This Awesome Transforming Bike Grows With Your Child
"As easy as learning to ride a bike," is something of a misnomer if you ask me.
I remember learning to ride a bike as being a trying and mildly traumatic experience – though I blame my father for this.
He took the stabilisers – a part of the bike that I had become deeply attached to – off one day without telling me. Being four years old at the time I didn't notice and had an immediate ground to body encounter, which left me with scraped elbows and a profound distrust for my father that was to last many years. Though I'd forgotten the stabilisers betrayal by the time I was learning to drive a car and he offered his special brand of in-the-deep-end style of teaching.
Despite my inauspicious start on two wheels, I have since become a devoted cyclist. I am fortunate to live in the city and bikes are the principal mode of transport for my family. I got my son started on the back of my bike from about 12 months, and he's always loved cycling around Dublin shouting at taxi drivers and passers-by – don't know where he picked that up from I swear...
So when he started to show an interest in "Cooter" and "Motobike" (that's toddler for scooter and tricycle) I knew I wanted to get him off to a good start. I found the tricycle was oddly not conducive to learning any skill other than "if I just sit here refusing to do anything she'll eventually push me", while any time I brought the scooter out and about I ended up with the child on my shoulders, carrying the scooter staggering under the weight of my pregnant belly. Not a good look. That's when I was directed towards the balance bike – the go-to gadget for soon-to-be mobile kids.
Engineer and cycling enthusiast, Simon Evans of Irish company LittleBig bikes developed an ingenious balance bike designed to grow with your child after spending time working in a bike shop.
"I saw how quickly kids were comfortable on them. Often small kids would just jump onto a balance bike without any assistance and start zooming around the shop; it just seemed so natural for them."
Evans spotted that the only drawback of the balance bike method was that children grow so quickly, he was soon seeing parents coming back to purchase another bike for the next phase. And so the LittleBig bike was born. The bike, designed to grow with your child is suitable from age two to seven years. Initially, the bike can be used as a pedal-less balance bike; then as the child gets older, the frame can be flipped, and pedals added to accommodate longer legs and longer reach. The design is sleek, and it is surprisingly inexpensive given that it will last five years. All the bikes are hand assembled in Wicklow and available from the LittleBig bike online shop with free Irish delivery.
Evans was one-half of the first Irish team to ever circumnavigate the world by bicycle and is clearly keen to pass on the grá to the next generation:
"I don't have kids myself (yet), but I have two nieces and nephews who led me to realise the benefits of the balance bike, and for me to test prototypes, etc."
How To Get Your Kid To Saddle Up And Cycle In 5 Easy Steps:
Take them on your bike to get them used to the sensation and interested in learning.
Make a big thing out of the helmet purchase. You've got to get them excited about the safety gear, or you will have a daily fight on your hands. Get their favourite colour or cartoon character and obviously, it goes without saying, always wear your own helmet. I had a major smug moment there lately when my son admonished me for not having my helmet on, "I was gonna put it on," I huffed sounding like a cranky teenager. Fingerless gloves and elbow and knee pads are also worth considering – though only if your child is more compliant than mine!
Praise their "gliding", if you're starting the child off on a scooter or balance bike encourage them to glide for longer sections with a "weeeeee" noise. It's amazing how instinctive they can be from a young age about achieving balance, correcting the bike using the handlebars and using speed to keep the bike upright.
Stand in front of your child – this encourages them to look straight ahead rather than at the bike or at the ground which means better steering and balance.
Invest in a LittleBig bike! It really is a brilliant way for kids to learn. It's easy to assemble, allows the child to develop their co-ordination organically and for once is a gadget for kids that is actually designed with longevity and money-saving in mind.