The Birthday Bike

Today is Kenzie’s eighth birthday and one of her birthday presents was a new bike. The little beginner bike that she learned to bike-ride on is just too small for her now.

But, the new 20″ bike she got for her birthday is just a little big for her. Although she could reach the pedals from the bike seat, she couldn’t quite reach the ground with her feet without leaning the bike over.

So, it was difficult for her to get her ride started. I had to hold the bike while she got on it and then I gave her a little push and off she went.

She was able to ride on her new bike without difficulty. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me how she would stop her big bike. So, the only way she could stop was to crash (the same way you stop in skiing)!

She didn’t get hurt or scratched up when she crashed, but she didn’t want to ride her new birthday bike any more.

Here’s the problem. She gets a bike that is sized to her age. Because she is a little small for her age, her feet can’t reach the ground of her 20″ bike while she’s sitting on it. And, she doesn’t want to ride it because she can’t start it or stop it without crashing.

When I was growing up, you got one bike for all of your childhood. Like new clothes, it was purchased several sizes too big so you could use it for a number of years. Because it would be several years before I would be able to reach the ground from my bicycle seat, I had to develop a mount/dismount technique if I wanted to ride my bike.

My bicycle was my only mode of transportation and it was an essential component of my childhood. I rode my bike to and from school. I rode it to the park. I rode my bike around the neighborhood with my friends. And, I rode my bike over to friends’ houses to visit with them.

My first (and last bike) had 26″ wheels. I was in second or third grade when I got it. I’m not sure but I may have been in junior high before my feet reached the ground from the bicycle seat.

So, I had to invent ways to mount or dismount my bike without assistance.

The basic mounting/dismounting technique that I first used was what I call a “jump and run.” Actually, it was more of a dismounting technique.

To stop, rather than crash the bike while you were on it, you would jump off before it came to a stop. When you jumped off, you had to run away in a direction that was perpendicular to the direction the bike was traveling to prevent the bike from running over you while you’re running away from it.

Obviously, with this technique you risked damage to the bike and injury to yourself. Sometimes your jump didn’t clear the bike and you ended up crashing with you on it. Or, when you jumped off the bike it swerved in the same direction you were running and ran over you.

I soon learned that I could mount the bike without assistance by rolling it up beside the curb. Standing on the curb with the bike in the street I gained about 6 inches and could swing one leg over and push the bike away from the curb with the other leg.

This technique wasn’t without its difficulties. Sometimes, I didn’t clear the bike frame with my first leg or I didn’t push away from the curb hard enough and the bike would come crashing down on me.

Furthermore, the curb dismount actually required the skill of a pilot landing an airplane. If your approach wasn’t exactly parallel with the curb, the front wheel of the bike would run up against the curb and come to a sudden sideways stop, throwing you off the bike.

The best technique I developed for both mounting and dismounting my too big bike was what I call the horseback mount (and dismount). When you mount a horse, you put your first foot in the stirrup and then throw your leg over the back of the horse and put your second foot in the stirrup on the other side of the horse and sit down in the saddle. When you dismount, you rein the horse to a stop and go through the same procedure in reverse.

That technique also worked well for mounting and dismounting a bike that seemed to me as big as a horse.

First, you put the pedal in the farthest position downward on the side of the bike you’re mounting it from. Then you place your first foot on that pedal and begin to push the bike forward with your second foot. When you gain enough momentum to balance the bike, you swing your leg that you’ve been pushing with over the seat of the bike and put your foot on the pedal on the other side of the bike. You sit down on the seat and continue pedaling the bike.

The dismount is the same procedure in reverse but requires a little more finesse. You must brake almost to a stop and maintain a slow momentum while you put the pedal in the downward position on the side you’re going to dismount on. Then, you swing your other leg back over the bike seat and drag it along the ground until the bike comes to a complete stop.

So, I offered to share my vast experience in mounting and dismounting a big bike with Kenzie so she could learn to get on and off her new bike without my assistance. I even tried to demonstrate my technique to her.

She wasn’t interested…

And, I don’t think she’s going to ride her new birthday bike again until she gets big enough that her feet reach the ground. So, I guess it will be a few more birthdays before we get the 26″!

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