several years past, a colleague and i formed port mòr wheelers, a loosely amalgamated group of kids who met at the port mòr centre in port charlotte every saturday morning to ride their bikes. we organised races, obstacle courses, guided trips into the village and a variety of other distractions that might better equip them to enjoy their bicycles while hopefully learning stuff along the way. there was no specific age limit, but the majority were of primary school age and one or two still had stabilisers affixed to their rear wheels.
the latter has been, until recently, the appropriate means of allowing kids to propel themselves at an early age without mum, or more likely, dad breaking their backs holding onto the saddle while junior tried to get the hang of velocipedinal fortitude. however, in the intervening period, an allegedly more intelligent approach to learning to ride a bike has taken centre stage, namely the balance bike.
as many of you may have noted, the perennial problem with stabilisers was their specific design. it is not intended that both stabilising wheels should touch the ground simultaneously, the thinking being that this ought to encourage the little blighters to take responsibility for their own balance. sadly that lies more in the realm of forlorn hope than realistic solution. and that's where the balance bike comes in.
these are usually small but perfecty formed bicycles, featuring mostly 12" wheels, handlebars, saddle and in the case of the frog bikes tadpole a lever actuated set of rear 'v' brakes. the only things missing are a bottom bracket, cranks and pedals. thus junior has the comparative luxury of sitting proudly in the saddle, hands on the handlebars and using both feet to propel him/herself towards various items of furniture as well as parked cars and the flower beds.
my two year-old grandson is in serious danger of being brainwashed by his father into believing that the only outdoor activity worth pursuing is that of football. and in this case, football pertaining to a specific scottish team. mrs washingmachinepost and i are less in favour of this approach and, in our capacity as interfering grandparents, we purchased a frog bikes tadpole team sky edition balance bike. these are, lest you wonder, pretty serious bits of kit, superbly built and finished, yet embarrassingly light enough to prevent our grandson from suffering serious injury should he falter in his efforts to endear himself to the concept of balance.
the sturdy treaded tyres are fitted to a pair of spoked wheels on which the hubs bear hollow axles. while these could conceivably be attached to the dropouts by means of q/r skewers, that would simply mean another potential source of injury, most likely for his mother's ankles. in point of fact, they are firmly secured by means of 5mm allen bolts. on the front pair those are safely augmented by hooked washers that slot into small holes above the dropouts. the frame sports a proper a-headset with a custom sized clamp on stem and a four bolt faceplate to hold the bars in place.
the textured rubber bar grips are secured by means of small allen bolts.
a rear brake is a smooth idea; a sole front edition would likely end in a small face plant if the little boy happens to develop a particularly feisty right hand. the seatpost offers plenty of growth adjustment; grandson is only two years-old - the tadpole was a birthday present from granny and grumps - thus the saddle in its fully down position proved ideal. while he is sat upon the blue centre-striped saddle, both feet can reach the floor flintstones style. in fact, it took him merely minutes to don his waterproof jacket (scottish summers huh?) and wander up and down the section of pavement outside his house.
granted, the idea of balancing seems only to have occurred when his mother started wheeling him between the sitting room and the kitchen. at that point he simply lifted his feet off the ground and made wheeee-like noises. however, it's early days yet; the main thing is that he has acclimatised himself to the thought of the bicycle as being a source of fun, and one that might get from point a to point b marginally quicker than simply walking. transport with a smile.
since returning from my mission of bicycle delivery, i have learned that the tadpole has been wearing its very own track across the laminate flooring, accompanied by a smiling two year-old shouting his own stilted version of 'to infinity and beyond'. i'd figure that to be the beginning of a successful mission, one that might hopefully outdo his father's misconceived soccer influence.
the frog bikes tadpole is available in a variety of finishes other than the team sky version shown. price is a very reasonable £100 considering the quality of the bicycle. this particular bike will not only fend off any bumps and bashes, but probably outlive all of us.
friday 31 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................