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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014

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Learning to ride without training wheels can be fun and rewarding.
Learning to ride without training wheels can be fun and rewarding.

Help kids say goodbye to their training wheels with First Ride

This week is the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin's Bike to Work Week. In celebration of this event, OnMilwaukee.com will run new bike-related stories each day.

First Ride is a group class designed to help kids ditch their training wheels and empower kids to ride on two wheels. It's a free community event and the first of its kind in the area. It happens Saturday, June 11 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Atwater Elementary School in Shorewood. The event will be hosted by Rainbow Jersey Bicycle Shop and the Shorewood Business District.

It's easy to question whether a child is ready to take on the bicycle when they can still barely cut the food on their plate or tie their shoes. Riding a bike can be a bit of an unusual sensation for a child and initially requires concentration and coordination to move in a new and unique way.

On the bike their feet have to move in circles while they attempt keep their arms stationary to control the bike. They have to learn to turn their heads without turning the rest of their body. They also have to figure out how to navigate obstacles in the street. Is that crack too wide? Is that acorn too big to roll over?

First Ride is a special workshop designed for kids 10 and under to learn how to ditch those training wheels. It's based on a unique 'balancing first' method that involves removing the bike pedals during practice. This method is less about the forward momentum and more about just feeling comfortable with their training wheels off.

Removal of the pedals means kids have more room to put their feet down and less of a chance of banging up their shins. And less banged shins means a much greater chance of smiles. Maybe even inspirational speeches?

Once they've got the basic concepts down, the children will start to learn pedaling, steady starting and stopping, and steering with control. First Ride will even properly fit your child's helmet, too.

Kids and parents from around the Milwaukee area are invited to come to the workshop. Staff from Rainbow Jersey and the local police department will be on hand to help the kids through their first training wheel-free riding experience.

Everyone will have an opportunity to show off their new skills after a week of practice by competing in short races at the opening criterium for the Tour of America's Dairyland, a 10-day professional bicycle race around Wisconsin, on Thursday, June 16.

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