How to Ride a Bike

My youngest daughter has just turned 5.  She is a big girl now.  For her birthday we gave her a bicycle, it is all pink and sparkly and covered in princesses (you can never have too many pink sparkly princesses).  Last weekend we took her out to ride it then..

My wife and I went to war

  • Mummy logic: The little darling needs stabilisers so she doesn’t fall off and hurt herself
  • Daddy logic: Take the little brat to the top of a hill and give her a shove, it never hurt me

Views became entrenched, battle lines were drawn, tempers flared…

Of course Mummy was wrong

But Daddy wasn’t right either (though as he is writing this that statement doesn’t get highlighted).

The only way to learn how to ride a bike is to fall off, and get back on again.

  • She won’t fall off if she has stabilisers
  • She is unlikely to get back on again of she has just been catapulted down Skafell Pike.

If you want to learn, then you have to fail, usually more than once.

Here is the contentious point:

If you don’t learn anything new unless you fail…  then when you try something and it works, all you do is reinforce what you already believed to be true,  you don’t learn from the experience.

So the only way to get better is to fail

And if you buy my logic (which is always faultless) then we have some problems with our organisations:

Non of whom ever climb onto the bicycle, let alone fall off it.

Falling of a bicycle is a good thing

Just try to avoid doing it at speed

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Learning to Ride

Read another opinion

Image by Michael Neubert


  1. James,

    I’m glad you’re not my dad! But I love the lesson, nonetheless. I remember when I was young, I kept telling my mom, “I don’t need you to tell me. I need to learn from my own mistakes.” As parents (moms are good at this), we like to protect our kids from getting hurt, emotionally or physically. (OK, it saves us a lot of heartache… and money.) But truth be told, a little dirt – and a few mistakes – never hurt anyone. That is the best way to learn.

    I agree with your final three bullets.


  2. Hi James,
    I’ve often thought about this….failure and learning. Surely, how we respond to it has a lot to do with how we view the potential ‘pain’ that could be inflicted….on ourselves, physically, emotionally, to our businesses, our careers or our egos? Maybe you have learnt to deal with ‘pain’ better than your wife?


  3. Yes i agree you have to fall and get right back up, but when your little you also get scared and some wont try again. There is a better way to learn and avoiding the training wheels. My first little girl just before she was 4 rode away first try on her big bike with out training wheels all thanks to her Balance Bike. My brothers boy who is a year older is still struggling to loose the training wheels causing a headache for both. Yes you will still have the falls to deal with on the pedal bike so always wear that proper fitting helmet. This was also a lot easier on mom as well!!

  4. Hi James

    After years of kids “failing” using one or other of the two options you mention (stabilisers or falling off their bikes), there’s thankfully been process improvement / innovation in the world of learning to ride a bike.

    Balance bikes are a much safer and more fun way to learn to ride a bike – they’re what the kids want these days!


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