My son is an avid biker and just love his bike. Well, anything with wheels is his jam, really, and anything to do with sports. He is, what I call, a cautious risk-taker, calculating and analyzing the risk before taking it. I made a point of teaching him one thing that he could carry through his life in more areas than when: When you fall, get back up and try again immediately – before fear sets in. He’s also been gifted with a sense of coordination I have never before seen in a child.
At 10 1/2 months, he was walking, at 11 months, he was running. At 12 months, he was gliding through the house on his Lightening McQueen car using both feet to push and glide. At 15 months, he was pushing himself around on a tricycle. At 18 months, he was using the pedals on the bike. At 2 and a bit (following a winter break), he was on a 17 in bike with training wheels. By 3, he was riding on one training wheel and when we took his training wheels off a few months after he turned three, I held on to his bike but couldn’t run fast enough to keep up. I let go and he zipped around the little island on our street, leaning into his corners like a pro. Between then and now, he’s gotten four new bikes, each of them slightly bigger and slighter faster, getting his first gear-bike last summer at 6 years old.
PEDALHEADS: Bike Camp REVIEW
Pedalheads Bike Camp
So when I found about Pedalheads Bike Camp in Ottawa, I was a little skeptical about what it could offer him. I had heard amazing things about kids who were 5 or 6 and still on training wheels due to fear and then going to Pedalheads and getting their wheels off in only 2 days, I heard about the confidence younger kids gained from the instructors, but I really wasn’t sure what my son would gain from it – I just knew he needed to do something or we would all go mad.
For all of you who don’t know what Pedalheads is at all (I didn’t), it’s an instructional bike camp that focuses on teaching kids how to use and ride a bike, proper safety techniques, and gaining the confidence to ride without fear. Since 1995, this camp has been teaching kids how to go from “training wheels to trails.” They offer 8 levels taught in small groups with a mixture of instruction, practice, and play. They have over 75 locations in 4 different provinces in Canada and 4 US states. They have become the spearheads for instructional camps and have grown increasingly popular in recent years.
In addition to being concerned as to whether or not my son would gain anything from this camp, I was concerned about sending him to camp at all. You see, I’ve been at home for 6 years, we have never had the need to send him to camp throughout the summer holidays. He has attended camps, but they’ve been with people he already knew: he attended a jiu jitsu camp where my son practices and my husband teaches, so we already knew the majority of the kids there. He plays hockey, but it just so happened that two years in a row, his dad was head coach. He played soccer, but we were always there to watch. He played baseball but we were always there to watch. He did swimming lessons, but he had a friend in the class and we were always there to watch. The idea of dropping him off at a camp where he knew no one, where I knew no one and outside (in the open, wide world – not shut behind some locked doors) made me extremely nervous.
Luckily for me, my son is used to playing sports and not immediately knowing people, so he wasn’t as nervous as I was. As the week approached, he did get a little nervous and started saying he didn’t want to go, but just a few days before, we chanced upon a situation where he was surrounded by 4 brothers he didn’t know and by the time we left 2 hours later, he’d made a new best friend; so whenever he expressed his concern for not making friends at camp, we brought up that scenario. On the day of camp, he expressed that he was feeling a little bit sick, “But probably because I’m nervous,” but all the same, he took it in stride.
Worrying For Nothing
At the end of the day, however, we had nothing to worry about. There were only 3 kids in his class and he liked his instructors so much he didn’t mind that he didn’t immediately have any friends. And he didn’t leave camp with life-long friendships, but he got along with them well enough that he didn’t have a problem with them. Plus, they were all so busy, they barely had time to speak to each other!
After the first day, I sat my son down, who is notorious for not relaying information well (when asked how his day at school went, “it was fine”), so I was surprised by how excited he was about the entire day. This is what he had to say:
“We learned stuff.”
I pressed him for more, and he continued, showing me specific motions, explaining the exact instructions he received, all with a huge smile on his face.
“We learned signals. We have to put our arms out and look over our shoulders – but always look over your left shoulder, because the curb should always be on your right and the cars come left. And we went on ramps! And we got to ride on the roads!” I asked him about the ramps. “Robert held me the first time to make sure I was balanced. You have to make sure your pedals are equal and then you kind of go off the ramp which is about this high [10 inches], and I did it so good!”
He also informed me that although he was technically still in level 5, his instructors thought he was a little more advanced and could learn some of the things a level 6 would. I thought this was pretty unique because, have such a short period of time, I didn’t think the instructors would make such an effort to ensure he was learning at his level, rather than simply allowing him to go on with the potential of being bored
One of the reasons my son loved the camp so much was because not only did he learn more about bike safety and about his own bike, he was given the opportunity to do things he normally wouldn’t have been able to do with two parents who don’t know all that much about biking. Here is a break down of the some if the things they did throughout their days:
- Crosswalks and intersectiond
- Riding in bad weather (coincidentally, it was also the first time we received much rain this summer)
- Parked card warning signs (indicators that a car might pull out)
- Riding at night
- Rules on a trail
- 9-1-1 – naming instances where it would be appropriate to call 9-1-1
- Changing gears on the road, uphill, and downhill
- Handbreaking – and learning when and how hard to do it in order to ensure you stop when you need to. This was done with racing and a target – the kids had to start up quickly and then race towards the target drawn out in chalk and ensure they stop ON the target.
- Shoulder check sandwich
- Learning to maintain steady cadence
- Front wheel lift
- Riding through intersections
- Breaking on steep hills
- Road ride using gears: This was tested by taking a 1-hour bike ride with his group using gears to maintain steady pace
- Group downhill riding
- Ramps – Learning to use ramps which would help him if ever riding on a trail to avoid injury
- Downhill breaking
- Preparing bikes for trails
- Trail challenge – using everything they have learned on the road and taking it to the trails!
- Maintaining the chain
- How gears work
- Changing a flat tire
- ABC check
And on their last day, they had challenge after challenge, which they called the Olympics. They had to use all the techniques they learned throughout the week and show their instructors how well they knew them. This was also the day where they went on their 1-hour trek around the neighbourhood.
Pride In Learning
The best, best part about all of this was how proud of himself that he was. He was proud that he was able to do so much on his bike, with people he didn’t know, but still trusted, and that at the end of the day, he had so much fun. He won a medal and an award on his last day, and he was even given a “Road Licence” which I thought was complete adorable. When all was said and done, I ask my son – who does not like to do anything where mom and dad aren’t there – if he would consider going back and he said, “OH YEAH!” And that made me happier than anything else. My son thrives on doing things he’s good at – and when he learned how to do those things even better, it makes him feel on top of the world and that makes me feel so thankful. And, one of the best parts of this whole thing: when my son and I were driving on a one-way street the other day with no bike lane, there as a biker who signalled, and I cried, “I don’t know what that means!” And my sons said: “He’s turning left, mom,” like I was embarrassing.
All in all, I would definitely recommend Pedalheads Bike Camp to anyone who is looking for a fun, entertaining, learning environment. I definitely loved the learning factor of it – especially learning appropriate road safety – but what I loved most about it was that he loved it, and that’s a win for me!
Disclaimer: My son received a half-day camp from Pedalheads in order to write this review. The views I shared are my own.
The Pensive Mama