Several years ago a friend of mine decided to buy his kid a new bike. His boy was only four years old at the time but rode his Suzuki JR 50 pretty well. It was impressive to see a four-year-old ride a motorcycle. His boy was getting too big for the bike, so it was time for something new. So when my friend asked me which bike he should get I had to go through the normal hoops to figure out which bike would be best and where to find it. Asking questions like, is he going to race? Where is he riding? Lastly, the most important step was to watch the kid ride. After some searching, we found a really nice KTM 50 on Craigslist and made the three-hour drive to pick it up.
Once we were back home, my friend decided to get the bike out and let the kid ride. It was wet outside and the ground was pretty moist. My friend quickly realized this was a bad idea. The child kept falling down and the bike had too much power for the kid to control. The KTM is a little bit taller than the JR and the power it delivers can be quite intimidating for a kid even in the most perfect conditions. They quickly decided to pack it in and shortly afterward I got a call.
Teaching kids is usually much easier than trying to teach an adult. Kids are trusting, they want to please everyone, and they will try new things pretty easily. Adults, on the other hand, are not so easy to teach. They think they know everything, they usually have too much confidence, and they don’t listen at all. So needless to say, I prefer teaching kids! The key here is to be very patient and take things in small steps. Many proud dads out there have these grand visions of their kids being the next Ricky Carmichael, so getting their expectations down to ground zero is usually the first hurdle to get over.
I have a small track in the backyard, so I asked my friend to bring his kid over, and we began working on some of the basics. Just like anything else, riding takes time to learn, you have to be patient. Being too aggressive will make things stressful for you and the child. It’s best to look for small goals and plan everything in steps. Little things like teaching them how to properly use their brakes, control the throttle, how to sit on the bike, and even how to put on the helmet are all good starting goals. Once they accomplish those goals, create some drills so they can practice them, and reward them for getting it right.
I have seen so many parents out there take something that can be so enjoyable, and turn it into a stressful mess. Screaming at your kid or telling them to go over an obstacle that you wouldn’t even attempt is not going to really accomplish anything. The last thing you want to do is make them hate something they have just discovered and enjoy. Take time and set up those easy goals. You will be glad you did and the child will be better off for it!