We strive to bring every child along to be able to become a bike rider, but we don’t achieve 100 percent success. The outcome is not anything that we can guarantee. We do guarantee to do our best in terms of providing the best equipment, staff, and attention to detail.
Learning to ride a bike involves learning a sequence of motor skills. Each child will improve in skills on his/her own timetable. Some children can learn in an hour, and yet others require more time.
In 2000 our CEO, Richard Klein, began travelling through the United States and Canada with a van full of bicycles. Here were some lessons that he learned about teaching kids to ride:
- A week’s duration of the program is commonly sufficient for many children
- Because of the need to be fresh and rested as well as other limitations, we find that children do best when we schedule a daily riding session not to exceed 1-½ hours (90 minutes).
- We found that an ideal duration for a session is 75 minutes, as we keep children active and 75 minutes is optimum
- Multiple 75 minute sessions per day allows the many children to ride and allows effective facility utilization .
- While children do progress through the same steps as they learn to ride, the time it takes them to move to the next step is highly variable.
- Watching the child, and not the clock, will reveal when they are ready for the next step.
The other lesson that Richard learned was that he could not meet the demand for bike camps alone.
Rainbow Trainers now focuses on enhancing and improving the trainers that help people learn to ride. iCan Shine (www.icanshine.org) schedules, staffs, and administers bike camps throughout the US and Canada.
The iCan Bike program, through the organization, iCanShine, partners with institutions in creating camps.
Visit iCanShine’s website for camp details: www.icanshine.org
Up to this point we have had camps in a number of places in the United States and Canada, primarily where local institutions have agreed to work with us. The institutions provide the gymnasium or similar facility, the means to recruit about 24 to possibly as many as 40 children, volunteers to serve as spotters, a bike camp director to serve as coordinator, a budget or means to generate funding to support the camp, and a qualified floor director. Once we agree on a date (a week, in general), we see to it that an array of adapted bikes arrives and someone properly trained is there to spearhead the camp.
We find group instruction to be preferable over one-on-one private instruction, especially as the children become more willing to try and put in an effort upon seeing peers engaged in similar activities and trying – and being successful.
In our camp format, we work with about 5 to 8 children at one time, and then switch to another group, and yet another group as the day goes on. Slightly more than one hour per day of riding instruction is adequate, typically 75 minutes, to permit the children to learn. We normally handle about four groups per day, say of about 6 children per group, for a total of about 24 children per week. Our largest enrolled camp to date has had five sessions with 8 children per session — thus with forty children enrolled. We take it as a given that the child, possibly your child, has been unsuccessful in the past in attempts to lose the training wheels, and that a variety of reasons may have been responsible for that lack of success.
Dr. Richard Klein with one of our adapted roller trainer bikes. The Lose The Training Wheels™ program uses a special design of bicycle, which we refer to as an adapted roller trainer bike. In reality, our therapy utilizes a progression of trainer bikes, so the children start riding on ultra-stable bikes and then progress towards what we can call normal bikes – a conventional bike without those dreaded training wheels. The adapted trainers are intended as stepping-stones to allow the child to graduate onto conventional bikes. By utilization of a clinic format, the adapted trainers, although somewhat expensive and intricate to custom build, are used by numerous children and thus the costs of the therapy per child are held within bounds.
Rainbow Trainers has devoted years of university level research to prepare us to work with children with reluctance and even fear, as well as physical and cognitive limitations. A core group of specialists, consisting of university professors as well as adapted physical education specialists has published preliminary results. The group continues to document and make our findings and techniques known so that more children might benefit. Our goal is that each child entering the program is afforded the opportunity to become an independent bicycle rider.
The program uses a series of adapted trainer bikes that permits the children to be successful. We create a series of small steps to allow children to get past previously insurmountable hurdles.
Researchers and experts in motor learning tell us that we are actually using a technique or process called “Proximal Zones.” The gist of all this is that a person learns a motor skill by being successful, possibly at an earlier level of challenge. We have devised a series of bikes that allows success because the bike’s dynamics have been initially tamed, making the bikes benign when the child first starts in our program. As the children enjoy some degree of success, their motor skills improve, as muscle learning is occurring. In a way it is similar to how skilled athletes develop the ability to swing at pitched balls and to hit golf balls without waiting for conscious thought processes.
Using a series of adapted trainer bikes, we move the children onto more challenging bikes as skills and confidence increase. In truth, we don’t actually teach children to ride, but rather we create an environment whereby children discover how to ride by themselves. As they discover, and improve in skills, we act so as to keep adjusting the environment and continue to challenge the children within limits that they can handle. The secret is that the children are able to be successful, and with success comes confidence and then this allows their motor skills and motor planning to improve, as well as causing fears to abate. In the process of learning to ride, the children soon execute motor reflexes that operate based on conscious thinking, thus somewhat clumsy cause and effect reactions. After a relatively brief exposure to some success in bike riding, these reflex reactions soon become subconscious, and thus bike riding enters the subconscious realm. This is why it is so easy to ride a bike once you know how, but so frightening and difficult before those reflexes and synapses are internally wired and encoded. This allows graduation onto conventional bikes without need for training wheels.