Balance of things...
Pretty much on daily basis I hear compliments from strangers about the fact that such a young boy (my son who's 2.5 years old) can ride a real bicycle. Maybe this blog post will help some of the parents and get their children on the bikes early and with confidence.
I learned how to ride a bike when I was about 8 or 9 years old at my grandmothers (she taught me how and by the way, at the age of 80 she still rides her bike everywhere). Needless to say, I had no doubt my son would ride a bike one day, I just wasn't sure when exactly it would happen and how the learning process will go.
Watching my friends kids zoom around on their balance bikes I was still a bit apprehensive about the whole idea. Would the balance bike help him or interfere with his ability to learn? I was reassured it would do wonders and in the matter of second, days, weeks he would master a real bike, no training wheels needed.
Needless to say, I was excited when my husband brought home a balance bike. Nothing special, just a regular balance bike from the local toy store. Our son just turned 2 years old... He hated it. We were slightly devastated and almost gave up on the idea, but kept the bike in the house hoping he would grow into it eventually. Little did we know, he started to sit on it by himself, practicing and within a couple of weeks he was already running around on it. He was getting very good and frankly liked showing off his skills at the playground. Still does :) He would ride with his legs in the air or on the frame of the bike, make tight turns. Withing couple of months of weekly (sometimes daily, even around the house) riding he showed great improvement and really fell in love with riding a bicycle.
This spring we got to test drive a WOOM1 balance bike, thanks to my amazing friend Shanti (the founder of Hike It Baby, if you haven't heard of it I highly encourage you to check it out!). What a difference it was compare to the regular one. Oh my! It was light (my son could pick it up and carry it and he was barely 30lbs himself), it had a bell (what kid doesn't like that?!) and what I liked a lot, it had one hand brake that he could practice with and actually stop without using his shoes (scraping the pavement... oh joy). Out of all the features, I think the brake was pretty much my favorite (followed by how light the bike was, really came in handy, when he would get tired at the park and I would carry both him and the bike home).
He was hooked and I was too. We had it for about a week and it turned heads everywhere we went. Sunshine or rain (and we do live in Oregon, so there was lots of rain to be had) we would go to our local park where he would ride on end... There were tears when we had to return it back to Shanti (she was going on a long trip around the states visiting different HIB branches and talking about the importance of getting your kids outside, in the carrier, on foot or on a bike), but he still had his old balance bike and kept on riding.
There were falls, but he would pick himself up again and continued riding.
Until one day he met a boy a little older than him that rode a bicycle with pedals, and they raced and my son lost that race. What a blow it was. More tears were shed and he begged us for a bicycle with pedals so he can go faster and win that race. It had to be red, with the bell and the brakes - he made it very clear to us. I was all for it, now we just had to find one that satisfied everyone.
Weeks went by. We went to different specialty bike stores (it's Portland, Oregon The Capital of all thing bikes!), and were a bit disappointed in the selection. It was either a balance bike for toddlers (that our son outgrew by height) or 16 inch bikes with training wheels that were too big and heavy for him (and me). We weren't sure if we should wait until he grows a little more and get him the 16 or if the 14 would be perfect. There were tons of used bikes online and new 14 inch bikes at our local supermarkets, but none of them really satisfied our wishes. We went online and stared at WOOM2 for days, it was beautiful, everything he wanted and we liked but it wasn't cheap. We researched some more, weighted the pros and cons and finally decided that the safety features, the weight and the quality were more important than the price.
... to be continued...
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