Why I was wrong about balance bikes for kids

First Bike

I have two boys – five and almost three. I recently bought Mr 3 her first balance bike, the aptly named First Bike. My husband and I are avid bike riders and we did a lot of research on balance bikes for him because we wanted to get it right. In short, we’re pretty happy with this little bike. It is perfect for the job of a first bike to get little riders on their feet and going without the dreaded training wheels. It’s so light and easy for the little ones to manoeuvre.

One of the bonuses is that the seat easily moves from low for the little ones to much higher for the bigger ones still learning to ride. The reason this is so important to us is because our five-year-old son can’t really ride a bike. It’s one of the reasons we knew we had to get a balance bike for the younger one and get him learning to balance and steer early on. We kinda feel like we’ve failed a bit at getting our older one riding because we got him a traditional kids bike with training wheels and he basically couldn’t and wouldn’t ride it. It was so heavy and the training wheels gave him no room to move the bike from side to side and so he’d often feel like he would just topple over.

We realised that these cheaper bikes are made from steel, which costs less but makes the bike way too heavy for little riders. So the balance bike was sort of for both of them because Mr 5 has taken to it easily and will be ready for his first real bike very soon. For him, we’re going to get him a Byk bike – but more on that in a later post.

I know there are lots of different balance bikes on the market and I’m sure most of them do a good job. We were prepared to spend a bit more money for the First Bike because it will do the two boys, especially Mr 3, for a few years to come and it can be fitted with a brake so they learn that important part of cycling too.

I have to be honest and say I was quite skeptical about the concept of a balance when I started seeing them around a few years ago. I though they looked like another excuse to get middle class parents to part with their money for a cute, concept bike for kids who were too young to ride a bike. Well, how wrong you can be. I think they’re the best way for them to learn and to actually enjoying riding while they’re learning and before they can even pedal.

Mr 3 is still kind of walking the bike but he’s getting the hang of it and always wants to ride it and isn’t whinging about it being heavy or hard. A winner in mum and dad’s book!

Advertisements

More electric bikes coming soon?

Hot off the government press is this news that more electric bicycles will be coming into Australia. I just wrote about the Junji electric bike yesterday, so this is potentially good news to make it easier to get bikes like the Junji into the country and encourage longer commuter cycling.

Here’s the government blurb:

Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport, Catherine
King, announced changes to the national vehicle safety standards that
allow for greater consumer choice—while at the same time maintaining
safety.

Ms King said that changes to the standard mean the allowable power
output has now increased from 200 to 250 watts giving a higher level or
performance, while maintaining safety by restricting powered speed to 25
km/h. Riders are required to pedal to access the power or to reach
greater speeds than 25 km/h.

The change also means new construction standards for batteries,
cables and connections as well as other requirements such as braking
performance and the strength of frames.

“In addition, existing designs of machines will continue to be allowed.”

The changes are an important first step towards an overall review by
Austroads of alternative vehicles, which would also include mobility
scooters, and a key action identified in Australia’s National Road
Safety Strategy 2011–20.

However, she said that changes to state and territory road rules may
be necessary to allow use of the new electric bicycles and advised
people to contact their state road authorities to confirm local
provisions.

Cycling Resource Centre – New Rules Give Cyclists a Boost Australia.

via Cycling Resource Centre – New Rules Give Cyclists a Boost Australia.

Pump it up

I’ve got a gripe about pumps. Cyclists will know what I’m talking about when I say that you need to have a good pump. Use a bad pump and you’ll never quite get your tyres full of air. Slightly flat tyres will give you a bumpy ride and make cycling that much harder.

I cycle to and from work with two panniers on the bike so flat tyres are particularly bad because the rear wheel will hit any bumps or grooves in the path very hard. This can obviously damage the rim but it makes for an unpleasant ride as well.

I’ve recently just attached a compact pump to my bike as I found that my tyres would be a bit flat when I was about to ride home. It does a good job of pumping up the tyres if they’re very flat but once they’re nearly inflated it won’t quite fill them all the way up. It’s handy to have it at my fingertips when I need it but I nearly lost it on one ride when I didn’t secure it with the little rubber catch and I knocked it off when I was hopping on the bike. I didn’t notice until I was about to get back on and ride home and luckily it was right under my foot when I looked for it.

I’ve had a couple of traditional pumps with the long barrel but they just don’t make them like they used to. They come loose very easily and the metal spiral falls out and the tube doesn’t hold in place so it’s easily lost. I’ve gone through three or four of these in the last year.

When I was growing up, I used these types of pumps and they seemed to last forever but not so now. I actually reckon that lots of things made these days are of inferior quality and don’t last long. Cheap plastic, not metal and not well manufactured, they’re just not what they once were.

If this pump fails, I might try a floor pump or ditch the pump all together. I often just stop in at the servo when the tyres need pumping up and grab the air pump and do it there. This high-pressure pump is the goods and it’ll fill the tyres so they’re hard and full. I can check the exact pressure in wheels and be sure they’re not over- or under-filled.

How do you pump your tyres? Home pump or pump at the garage? Old fashioned pump or new, compact-style pump?

Small and mostly efficient pump.

This is my new compact pump.

 

Old or new?

The old school pump vs the fancy new pump.

 

The beauty of the bike

I love the image of the traditional bike. It’s so simple and beautiful. It is the way a bike used to look and still can look without all the features and styling of specialist bikes. Now it’s probably known as a path bike and probably only has one or two gears for, pretty much riding on paths or mostly flat surfaces. Certainly no good for racing and no good for commuting either. If I lived near a beach and wanted to ride for a swim or a yoga class, this would be the bike to have. But for other means of getting around it just wouldn’t cut it. You’d never make a decent hill, keep up in traffic or ride very far. Still I love the image of this bike and what it says about simple getting from A to B by pedal power without worrying about traffic, conditions and terrain. The beauty of the bike.