Hello from OCBC Cycle 2015!
This is a comprehensive post for parents who wish to know how to teach their kids cycling the pain-free way, how to sustain their interest in the sport, including practical ways to transport their bikes around so that the entire family can start creating unique memories through cycling.
Stray dogs and an unused quarry:
‘Go Dana Go!’ I urged her as she pedaled hard when the starting horn for the OCBC Cycle 2015 sounded!
‘Go Dave Go!’…Cycle Faster! Faster!’ Strangely even as I egged my daughter on, I remember virtually the same words shouted by my cousins 30 years ago. Except mine was at an unused quarry in a kampong back in Perak, Malaysia. We were not racing but cycling for our dear lives from some stray dogs that were chasing us because we had unsuspectingly wandered into their territory! Fortunately despite the uneven gravel paths, we escaped unscathed.
From the gravel roads of an unused quarry in Perak to the streets of Penang, I cycled to school. From the streets of Melbourne where I cycled to lectures, to the meandering tracks at Labrador park where I cycled for leisure, cycling has created so many fond memories and brought me through many of life’s journeys, literally and metaphorically.
Cycling is among one of the life skills (along with swimming) that would be important for the kids. In fact, for me cycling is more than that. Cycling helps creates unique memories and as a sport, cycling brings us farther, faster and is less punishing on the knees (as compared to running).
It is no surprise that when Dana came along, one of the skills I’m determined for her to acquire would be cycling. When she was shy of 3 years old, we got for her a balancing bike, complete with helmet and pads. Today, she cycles confidently on her 16-inch two-wheeler. Like my own childhood, I would like to fill hers with many fond memories of the cycling fun we had. We even cycled along the coast of Hualien, Taiwan each time we were there on vacation.
Cycling in Hualien, Taiwan circa June 2012
Cycling in Hualien, Taiwan circa December 2013
How we taught Dana cycling:
Getting my daughter to cycle on a two-wheeler didn’t get off to a good start.
Two weekends was all it took for me to gave up on the traditional method of teaching cycling – Dana on the 2-wheeler and I would push, then yell at her to pedal hard. We went to a flat open space the nearby basketball court. But with this method, she fell every single time, trying to juggle both pedaling and balancing at the same time. It was not making as fast a progress as I wanted to. Though Dana is quite hardy, I could sense the frustration and phobia building up in her. That was when Angie discovered the balancing bike…and it was a prayer come true!
Balancing Bike Method: a pain-free and injury-free way to learn cycling
The balancing bike way of learning cycling has proven to be very effective and relatively injury-free. Simply put, it breaks down the skill of cycling into two parts – learning how to balance first before you learn how to pedal, which actually makes a lot of sense. Much like swimming – you learn to float first before you learn to swim. The traditional method which we all learnt cycling confuses children as they struggle to balance but still have to pedal to move forward, which requires quite a bit of strength for any young child.
With the balancing bike, Dana would whiz around, then lift up her legs straight as the bike cruises. To stop, she simply needs to put her legs down. We would practice on a slight slope and believe it or not, after about two sessions, she was balancing effortlessly. This method also enabled her to learn how to steer the bike confidently. There are lots of videos showing how to use the balancing bike to make the learning of cycling fun and safe. Here’s one that even shows you how to turn a regular pedal bike into a balancing bike.
Dana’s Balance Bike from KettlerThe initial apprehension at transiting from a tricycle to a balance bike…but once they get the hang of it, the rest is history!
After learning to balance well on a balancing bike, we started looking for a proper bike for her. It’s unbelievable how many different models, features and price tags kids’ bikes come in (ranging from S$60 to over S$600 and up). For us, we looked for some important features:
1. 9-incher, the perfect size to boot: This size was perfect as it could fit into the sedan car boot together with our foldable bike (foldie) which I bought to accompany her on our cycling expeditions.
2. No unnecessary weight: Don’t add any baskets or attachments to add to the weight for beginners. No need for fanciful gears too. For beginners, the essential is to gain confidence from cycling.
3. Price: There is no need to buy anything beyond $150 for a beginner’s bike. Like kids’ shoes, it serves a short functional purpose and your child would outgrow it real fast. Save the money to buy a good adjustable helmet and protective pads instead.
4. The ‘hand brake’: There are models, mainly western ones that have a reverse pedal function which works as a brake. I didn’t go for that as I wanted Dana to learn the proper method of braking using ‘hand brakes’ rather than having to unlearn and re-learn later on.
