Tuesday, September 28, 2010

GlideBikes

Learning to ride a two-wheeler bike is hard. If your kids are like mine, they started with tricycles, moved to a two-wheeler with training wheels, and then stayed there happily until I left town for a weekend and my husband forced them to learn without the training wheels.

Well, that worked for one of them at least. The other two are still in the training wheels phase.

Learning to ride the two-wheeler is so hard because you have to coordinate your balance, work the pedals, figure out the brakes, and it's not so instinctual to put your feet down on the ground if you start to topple, because they're "supposed" to be on the pedals.

Enter GlideBikes. These are "balance bikes" that teach kids to ride two-wheelers by simplifying the whole experience. They are smaller, lower bikes with no pedals that allow children to learn two-wheel balance. The theory is that kids start by "walking" the bike without the pedals getting in the way. Once they get the hang of it, they can glide, balanced upright on two wheels. For a more detailed explanation of this method, check out this post by Christine of Day Sixty-Seven, who wrote about teaching kids to ride on balance bikes.

There are three GlideBike models:

• The Mini Glider for ages 2-5, up to 100 pounds ($99.99)
• The Go Glider for ages 5-10, up to 125 pounds ($129.95)
• The Super Glider for ages 10 and up, up to 250 pounds—ideal for special needs individuals

Once kids get the balance down, they can put their feet on the foot pegs, located about where pedals usually are. The foot pegs can be rotated out of the way on the mid-size bike so they won't be a distraction for kids who feel like they're "supposed" to put their feet up there, which mine did.

Sam mastered the GlideBike quickly.

My 5- and 7-year-olds were a little hesitant to try the GlideBike. Honestly, I think think they would have been more willing to practice on it if they hadn't already started with training wheels. Because GlideBikes are made for kids as young as two (and have easily height-adjustable seats), it would be easy to skip the training wheel stage altogether.

I loaned one of the bikes to a friend of mine who has a barely-four-year-old daughter. This was her experience:
"K likes it a lot. She feels like a big girl on it and she shows it off to everyone we see on the way around the neighborhood. She is still walking it along pretty slowly so we will need a lot more time to see if she learns to balance on it. One problem we had with is that the kickstand sticks out too far and she kept banging her ankle into it. We removed it and problem solved."
I LOVE the idea of these bikes. I especially love it for kids who might have coordination issues. Bikes like the GlideBike really break down the skills needed to ride so it's easier to do.


There are some features about these bikes that I really liked.

• They are very lightweight. I carried the Go Glider and two scooters across a big field the other day with no problem.

• They seem to be very solid and high quality. Check out their website comparing their balance bikes to their competitors.

• They make a "Super Glider," for individuals who may not be able to learn how to ride bikes when they are younger and smaller.

• They look like "real" bikes, so they don't look babyish. I think this is especially important for the Super Gliders.

• The company seems to have put thought into what special needs kids need in a balance bike. I like companies that care about things like this.

• They have hand brakes, so there is less of a chance that your child will go flying down a hill and hit a tree.


There were a few downsides as well.

• They have hand brakes, which means that your kids have to figure out how to use them.

• Like my friend noted, the kickstand is a little awkward. My seven-year-old with autism scratched himself on it while trying to stop, and it made him nervous to try it again.

• My kids are a little reluctant to practice on the bikes. This is not so much a fault of the bikes as just a situation with my kids.

We're definitely going to keep working at learning on the GlideBikes though, because I firmly believe that they are a great way to teach my kids to ride a two-wheeler.

Honesty Clause: GlideBikes sent me a Mini Glider and a Go Glider for review purposes. I am donating the Mini Glider to someone who teaches bike riding clinics. We're keeping the Go Glider until my middle and youngest child learn to balance.