ONALASKA — Six-year-old Sofia Tak’s bike has no pedals and the seat is about six inches too low. She squints her eyes as she coasts down a grassy hill. She is determined to learn how to ride a bike.
Her unusual process works, said her dad, Tahir Tak. It’s how her sister learned three years ago, and it took only two days before she had it down.
Sofia Tak was one of a handful of youngsters learning how to skip over the training wheels Saturday at an event held by Ona Bike, an advocacy group that promotes riding bicycles.
“We’re trying to take a different approach to teaching kids how to ride bikes,” said the group’s leader, Matthew Christen. “And it helps bring more awareness and education about biking and gets more people on bikes. Anything you can do to get kids more confident.”
The logic behind the low riding, pedal-less bike is that it teaches balance.
Here’s how it works: Take off the pedals and lower the seat. Find a short, grassy hill. Start a few feet up and let the child coast down alone, hands on the handle bars and feet guiding the way.
It teaches them how to balance, steer and stop.
“Then they have most of what they need to ride a bike,” Christen said. “It works and it takes a whole lot less time than running around on the street behind them on training wheels.”
That’s how 8-year-old Aiden Runchey started to learn last summer.
But he isn’t confident enough in his balance with training wheels, said his grandmother, Teresa Runchey. That’s why she decided to give this approach a try.
“I thought training wheels was the only way,” she said. “I think he’ll do good with this.”
Teaching a kid how to ride a bike isn’t easy, said Tahir Tak, letting go of his daughter’s bike.
“This seems to be the new way to learn to do bikes,” he said. “There’s truth to it. It teaches her confidence.”
Sofia giggled as she made her way down the grassy hill without falling.