Currently Wandering » Outdoor Family, Adventure Travel, Simple Living - Family of 5 Traveling the United States in an Airstream.

Teach Your Child to Shift with a Woom4

Its no secret we are fans of Woombikes. We were introduced to them in 2014 as Cara was ready to leave training wheels behind. We had a fantastic experience as she basically just climbed on the bike and pedaled away (6 Reasons to Buy Your Child a Woombike).

We’ve now reached another milestone with Cara’s bike – that of upgrading to one with shifters. We reached the point where she was spinning her wheels as fast as humanly possible and still couldn’t keep up with the big kids. She had the muscle, the awareness and desire to be faster, better, and more in control – she just needed the tools.
We visited Woom headquarters in Austin, TX last spring and Mathias upgraded her Woom3 to a Woom4 with a rear derailleur and an 8- Speed SRAM X4 twister shifter. Since then, we’ve been working with her on when and how to shift her gears based on the terrain she’s riding. Its honestly been a bit of a fight. For awhile she wanted to leave her gear in the middle and pedal like she always has. Slowly, she’s come to the realization that she can go farther more quickly and with less effort if she utilizes the entire range of her gears.

Its slow progress, but progress nonetheless. We happened in to a tradition to have each of our kids complete a 25 mile bike ride by the time they turn 8 years old. Rachel did hers with Sam back in Lehi pre-travel, and Andrew completed his with the Watermelon 4th of July ride in Minneapolis. Cara is 6 so we have just two years to get her ride in. Time to get training and gears will be an essential part of completing that ride.
As our experience is one shared by many parents, I thought we could give some advice on how to ease the transition between bikes.  I talked with Mathias, the owner of Woombikes USA, and he helped me outline 6 suggestions to help your child transition more smoothly to a bike with shifting capabilities:

1. Prepare and Anticipate

Kids transition easier when they know what is coming so talk about shifting even while your child is on a single speed bike.  Most of us just get on our bikes and go, but talking with your child about the bike components and why they are useful can help anticipate the change.  Show your child how your bike shifts (simple as picking the back wheel off the ground while remaining stationary) so they have a visual concept as well.

Ever ahead of the game, Woom has introduced a SRAM Automatix 2 Hub on their Woom3 bikes which has an internal mechanism that automatically shifts into a higher gear once 6 or 7 mph is reached. Total genius! Mathias said, “The design is hands-free, keeping your child’s focus on the road. On top of that, the hub functions as a learning tool. The mechanism also teaches [kids] timing. When they feel the bike change gears, children are passively learning how to time their shifts. Without ever touching a shifter, they can go faster, ride smoother, and move up to their next bike with total confidence. By the time the controls are in their hands, they’ll be ready for any adventure!”

2. Have a Visual Classroom

Once you have a new bike with shifters, take the time to visual explain how the bike works.  Mathias suggests that, “It’s much easier to show them, rather than tell them.  If you tell them while they are on the bike, then they are too busy and can’t really focus on your words.  Visually explain the concept while one parent is holding the saddle, and the other is rotating the pedals and shifting.” Seeing an adult bike in action is one thing, but when its their bike the concept just might have a bit more traction.

3. Ride Alongside Them

Kids love spending time with their parents, and we find many teaching moments as we hike, bike, or paddle alongside our kids. As we ride with Cara, we can coach her along the trail. “There’s a big hill coming up – shift now down to a 2,” we’ll tell her. Or, “Cara you are spinning your pedals, try shifting up to a 6.” We can judge the terrain we are riding and coach her as we go. She loves spending time with us, an we’ve been able to make more progress than if we just sent her off on her own.

4. Have Older Children Help Teach

Whether its a sibling or a friend, other children can definitely have an impact on your child. Mathias noticed that, “Parents sometimes have trouble using the right words  to communicate the concepts.  Other children who already know how to shift could use their skills and way of explaining so that the other child learns it more easily.  I saw this at a biking event, where one 5 year old explained another 5 yo how to use [their bike] in a fun an easy way.” We’ve definitely noticed this as Rachel and Andrew encourage and instruct Cara as she learns.

5. Bike in Familiar Territory

Mathias recommends to “Choose a place where your child feels most comfortable, i.e. playgrounds, parks, running tracks, safe neighborhood streets.” Cara feels most comfortable on paved pathways so that’s where we try to have most of our teaching moments. Mountain biking is great, but trails can be unpredictable and rocky. Riding the same section of trail or path over and over can also be beneficial. Kids will get used to the trail and can anticipate shifting patterns, which will also build their confidence.

6. Be Patient

Just as teaching a child to ride a bike can take time, the complicated act of shifting will take time for your child to master. I get impatient and frustrated more easily than I’d like, and have to consciously tell myself to chill out.  There are hills I know Cara can climb, but she choose not to. There are times where she is whining and frustrated and wants to give up.  The long term benefits and learning will be worth it. We believe that as our kids learn skills through outdoor activities they will be more confident and capable in all areas of their lives. Perseverance, determination, and not quitting are qualities  we would love our children to develop!


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