There’s not a lot to them. And, in fact, they teach a lot of bad habits such as discouraging leaning into turns, riding slow without weight centered. They make it difficult to get out of the saddle to climb effectively – as soon as a rider really mashes on a pedal, she shifts onto the wheel on that side, lifting the rear wheel off the ground, and either spinning the rear wheel without producing forward movement, or going too fall and falling.
But they’re there. And they do a darn fine job of getting riders from the unstable world of two wheels standing still to the stability, freedom, and flight of flying down the (road, trail, etc) with the wonders of gyroscopic stabilization.
Training wheels represent the first concrete rite of passage for many of us. No one remembers getting out of diapers. But for a lot of us, the memory of straddling the top tube at the top of a gentle hill, mom or dad’s hand on the saddle and handlebar, heart pounding, fear creeping up the back of our throat is indelibly etched in our memory.
And forever paired with a skipped heartbeat when we felt that last push, felt a wobble in the handlebars, and flopped butt over teakettle in a hot, salty, tearful heap, only to be picked up and brushed off, and then put, trembling back on the bike.
And given another push.
And feeling another wobble…
just a little bit this time…
And realizing that we’re riding our bike, by ourselves, with nothing to stop us but darkness. (And in my case, at least, coming to the terrible realization that I had absolutely no clue how to stop…)