A bicycle test

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296 days ago

(I know, it’s been years since I posted here. I’m going to pretend like that doesn’t matter. You should too. Thanks!)

Benjamin initially resisted the removal of his training wheels. When he was finally willing to try it (at the end of last summer), I told him he couldn’t have them back on – he just had to learn to ride. He eventually started to learn to ride without them, but then winter hit.

This summer (as a 6-year-old), he figured it out, and he started to enjoy riding… but then he plateaued and wasn’t really all that interested in getting better. (He still wasn’t good enough to really love it.)

So I devised a riding test, and told him that once he passed it, he’d be allowed to go around the block on his own. It turns out that was a great idea, for a bunch of reasons – so I’m sharing the test here. Maybe it will be useful to you.

Reasons why it was a great idea:

  1. He was motivated to work on it, because of the goal
  2. He was motivated to work on it, because it was a discrete list and he could measure his own progress
  3. He was motivated to work on it, because he got 1-on-1 attention from me
  4. He got better at riding, because of it
  5. He learned that even the things that seemed hard/scary could be learned/overcome with practice and determination
  6. He came out of it loving to ride his bicycle
  7. He came out of it more proud of the work he had done, than of the new privileges he earned

(Note that it took about 6 weeks, start to finish.)

So here’s the test. I don’t remember the order in which he did the individual parts, but it certainly wasn’t in the order presented here. (It was certainly important that some were easy.) The order here is the order I thought of them :) I’ve added comments where particular tests were notable for some reason.

For each item on the list, he had to do it twice, back-to-back, without putting a foot down (or without falling, if the test involved stopping). If he did it once and then failed the next time, he had to start over and do it twice more. (To prove mastery, not just luck.) If the test involved e.g. a turn, then the first time he had to turn one way, and the second time he had to turn the other way.

  1. Start from standing without falling over
  2. Ride the length of the driveway (about 50’)
  3. Ride and stop with the front wheel on a line (within about a foot of it)
  4. Ride and stop without putting a foot down until all the way stopped
  5. Ride down the sidewalk and turn around in a neighbors (wide) driveway, without putting a foot down
    • This one he avoided until near the very end. The driveway was slightly inclined, and the turn radius was fairly small, so it was tricky. (Remember that he had to do it both ways, too.) He was scared of it – but once he had developed the skills from the rest of the test, and once he got up the courage to try it, he passed it quite easily.
  6. Pedal while standing up
  7. Slalom of 5 cones, 4-5’ apart
  8. Avoid a surprise obstacle
    • His brother ended up providing the surprise obstacle, twice! (Not in a row, but I counted it anyway).
  9. Ride down the driveway (a mild hill) and turn onto the sidewalk without using brakes or riding over the grass
    • He surprised me by doing this one fairly early.
  10. Ride down the sidewalk and turn up the driveway and make it up the hill without stopping
  11. Start and stop while riding on grass
  12. Start from a standing stop on an upward-facing hill (the driveway)
  13. Use his kickstand (which was very stiff)
  14. Cross the street (on his bicycle) between two driveways, safely
  15. Cross the street (on his bicycle) at a corner (4-way stop)
    • This one provided a great example of why you have to pay close attention to traffic in all four directions!
  16. Ride at a walking pace for 50’
  17. Go all the way around the block (i.e. not crossing the street) with someone following him (on a bicycle)
    • This one and the next were off-limits until the rest were completed.
  18. Go all the way around the block by himself
    • This one he did once without a problem, but then got scared of falling or hurting himself with nobody around. After a week or so he got up the courage to do it (and was fine) – and passed his test!

One final note – we ended up including “crossing the street unsupervised” as a new privilege. (Both privileges require getting permission to go, first.)

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