Biking has provided so many life lessons for my son (and he’s the ripe old age of four) that I can’t stress enough how important we think it is for kids to take on from a young age. And the truth really is that it doesn’t HAVE to be biking. Any physical activity that provides a challenge (both physically and mentally), freedom and a sense of accomplishment holds great value. In our family, it just happens to be biking (so far) and so that is what this post will focus on.
J is a somewhat timid and cautious kid. He is challenged by his own mental insecurities and takes time to warm up to new events in life. Swim lessons, preschool, bike riding, hiking, etc. have all posed a (temporary) “pulling teeth” sensation for all of us involved. With time he gets more comfortable and is able to adapt and learn, but he needs that time. This is who he is and is what stage he is at in his little life , and that is fine (every kid is so very different.)
Biking, however, has become “his thing”. He started on a balance bike at about 2 and has steadily progressed into a confident bike rider at 4. I am not saying this to brag (though I am proud of him) but rather show that when kids get in their “grove” they really do excel and grow in many more ways than just one. J is confident now in his bike riding (after literally much blood, sweat and tears), so he is more confident as a kid. We gently pose different challenges to him (like conquring big hills) and help instill the fact that he really can do it. While whining, tears and frustration generally also accompany overcoming those challenges at one point or another, it is so rewarding to HIM to see himself improve and it helps bring him out of his “shell”.
Today we rode up that “huge hill” (which, by the way, really is challenging for any bike rider) without any whining, “I can’t do it”s or excuses. It was incredibly refreshing as a mother, and that smile showed me it felt good to him too.
Our kids are such little sponges, flowing fountains of questions and knowledge and clay that can’t help but be molded. As parents/influencers/educators/adults, it is our job to nudge them in the right direction.
Specialized Hotrock 16
I can’t publish this article without a little shout out and review of the bike that really has helped J improve with leaps and bounds. We paid $15 for his first 12″ pedal bike…and it really wasn’t worth much more than that. We said if he could successfully ride that heavy clunker, he would become a stronger rider. We were right….
I am certainly not downplaying a cheap bike. It really and truly was exactly what J needed to help him learn. And we loved the fact that it wasn’t anything fancy and he was earning a better bike with all his practice.
Eventually, earlier this summer, he just outgrew it. His little legs were going as fast as they possibly could, but he just couldn’t keep up on those tiny tires. We had the unique opportunity to demo a 16″ Hotrock from Specialized, and jumped on the opportunity to see what he could do before we spent the (bigger) bucks.
We pursued the kids’ Specialized bikes for a number of specific reasons – they are lighter, run smoothly, and most importantly, have a lower center of gravity. This means that four year old kids can transfer to a bigger bike, maintain easier contact with the ground for starting and stopping, and still manage to stay balanced. I have watched many other kids I know riding the same size bike (16″ wheels) and struggling immensely just because of that higher center of gravity. It really does make a big difference.
The Hotrock goes for about $240. Yep, definitely not cheap. That said, it is is a bike he will be riding for a few years and really could have started on a little bit earlier than he did. It also is definitely the kind of bike that can be passed down to numerous kids without much upkeep or hassle (that $15 bike did require some time in “Daddy’s Bike Shop”). The bike does come with training wheels, but I am a big believer in going straight from a balance bike to a pedal bike without the crutch of training wheels. The motion of riding with the wheels is so very different and usually just holds kids back in the long run. However, I also know every kid is different and some kids just need a little extra security too.
The speed (which really is mostly related to the wheel size) he went when he got on the bike was astounding. The hills were harder for a bit (just getting that bigger wheel size going), but he worked past that challenge too. In general, he loves the bike and has no problem being talked into going for a little ride.
Specialized also makes a 12″ and 20″ Hotrock – both of which are excellent bikes. The 20″ is available with 6 gears too.
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