Just to be safe, I bought her a 9-incher with training wheels. But as it turned out, the training wheels were unnecessary. Since she could already balance on the balancing bike, all it took was a lesson from Coach Kenneth of Singapore Bike School and Dana was on her way cycling independently!
Learning how to bike with Coach Kenneth from Singapore Bike School
Transporting our bikes:
When Dana turned 6 last year, we upgraded her to a 16-inch bike. Along with that, I bought a Mountain Bike so that Mommy could use the foldie when we go cycling as a family.
To transport our bikes, I got the ‘Safest Bike Rack in the World’ – the SARIS Bones 3 Bike Rack. The rack arms are adjustable to hold both an adult bike and a kid’s 16-inch bike. The ‘Made in USA’ SARIS Bike Rack has soft silicon grip pads and harness that ensure the bikes are safely strapped to the back of the car. It takes about 15 minutes to fix before mounting the bikes on. It removes easily when not used and can be easily flat packed and stored. It’s perfect for families as it can carry kids’ bike (16 inch and above) as well as adult bikes. The SARIS Bones 3 Bike Rack carries up to 3 bikes and comes with lifetime warranty.
It’s a breeze to transport 3 bikes at one go using the the SARIS Bones 3 Bike Rack…
Sustaining interest in cycling:
Once Dana knew how to cycle, there was no turning back. We sustained her interest in cycling through the various ways:
1. Weekend Cycling: Where we can, we cycle on weekends. Here are some of the parks we go to for cycling: West Coast Park, East Coast Park, Labrador Park, Bishan Park and Gardens By The Bay. We avoid cycling at roadsides (dangerous), pavements (illegal) and stadiums (not allowed!). We also cycled overseas on vacations.
2. Participating in the annual OCBC Cycle: One of our earliest cycling memories was at the OCBC Cycle when Dana was 3 years old – cruising on her little Fisher-price Trike. Then, she moved up to a 9-incher with training wheels. This year, she rode on a 16-incher two wheeler. OCBC Cycle has literally seen our daughter ‘grow’!
OCBC Cycle 2011
OCBC Cycle 2012
Here’s why we find the OCBC Cycle special:
- Creates greater interest in cycling as the child sees many other children enjoying the ride.
- Builds confidence in cycling as she sees kids of her age also persevering in the race.
- Galvanizes her memories with her parents and bonds families over a healthy sport.
This year’s OCBC Cycle 2015 was held at the Singapore Sports Hub for the first time, over two days – Saturday for family events and Sunday for competitive events. This was excellent planning as it meant there were lesser crowds each day. There were also ample parking spaces at the venue, with the MRT station right next to it.
True to its mission in encouraging cycling, there were categories for all types of cyclists, from novices to professionals. What impressed us was that there was even a category for young children on balancing bikes! We joined the Family Fun ride (5-7 year olds). These age-appropriate categorizations are important as it makes the rides safer. Cycling routes and duration were also customized to the children’s ages and abilities, making OCBC Cycle the perfect cycling event for families.
Many happy families bonding over cycling at OCBC Cycle 2015!
There was also a mini carnival onsite where families can purchase heritage snacks with a small donation that goes towards charity. Inside the OCBC Arena, there were vendors selling cycling accessories and gears – a good place to check out the latest equipment to support our interest in cycling! Overall, it was a heart-warming experience seeing parents and children bonding over cycling in this meaningful event.
Here’s a short video showing Dana in action at this year’s OCBC Cycle. Notice how all the kids were cycling confidently and steadily.
Cycling has become more than a sport to our family. Interesting that through cycling, I realized that in addition to creating memories, I was teaching her some important life skills. There were some precious life’s lessons learnt from those cycling moments:
1. Teaching her how to break her fall and then get up on her own – teaching her that failure is ok. More importantly, she needs to learn how to get up after each fall.
2. Teaching her to focus and anticipate what is coming ahead (and not being fixated on the pedaling). This teaches her to keep her sight on the goals she want to achieve and work hard towards them.
3. Daddy’s right behind. She learns to trust my voice and know that no matter where what happens, Daddy is always watching her back and will never be far.
Thank you OCBC in providing these opportunities for families to bond and create precious memories through cycling. See you next year!
Hop over to our friends’ blogs to read their experiences at the OCBC Cycle 2015: