notes from JK

Bike for life: First cycling experiences

Riding the Rothan balance bikeSeeing yet another advert for cheap supermarket bicycles reminded of an article I read a while ago about ‘Bike Shaped Objects’. It was by the very knowledgeable and helpful folks at South Coast Bikes (who I can highly recommend for bike servicing). “An impassioned guide on why not buy a cheap Bike or BSO” makes for excellent reading.

In essence the argument is that bikes are complicated, the simplest needing hundreds of precision parts, and that quality bikes are relatively speaking cheaper than ever. As supermarket bikes don’t last and don’t ride well they’re not good value at all.

I remember helping to find a first bike for my nephew a few years ago and then for my daughter more recently. The usual shops sold these incredibly heavy, bulky bikes which were difficult to move and seemed poorly welded together. Being used to a decent but low-end mountain bike for most of my cycling life I was stunned at how heavy these bikes were given their size and proposed users.

A child won’t engage with a bike which is too heavy for them to manhandle and which could crush if it falls on them. My daughter started with a pink thing with stabilisers which felt like it was made from cast iron. She could barely make it move and soon lost interest.

Having been a keen cyclist on and off for many years I didn’t want her to miss out on cycling. So I did more research and spoke to some friends (particularly fellow Green councillor Ian Davey) concluding that ‘like-a-bikes’ were a better starting point. These are bikes without pedals essentially so kids can learn balance without worrying about the pedals.

I saw plenty of these in wood and plastic which somehow or other didn’t convince and seemed quite pricey. Then, I don’t recall how, I came across Islabikes ‘the childrens bikes specialist’.

Wow. They make proper bikes, but for little people. Perfect.

We got my daughter the ‘Rothan’ balance bike which she absolutely adores and uses all the time. It’s solidly built, has a brake (which is good for downhill escapades and to get her familiar with the concept) plus it’s really light being based on an alloy frame. She picks it up, takes it out and zooms on her own. Marvellous.

I believe setting a positive first experience with biking should help her to be a positive cyclist for life. Someone who enjoys cycling as a way to get around, to explore and to keep fit. For a little bit more than a supermarket ‘bike shaped object’ I hope she’ll be well on the road to bike for life.