Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Balancing Acts

A couple of weeks ago Mrs. LIAYF and I, along with Lukas, walked into Seattle's Alki Bike and Board to have a look around. Lukas, of course, thought all of the shiny new bicycles were pretty cool.

To that point he had been only riding around on his tricycle, which he was beginning to pedal with ease, but was always fascinated when he saw a one of the bigger kids in the neighborhood riding by on their 2 wheel model.


Then, Mrs. LIAYF spotted what she recognized as a balance bike on a high shelf. The balance bike has no pedals and is designed to be an alternative to teaching a kid to ride a bike using training wheels. They sit on it and scoot along with their feet, which they also use to learn how to properly balance a two wheeled bicycle.

When we pulled it down to have a closer look, Lukas was extremely excited by it. "Wow!" he exclaimed. Not only was it red - his absolute favorite color - but it was also adorned with rockets. It was a Lil Rocket model made by Sun and the seat was emblazoned with a fiery rocket which was, by all accounts, on its way to the Moon.

It didn't take my lovely wife too much time to convince me that this was our son's perfect 3rd birthday gift. We then also quickly decided it would be an early birthday present since none of us wanted to leave the shop without it.

Since then Lukas has, in short order, become a champion balance bike rider. We have already spent many days out in the neighborhood and on the boardwalk at Seattle's Alki Beach giving him the opportunity to ride along on a flat surface. I have to give props to Mrs. LIAYF for quickly instilling in him the proper caution when it comes to driveways and streets, but when he does get onto an open stretch he can already build up impressive speed.

So far it has been amazing to see the number of people who stop to look and then ask about the bike. The concept is relatively new, so apparently not a lot of people have heard of these pedal-less bikes before.

We are pretty sure that this whole excercise will have our son riding a pedal bike without training wheels much earlier than he would have otherwise been able to without the benefit of the Lil Rocket. For now though the hard part will be for these 40 plus year old knees to keep up with our little lightning on wheels!

By the way, I am discussing a balancing act of my own in my second post at Dad Revolution, which was posted this morning. If you get a chance, go check it out.

15 comments:

WeaselMomma said...

I've never seen or heard of these of these before. Cool. I'm glad it's working for you.

Dan said...

We have a balance bike in the shed and while we never really used it properly i'm pretty sure it's helped Amy pick up riding a bike more easily than if we hadn't had it.

He looks super cool on his red rocket bike :)

morethananelectrician said...

This might even be the bike for me...we all like rockets.

SciFi Dad said...

I'd never heard of a balance bike before I read this post. It sounds like a very interesting idea, and something we may try with our younger one (the girl already has a "standard" two-wheeler with training wheels).

Surfer Jay said...

Rad bike! We have one too. The kids learn much faster on those becasue they can pull they feet up and go two wheeling whenver they want. And I took the pedals off of another bike for my nephew, and it works just the same. Sweeet.

PJ Mullen said...

I've been looking at these ever since my son's feet finally reached the pedals on his tricycle. Very cool.

Slamdunk said...

Look at that cool kid...

It does look like a useful purchase. The Mrs. was trying to talk me into one of these bikes, but I had not heard of them before. I think you all are ganging up on me...

Steve said...

That is one cool bike and rider. Go Lukas!

You won't have to look hard in my blog to know that I am an avid fan of these things. Oliver was riding a proper bike well before he was 4, never having needed stabilisers (training wheels) thanks to his balance bike.

Mighty M said...

Too cool! Never heard of it before, but I bet my son would love one!!

Rob said...

James,

I know Lukas is really going to enjoy his balance bike and accelerate his ability to transition to a pedaled bike. As owner of Balance Bikes 4 Kids, I'm always excited to see people teaching their children to ride a bike by using a balance bike. We had years of frustration with some of our older kids who didn't take to riding naturally and wish we'd understood then that the process of learning to ride has to start with balance first.

Our youngest girl is 2 1/2 and making great progress on her balance bike. I wish we had known about them long ago.

TempestBeauty said...

This is the coolest idea ever! I want one of these!! (For my kid, I mean :D)

aimeewrites said...

So freaking cool. I hear these are popular in Europe, and I can't help but wish they'd been here earlier. My 10yo still can't ride a bike, having had major vestibular sensory disorder, but I think we might be getting closer now.

Smiling, Beguiling said...

That is the coolest bike EVER. I want a red rocket bike too...

My daughter is turning 4 in June and we're getting her a "real" bike, i.e. the tricycle is done and it's time for something w/ wheels, brakes, and a more upright position. I fear we may have missed our window of opportunity w/ the Balance Bike though. :-(

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Weasle Momma - They are getting more common nowadays.

@Dan - Yeah, Lukas is already sitting still and balancing for a split second!

@MTAE - I want a rocket on my bike too. But I will settle for a beer.

@Scifi - You really should. They work great.

@Jay - Best thing we have bought in a while.

@PJ - Definitely keep it in mind.

@Slamdunk - You just need to break down and score one.

@Steve - I know you are an avid biker and remember those posts! I bet lukas will be on a regular bike by 4 too.

@Mighty M - I bet he would.

@Rob - Yes, guaging by my reaction here there will be a lot more of them out on the market soon.

@TempestBeauty - If it were only bigger, I'd be riding it.

@aimeewrites - I bet it will be an amazing day when your 10yo overcomes that and rides a bike. Cool.

@Smiling - Maybe, but if you get a pedal bike and take off the wheels to start with, it might be what she needs.

Rob said...

@smile

4 is actually a good age for a balance bike. What's surprising is how many kids keep riding their balance bikes after they've learned to ride a pedal bike, but for kids in the in between ages we recommend the Hobby Balance Bike with the pedal conversion kit. Supports riders up to 132 lbs. so it has room for kids to grow and it becomes a pedal bike.

Good luck, and if you already have a bike for her, then lower the seat as low as possible, take off the pedals and never, ever think about training wheels. They just get in the way. Good luck!