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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
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
a full-size bike does. Crashes ensue.
Enter variable stabilisers. They keep the wheels in
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?
Teaching your child 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. (+)
||<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, 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
||/me goes off to knock up a prototype, gets distracted half
||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] 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?