Learning to ride

Image credit: iStock

Mummy Musings is a fortnightly column where Elisabeth Lee navigates the ups and downs of bringing up her daughter.

When we moved from Singapore to Canada, it was because we wanted to raise our soon-to-be-born child in the middle of nature – away from city streets, city pollution and city traffic. We wanted to be able to have many adventures of all sorts, whether it be hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking and more. It wasn’t an easy choice – we left behind family and friends and careers – but it felt like the right one.

So, we chose a tiny town just an hour from a small city – best of both worlds we thought. The bright lights and cultural offerings of Vancouver are just a short plane ride away (or a four-hour car and ferry journey). There’s a ski resort just 30 minutes down the road, and we have some pretty awesome biking and hiking right at our doorstep, not to mention the many gorgeous beaches, rivers, lakes and waterfalls to explore.

As it turns out, the mountain biking here isn’t just awesome. It’s phenomenal. World-class. And the people who live here like biking. They like it a lot.

And they share this passion with their children. Any given day of the week, you’ll see tiny toddlers taking their first tentative steps on a stride bike (that’s a bike without pedals that helps children learn to balance on two wheels). There’ll be five-year-olds ripping up the BMX track. Older kids race around the community forest in their own little biking posses.

Living here, the passion for all things two wheels has been impossible to resist. As soon as A could walk, we got her a stride bike – a cheap, secondhand one of course. She didn’t like it at first, but soon she was toddling everywhere she could with her little bike.

Watching her gain confidence has been truly inspiring. There have been plenty of falls and lots of tears. We’ve gone through a box of Band Aids and then some. But we encourage her to get up and try again and again. “You can’t learn without trying,” we say. “Get up and give it another shot!”

Soon she learned all about balancing on her “wobble bike” as she called it, there were fewer and fewer falls, and more and more smiles. If she took a tumble, you’d hear her crash – oof – and then she’d jump up and shout, “I’m OK! Just a bump! Trying again!”

At this point, you might think, why not just get her a bike with training wheels? We decided against that because we wanted A to learn all about how to balance – a stride bike teaches you to coast on two wheels. To get anywhere fast you have to push with your feet until you pick up enough speed, and then lift your feet and coast! Stopping is dead simple – just put your feet down.

So, we resisted training wheels – despite A’s pleas to get a “big bike with ribbons” – until one day, I heard her yell, “Look, mum, I’m pedalling!”. I turned around, and there she was, perfectly balanced, feet high in the air, going around and around on an imaginary set of pedals. Time for a proper bike.

This time, we got her a brand-new one (with no training wheels), as a reward for her grit and determination. It was a sunny day when we picked it up last week, so we headed straight to the park. A was so excited she needed no reminding to get her helmet on. Troy started her off on a teeny-tiny slope – her feet on pedals, hands on handlebars, then he gave her a tiny push and… let go.

And she pedalled! “Look, mum,” she yelled. “I’m riding a bike!”

Watching her fearlessly roar around the field with a smile brighter than the sun felt like Christmas had come early. It hasn’t been easy, raising a family in a new, strange land far from where I was born, but suddenly, it felt a little better. We would tackle all our problems together – with grit and determination – knowing that we’d tried our best.


Elisabeth Lee is proof that it is never too late to consider a second, third or even fourth career, having come to both motherhood and writing late in life. She occasionally freelances and can be reached at

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