahead of his time as my homemade balance bike was a precursor to the snazzy models most kids have now. My son, James, has been zipping around on a balance bike since he was a year old, but now that he’s turned four I feel like he might enjoy some pedal-power. I’ve recently noticed some of his peers, pictured on social media, scooting along on ‘proper’ bikes without any parental support, or stabilisers. Sigh. No pressure then…
Enter Kelly Fry of Small Fry Cycles: cycling instructor extraordinaire and whizz of the two-wheeled world. Kelly started Small Fry Cycles in 2016 and teaches children to cycle, helping them to ditch the stabilisers and embrace those pedals. Kelly is also a freelance bike mechanic, and instructor trainer for Cycling Scotland. She sounded the perfect coach to give James and me the confidence to get him cycling, so we signed up for her ‘Stop Our Stabilisers’ class. This is a one-hour session offered at various locations in Perthshire, designed for children aged three to six. Parents and guardians are invited to join in the fun!
We arrived at MacRosty Park in Crieff, all prepared to listen and learn. At least I was. James sometimes has his head in the clouds these days, and I feared Kelly might have a day-dreamer on her hands. First, we began with some safety guidelines, and learned how to find the manufacture date on our kids’ helmets (Kelly recommends that helmets should be replaced after 5 years). We checked for cracks or dents in both the outer plastic shell and the polystyrene liner. Kelly showed us how to fit helmets correctly in order to properly protect the temple and back of the head. I found this very useful as I have a bad habit of just shoving a helmet on James any-which-way and hoping for the best.
Next, the kids were off their bikes and practicing a moonwalk, throwing hoops, and kicking bean bags!
The class then assembled at the top of a gentle grassy slope and Kelly helped us remove the pedals from our bikes. It’s the best way to get started and I mentally congratulated my dad for being on the right track all those years ago (why didn’t we get a patent? We could have been rich!). Kelly got the children’s attention and demonstrated how to use ‘dinosaur fingers’ or ‘bunny fingers’ to brake. They free-wheeled down the hill and got comfortable with the surface while their teacher gave lots of encouragement. Parents were asked to act as cheerleaders: giving plenty of vocal support not only motivates the children to keep going, but prompts them to keep their heads up, improving their balance.
Next, the kids were off their bikes and practicing a moonwalk, throwing hoops, and kicking bean bags – all activities devised to help them develop important skills for cycling. Then the pedals were back on and it was time for some 1:1 guidance from Kelly. The class size is kept small so that each child can receive individual attention and I think this really helped us. Like most children (not to mention adults) James isn’t that keen on activities that he finds difficult. He’s been pretty ambivalent about his bike up till now, but I could see Kelly was kindling his enthusiasm. She knows how to talk to this age-group at just the right level to keep them engaged, and was reassuring to anyone feeling a little anxious. James was happy to follow Kelly’s instructions – and we all know how much more readily our children will obey any adult other than their own parent. It’s a law of the universe.
Soon James was sitting astride his bike with his weight on one foot and his other foot on the pedal, raring to go. Kelly showed me how to keep a steadying hand on his back, and just a gentle touch on the handlebars. I suspect I was needing this calming contact more than James was. And then he was off! A blur of motion, a flash of sunlit steel, and he made it down the hill in one piece.
It seemed that his balance was good, but his pedaling needed some work. He managed several attempts and, most importantly, continued to have fun. Out of the corner of my eye I could see some of the other children cycling short distances unassisted. I know that it’s up to us to keep practicing until James reaches that point, but I now feel much better equipped to guide him.
If you would like your child to attend this excellent class but don’t have a bike for them, Small Fry Cycles can provide one for the duration of the lesson (remember to ask in advance). Kelly is available for private tuition, and also runs cycling classes for adults. Check out the Small Fry Cycles Facebook page for further information and upcoming events.
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