For most kids, learning how to ride a bike is a rite of passage. There is a sense of freedom associated with having your own set of wheels. Riding a bike can become a way in which to explore, while gaining confidence and mental clarity.
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The Tahoe Sierra is a natural playground for biking with its numerous thrilling mountain-bike trails, steep rolling highways and scenic bike paths. There is something for every level of rider. But the terrain can be challenging, especially for a kid learning how to ride as my son Anikin was. To improve his ability to ride, my husband Luke started taking him to Truckee Bike Park at Riverview Sports Park when he was 3 years old.
Truckee Bike Park is a collaborative effort between volunteers and Biking for a Better World Foundation, and it has become a world-class cycling destination. The park has beginner to expert trails and includes a pump and strider track, a cross-country loop, dirt jumps, flow lines, dual slalom racecourse and a drop zone with wooden and rock drops.
Anikin started riding at the bike park when he was riding a strider bike. A strider, or balance, bike is a training bike that has no foot pedals, drive train, chain, gears or training wheels. It can help teach balance before kids learn how to pedal and can make the transition to a pedal bike much easier. Anikin made the transition last summer but needed more practice to build confidence.
One of the coolest features — and one of Anikin’s favorites — is the 30,000-square-foot pump and strider track. It is open to anyone and on it riders can learn how to maintain momentum using up-and-down body motions with little pedaling. The circuit of rollers, bank tuns and transitions help riders learn proper timing and improves their bike-handling skills. The pump and strider track is a good starting point for kids on strider bikes.
Recently, Anikin’s friend Remi Mitchell invited him to his birthday party at Truckee Bike Park. Luckily, Anikin’s insecurities were overshadowed by his excitement to go to Remi’s party.
The kids at Remi’s party were at different levels of riding; some rode strider bikes and some rode pedal bikes. And despite a few incidents of road rash and tears, everyone enjoyed a beautiful day. Little did the kids know that they were also learning a valuable life skill in between riding the trails and eating birthday cake.
At the party, Anikin was a little hesitant to get on his bike but when he saw kids of every age riding, he eventually took some laps with Luke. After a few laps on the Dual Slalom course and the pump track, Anikin became comfortable. There was a real sense of community among the riders at the park. Everyone was respectful and considerate, which created a supportive environment for kids such as Anikin who are learning how to ride.
Truckee Bike Park is open from sunrise to sunset, daily in the summer. The Next Level bike skills program and group and private lessons are available with park-certified instructors. | truckeebikepark.org