Monday, December 14, 2009

Early Riders

I was just skimming around and spotted these: Early Rider balance bikes, for children roughly 2-6 years old. No training wheels. No pedals. Big fatboy back tires. Made out of wood. And utterly cool-looking.

I know a couple of 4-year-olds, and it's nearly Christmas, so this caught my eye, although I think they're only available in the US so far and I don't have $180 to spend on my friends' children. But these are really interesting. I always defaulted to the idea that training wheels were pretty much it as far as interim, "learning" bikes went. (And I admit it: I was jealous of the other kids in my neighbourhood that had training wheels. It didn't make much sense, because I had already learned to ride my bike, but there it is, training wheels, Kangaroo sneakers and Zoodles - all things I mistakenly thought I desperately wanted when I was a kid.)

But it's true that training wheels give you a false sense of balance: once they come off you still have to learn to balance on two wheels - while pedaling. This is cooler. Besides, I've also seen pedalless mountain bikes for adults, and they're totally cool. (If a little limited - you can basically only use them to go very fast down the sides of mountains. Like snowboarding, but on a bike.)

And I do remember learning to ride a bike. I think I was 6 or so, and I got a red bike - I think it was a Schwinn - for my birthday. It was a full-on pedal bike, single-speed, with backpedal brakes. My parents basically showed me the bare-bones method of learning to bike: Start at the top of the back lawn, which ended in a field full of tall grass. Roll down the slope until you smash into the tall grass and tip over. Pick self up, push bike back up to the top of the lawn. Repeat. Which I did.

And I remember getting up really early the next day to go out there and do that some more. Somehow, it seems, I managed to get the hang of the whole balance thing that way. Then I graduated to rolling up and down the driveway. In my memory, at any rate, it really didn't take long to figure the bike thing out. So training wheels? Who needed them?

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