We Tried It: Hawaiʻi Bicycling League’s Keiki Learn to Ride
In this free, one-day class taught by certified instructors, kids ages 5-16 learn to ride bikes and run safety checks on their own riding gear.
Editor’s Note: This article was previously published in 2020. As of April 2021, he Hawai‘i Bicycling League has continued its keiki classes but is limited attendance to five kids. Fill out the form here to be alerted for the next workshop.
What: Keiki Learn to Ride by the Hawaiʻi Bicycling League
Where: Ala Wai Promenade parking lot
Who: 10 kids, ages 5 to 16; and their adults
When: Saturday morning, 8 to 10 a.m.
My daughter, Crystal, was thrilled when my husband signed her up one month ago for the Hawaiʻi Bicycling League’s “Keiki Learn to Ride” class, scheduled for a Saturday morning in June.
One hour before class started, however, husband and I realized we forgot to tell Crystal one tiny detail:
“I thought the class was on Zoom!” she exclaimed in front of her bedroom mirror, as I wrapped her hair in a low ponytail to accommodate her bike helmet and face mask that kids were required to wear for the class. Two months in lockdown, and her tangled hair was overdue for a trim.
“No, this is a live lesson with real people,” I explained. Her confusion was understandable. This was Crystal’s first playdate and official kids’ class since mid-March—that didn’t involve passwords and headphones. I was grateful that the bicycling league offers a summer program for keiki to play safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Keiki Learn to Ride is a free, two-hour lesson for children ages 5-16 who do not know how to ride a bike or who are beginners. The children and instructors meet on a weekend morning in an empty, coned-off parking lot in Waikīkī to learn bike safety and riding techniques.
The classes—typically held during summer break—are led by certified instructors from the Hawaiʻi Bicycling League, a nonprofit group that advocates, hosts events and educates the public about bike-riding.
We arrived a little before 8 a.m. in the Ala Wai promenade’s parking lot and saw other families unloading kids and bikes from cars. One of the younger boys sported a cute Paw Patrol helmet (Chase on the Case!). An older girl rolled up on a shiny Schwinn (her mom ordered online and picked up the bike at Target). Two kids borrowed bikes from the league (students do not have to bring their own bikes to class).
Everyone—approximately 10 kids, 15 parents and three instructors—wore cloth face masks and stood at least 2 meters away from one another.
For the first 20 minutes, the keiki learned how to conduct bike safety checks and identify “good and bad” helmets. Then, they straddled their bikes with their feet (like the Flintstones family) across the parking lot for a few rounds, before moving onto balancing skills.
Over the next hour, the children pedaled across the lot while instructors Chet and Andrew held their upper backs for support. Instructor Chris rode in tandem next to the children, while a few parents helped wobbly riders.
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I witnessed a few spills, but no blood and no bike collisions, thank goodness. The kids were quiet, focused on not falling. The only time I heard keiki laugh was when a friendly dog walked onto the bike course en route to the nearby Ala Wai Dog Park.
Outdoor temperatures soared by 9:15 a.m., and the kids started to resemble baked cookies trapped between the blazing sun and hot asphalt. Half the group yanked off their face masks to pause for water breaks.
Crystal walked over to me, her face pink from exertion. “Can we leave? Can we get smoothies? I’m hot!” she begged. Her glasses fogged up from her face mask, and sweat covered the tip of her helmet.
I felt bad for her but saw this as a learning moment. “I know you’re hot and tired, but you shouldn’t leave,” I said out of earshot from the group. “You can rest for as long as you need, and drink water, but quitting is not an option.”
She sulked, drank from her chilled Hydroflask and watched her peers ride across the parking lot. After pouring water over her face and head, something magical happened.
“I’m ready to go back!” she announced and walked over to her bike.
Meantime, the three instructors still were going strong. One jogged back-and-forth across the lot, the second instructor rode in tandem with kids, and the third shouted words of encouragement. As a parent and observer, I was proud of these kids who woke up early on a weekend morning to leave their comfort zones and learn new skills. Every child significantly improved his or her bike-riding abilities in just 90 minutes.
When the class ended around 9:50 a.m., instructor Andrew handed out souvenirs to each child: A certificate of completion, reflector band for nighttime rides, Hawaiʻi Bicycling League sticker and some candy.
A few families stayed behind to chat with the instructors, but most said goodbye and left.
That night, while brushing Crystal’s hair in front of her mirror, I asked what she thought about her first Keiki Learn to Ride class.
“I didn’t like it,” she said. “I LOVED it!”
Pleased that my daughter learned a valuable skill during the pandemic, I listed other fun, socially distant, outdoor activities we would do as a family. This wasn’t going to be a bummer summer after all.
But as I stared at the two of us in her mirror, I noticed something new: Tan lines! Our noses and chins now had streaky, crazy-looking tan lines from our face masks.
OUR 6 TIPS
- Register soon and commit. Keiki to Learn classes open intermittently so sign up and wait for the notice another class is available. The sessions are free, but a $5 fee is charged for no-shows or cancellations with less than 24 hours’ notice.
- Protect your toes and brain. A helmet is not safe if you can squeeze it from the sides, and if the foam padding easily shifts. Closed-toed athletic shoes (not Crocs) are required for the class. Students don’t need elbow pads and knee pads, which can hinder mobility.
- Be supportive and encouraging. Bike-riding can be scary for kids who fear falling. Don’t over-explain safety rules before the class (keiki can become suspicious if their parents are anxious). Instead, build up kids’ excitement about their new bike, or the new skills and certificate they will acquire.
- Be prepared for germs and heat. Wear sunscreen and face masks, and bring enough hand sanitizer and chilled drinks for the whole family. Some parents bring picnic blankets and sun umbrellas to shield from the heat.
- Be engaged in class. Listen to the instructors, so you can reinforce riding lessons at home, too. If you plan to help your children in class, wear comfortable clothes and closed-toed shoes. Learn how to steady your child from behind while he or she is riding.
- Grab a mid-morning snack. The class ends at 10 a.m., and keiki will be hungry if families don’t bring snacks from home. At McCully Shopping Center (1960 Kapiʻolani Ave.), which is kitty-corner from the Ala Wai promenade parking lot, there is a drive-through Taco Bell, 7-11 store and Coffee or Tea café for bubble drinks. Raising Cane’s chicken fingers restaurant (2615 S. King St., open 10 a.m., daily) is a five-minute drive away and is located on the corner of University Avenue and King Street.
Keiki Learn to Ride
Hawaiʻi Bicycling League
Select summer weekends, 8 to 10 a.m.
(808) 735-5756 or (808) 741-9045
Register at hbl.org