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# Variable bike stabilisers

Adjustable level of support when learning to ride
 (+5) [vote for, against]

Bike stabilisers (training wheels) are a cruel invention. They teach a child to stick their feet on the pedals, keep them there, come what may, and twist the handlebars in the desired direction, leaning out of the turn all the way round. No balance required.

Then we take the stabilisers off. Come what may, the feet stay on the pedals. Little Johnny has no idea how to balance, and no instinct to put his feet down when things start to go awry. He's used to turning the handlebars to start a turn, rather than leaning inwards to start a turn like a full-size bike does. Crashes ensue.

Enter variable stabilisers. They keep the wheels in contact with the ground, but allow the bike to lean over, slowly, in response to the rider's movements. This gently encourages the new cyclist to balance the bike himself rather than relying on the stabilisers to hold him upright. The stiffer they are, the easier the bike is to balance. As Johnny gets better at it, the stiffness can be reduced until eventually the stabilisers are doing almost nothing.

So how do they work? The stabilising wheels are connected to the bike via dampers whose compression resistance can be set to anything between total (full lockout) right down to zero. Rebound resistance is minimised, so a weak compression spring can keep the wheels in contact with the ground. An external dial allows the damper resistance to be set.

Et voila. A smooth transition between riding a little trike, a bicycle with training wheels, and one without. Sure, you could use a balance bike instead, but where's the engineering in that?

 — david_scothern, Jul 07 2017

Teaching your child to ride a bike http://www.bikehub....ild-to-ride-a-bike/
//Do. Not. Use. Stabilisers.// [pocmloc, Jul 07 2017]

I watched my dad just keep raising the training wheels on my brothers bike little by little until he was riding on his own, believing that the wheels were supporting him. (+)
 — normzone, Jul 07 2017

<link> its generally agreed that an undersized bike with the pedals removed (or an expensive “balance training bicycle”) is the optimum way to learn steer-balancing a singletrack vehicle.
 — pocmloc, Jul 07 2017

 pocmloc, I agree entirely, and all of our children learnt that way. However, people still use stabilisers. No, I don't know why either, but hey, if they'll buy my product and save their children some bruises in the process, everybody wins. Well, I win.

/me goes off to knock up a prototype, gets distracted half way...
 — david_scothern, Jul 07 2017

 I completely agree that training wheels are not good for teaching balance. I have 3 kids who have learned to balance on a small bike with no pedals. The biggest difficulty we had was that the rotary pedaling motion is apparently not a completely natural instinct. I think that should have been learned on a tricycle, we didn't have good terrain for the tricycle we owned. One of them that was struggling was helped immensely after having the opportunity to drive a 4 wheeled pedal car around a gym for a few days. Training wheels can be good for teaching how to pedal.

So if you can make the stiffness of these stabilisers be inversely proportional to the speed of the bicycle, they could be quite useful for about 3 days per child.
 — scad mientist, Jul 08 2017

 [scad mientist] interesting. We found that once they could balance (ordinary bike, no stabilisers, no pedals either), the transition to pedalling took about three hours in the park, generally without any crashes. I'd never considered that pedalling might be difficult but I think you're right; they'd learnt that on a trike first. I can well imagine it would have been rather harder to pick up the skill from nothing while also trying to balance the bike.

/3 days per child/ A lifetime, surely?
 — david_scothern, Jul 08 2017

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