on her bike.
Her next step will be this... www.pinkbike.com/video/147106/
Wall Street Journal Article...
LIFE & STYLE SEPTEMBER 1, 2010 Look Ma, No Pedals!
Ditch the Training Wheels, New Bikes Promise a Faster Way to
By ANJALI ATHAVALEY
Learning to ride a bike usually involves bumps, bruises, lots of practice—and back-breaking pain, too, if you're the parent running hunched over behind your child's wobbling cycle.
A new breed of bicycles that claims to help improve balance and allay jitters is changing how kids reach this childhood milestone. The bikes promote a simple strategy: ride without the pedals first.
Balance bikes—also called like-a-bikes and run bikes—are already widespread in Europe and are gaining popularity in the U.S. Bike makers say that children develop balance most effectively by sitting on the bike and walking with their feet flat on the ground and learning to pedal later. The bikes are generally meant for children ages two to five although some parents choose to buy them earlier.
Models cost from $50 to upwards of $200, or more than a regular kid's bike with pedals. And 4- and 5-year-olds may outgrow them pretty quickly, moving on to a real two-wheeler in less than a year.
Companies that sell these products say they will change the age-old American way of learning to ride by enabling parents to skip a key step: "You won't see training wheels," says Frank McDonnell, a partner at TurnStyle Brands LLC, exclusive distributor of Early Rider balance bikes in the U.S. "Children that ride a balance bike tend to not need training wheels and will go straight to a two wheeler."
In fact, proponents of this method say training wheels are counterproductive because children become reliant on them. Taking them off is "like trying to go cold turkey on a cocaine addict," says Jennifer McIver, co-owner of Wishbone Design Studio Ltd. in New Zealand. The company designed the Wishbone balance bike, which retails for $229 at Giggle stores and modernnursery.com. The bike has a twist: It can be converted from a three-wheeler to a two-wheeler, so children as young as one can use it.
Why the interest in speeding up the process of learning to ride? "We do everything younger, faster, quicker," Ms. McIver says.
The school of thought on how to ride a bike is changing. The League of American Bicyclists, a Washington non-profit that promotes cycling, includes biking without pedals in its curriculum for certified instructors as the recommended method of training people new to cycling.
"It seems to be easier and more intuitive for kids to scoot along on something," says Andy Clarke, the league's president. "It gives them a greater sense of control over what they're doing," he says. There's no harm in using training wheels but "you don't want to become dependent."
For adults learning to ride, the challenges are different. Balance comes largely instinctively but "I think as an adult you are just more anxious or more intimidated or inhibited when doing new things," Mr. Clarke says. "It's not that at the age of 19 you lose the ability to balance. It's all mental. You feel a bit sheepish about it, and it's hard to overcome that."
The market for balance bikes in the U.S. is growing. When New York-based Giggle, a children's products retailer, first started selling the pedal-less LikeaBike six years ago, it cost more than $300 and didn't draw many buyers. "It wasn't cheap when you consider that you're only going to use it for a couple of years," says Giggle's chief executive and founder Ali Wing. Prices have since come down.
Smart Gear LLC, Deal, N.J., says sales doubled last year from 2008 and are on track to do the same this year. Smart Gear now has seven models, priced from $79 to $99, says Sam Cohen, Smart Gear chief executive. "
The boom in balance bikes is reminiscent of the kids' scooter craze that began a decade ago and then leveled off. "I see that most kids have both a scooter and a bike," says Tricia Burke, kids' brand manager at Trek Bicycle Corp. Even scooters have altered their design to appeal to younger riders. Giggle offers a junior version of the Razor scooter for ages three and up with three wheels to make it more stable for younger riders, says Ms. Wing.
Last week Beth Quenneville, a 27-year-old day care provider in Brandon, Vt., bought a $50 Züm balance bike online from Costco for her 1-year-old son Quinn. "The better thing for him is to learn [is to balance] beforehand and not learn it through falls and spills," she says.
Still, there's no evidence that these bikes provide children with a more efficient way to learn. "Is it going to give them an advantage? Hard to say," says Chris Koutures, a pediatrician and sports medicine physician in Anaheim Hills, Calif.
Children typically learn to ride a two-wheeler when they are four or five no matter the teaching method, Dr. Koutures says. "By the time they are going to kindergarten, most kids have learned," he says. "It shows that you are making progress in some of the skills we'd expect you to have."
Can a balance bike speed up the process of learning to ride? "It looks like a fun thing for kids to play with," says Garry Gardner a pediatrician in Darien, Ill. "Whether they can really learn to ride [sooner], I don't know if that claim is legitimate or not."
When Mae Creadick, a 38-year-old legal aid attorney in Asheville, N.C., bought a Strider balance bike for her son Kaz Rogowski for his second birthday she was nervous he would fall. But "he just uses his little feet like Fred Flinstone to stop," she says.
Kaz, now three, has come a long way. "He actually just recently started riding at the local BMX track," Ms. Creadick says. "It makes his father really proud because he's a BMX racer."
Overall, the market for bikes has taken a hit during the recession . Last year, 14.9 million bicycles were sold, down 19% from 2008, according to the Bikes Belong Coalition, a Boulder, Colo., group representing bike suppliers and retailers.
But the market for kids' bikes saw less of a decline. Last year, 4.7 million bicycles with wheels smaller than 20 inches in diameter were sold, down 8% from the previous year. Children's bikes cost less than adult bikes, says Tim Blumenthal, president of Bikes Belong. Also, children outgrow their bikes, needing new ones, and while many parents cut back on spending for themselves during the recession and recovery they kept spending on their kids.
One company is bringing balance bikes to preschools. National Sporting Goods, the distributor of the YBike, a balance bike designed in South Africa, conducted a pilot program this year in three New Jersey preschools. Teachers were given a lesson plan that used the bike to test fundamental motor skills. The company loaned 10 bikes to each of the schools for 30 days.
"The beauty of this is that kids can take to this so quickly," says Gregg Adelsheimer, president of National Sporting Goods. The company plans to expand the program this fall.
It's possible, of course, to use the pedals-free teaching method without buying a special bike. Zachariah Koshy of Houston, Texas, simply took the pedals off his six-year-old daughter Bela's bicycle. "Initially, she was worried I was breaking her bike," says the 35-year-old occupational therapist.
Bela, who was five and a half at the time, rode her bike without pedals several times for 15 to 30 minutes over the course of three weeks before catching on. "I stuck the pedals on and she was good to go," Mr. Koshy says. Despite a little wobbling, "her confidence and her balance was a lot better," he says.
Mr. Koshy says it's not just kids who become dependent on training wheels. "I think parents get lazy when you have the training wheels," he says. "You don't have to run after them."