Monday, June 14, 2010

Impressive Balance

I am so excited for this particular blog.  In fact if you happen to run into me and my family at EMC park or walking to Panera I will recite this blog to anyone who will listen.  I have been so impressed over the past months at both of my sons progress I can't contain it.

About two months ago I was having lunch with a wise co-worker and I mentioned that I needed to get my youngest, the 3 1/2 year old, a two wheel bike with training wheels so he can keep up with his brother when we walk to Panera.  His 5 year old brother has a 16 inch bike, that at the time had training wheels.  My co-worker quickly suggested I instead should look for a balance bike.  I had never heard of a balance bike, but in my one attempt to take give no training wheels a try with my older son, and the failure that ensued I was willing to give a balance bike a try.

What is a balance bike?
Also known as a "push bike" or "running bike", it is a standard two wheel bike with no peddles.  Some are wood, some are nice aluminum or even graphite.  They all seem to work just fine from anyone I have talked to.  I personally chose the aluminum as the bike looks like his older brothers bike and is super light for the first trip where I ended up carrying it for a stretch.  BUT I definitely ended up paying more for the look without additional functional value.  :-)

First thing I had to do was find a bike.  My co-worker had passed his sons on to his daughter so borrowing there was not an option.  Sadly these are not cheap and shopping in person I did not find many options.  Mostly because no one had them in stock and I had decided to buy a bike that evening.  Now in researching more options for my readers I found tons of options from reputable suppliers.
  • Target claims 19 options online.  When I was in the store…NOTHING.  That was annoying.  They range from $72 to $100 - Target Options 
  • Walmart claims 3 options online…and none are available in any store.  I know lots of us are web savvy and buy online all the time but Walmart is supposed to have everything, even if the quality suffers.  Walmart is definitely the cheapest option I found, but they also look cheep.  Walmart sells these for $59 - Walmart Options 
  • Landry's Bicycle in Westborough was where I found the bike I now own.  It was probably the most expensive at $159 but it was in stock and the model I have is a sharp blue.  Online they have a white version featured and the one I own isn't pictured.  Landry's, as expected, was knowledgeable about the bike.  I had done a little research but the sales associates contributed and confirmed the information I had acquired.  Nice job Landry's and although I paid more I don't regret it a bit.  Landry's Options 
  • REI has two options, basic wood and aluminum, I like their aluminum and I may have shopped for that one had I noticed it at the time.  Price range $94 - $119 - REI Options
  • For those who love Amazon, they carry them as well.  Ranging in price from $30 (I really don't think I trust that one) to over $300…seriously…$300 for a TODDLER bike!  Amazon Options
The Results:
I am amazed at the results from a balance bike.  Absolutely astounded at how well it worked and how easily my kids have transitioned to riding a 2 wheel bike.

Here is the scenario: I brought the bike home we decided to walk to Panera for dinner.  My house is about a mile from Panera and for the most part there are sidewalks all the way.  My wife and I both walked, my oldest was on his two wheel bike with pedals and training wheels.  My 3 year old was on the newly acquired balance bike.  We set off and the youngest was very slow.  We was walking more then sitting and pushing.  but he was happy with his new bike.  For the entire mile we kept reminding him to try to sit down and glide.  After dinner we began walking back and he was starting to sit on the bike and more then two or three feet of gliding, but still getting the idea.  By the time we were back to the house, he had the concept down and was gliding for four or five feet.  It was unbelievable, on the inclines we was faster then his brother.

Each afternoon he wanted to practice and began riding across the driveway.  After one week, he could balance on an incline for twenty to thirty feet.  All of the sudden he was faster then his older brother.  I made a second attempt at taking off the training wheels on the 5 year old's bike but it didn't work.  He could pedal but had no balance.  
Now I had a new problem, the older child was slower and...frustrated.  Then I tried a new approach, I unscrewed the pedals from my older son's bike and lowered the seat slightly.  Then I started to repeat the same instructions I had given for the balance bike.  A couple of time he caught his leg on the bars the pedals attach to but in a week he too was gliding around the driveway.  After two weeks I added the pedals back on and that was it, he was off riding a two wheel bike with pedals.  I am so impressed with him on his bike...I need to get used to riding mine again so we can go on some bike rides.

I bought a new 12" bike with pedals for my younger son, but the first attempt he was having a cranky day and it didn't go well.  He did hop back on his balance bike without any issue so I will try again this weekend.  As soon as I do, I will review some of the bike trails in the area.

Until then I encourage any parents with children 2 - 4 who are ready to move off the tricycle to try a balance bike.  I am amazed at how well it works.  As always I am proud to support local business in my endeavor but check the links above or others on your own for the best prices.

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