The design flaw of bicycles: Whose brilliant idea was it to place a bar on boy’s bikes? You practice, you learn the magical balance to not tip over while riding. Then you hit the brakes… and the pavement. And forget trying to get started again without help…
Learning to ride a bike is a milestone I drooled over as a child. Only two obstacles stood in my way.
My mom and my dad.
“Kelly, we will get you a bike, but you have to learn to ride one first.”
Perhaps you are scratching your head along with my childhood self. It wasn’t like there was a Learn to Ride a Bike Simulation Machine I could pop into and log hours until I passed. I needed a bike to learn….. only I couldn’t get one until I learned.
The proverbial “chicken versus the egg” question… only uh, for bikes.
I am convinced this is why I am so stubborn.
It was the summer before I turned eight and the humidity swallowed us. Each afternoon and evening the street kids gathered to yell, play hide-and-seek, and run through the yards catching fireflies. I watched as much younger children sped by on their bikes until one afternoon I had enough.
I borrowed a little boy’s bike. He was only five and much smaller. My feet easily touched the ground and formed training wheels as I teetered up and down the street for two hours, determined that I would have my bike soon.
I succeeded before night fall.
The next day, true to their word, my parents took me to the bike store to pick out a lovely, powder blue banana seat bike.
It was Father’s Day.
We won’t get into the whole Fairness Between Siblings Act where (five years later) my brother had a bike at 18 months old, way before he learned to ride one….
Fast forward twenty plus years and I’m a parent of two very active children.
I want them to learn to ride a bike and pedal the trails as a family.
My son had zero interest in pedaling. He received a tricycle at age three but used either the Flintstones method or the Parental Powered method to get from Point A to Point B.
He never wanted a bike. Every time we wandered by the bike section, he couldn’t escape it fast enough for the real toys.
Then he spent months watching his slightly older buddy careen down the sidewalks on his bike.
The interest grew, until the fateful Christmas Eve trip to Walmart.
He got his first bike for Christmas.
Aided by beautiful weather for most of January (insert obligatory “I love Texas in winter” comment), he learned to pedal, brake, and crash with the same stubbornness I had so many years ago.
He earned Street Privileges, thanks to the driveway design that creates evil slants in the sidewalk at every driveway – a bad thing when training wheels on a slant tilt an already unstable bike for a child who has never been on one before.
My heart broke a little each time he crashed (and thankfully we did invest in a helmet).
He got frustrated. He “never wanted to ride a bike again.”
But he did. Again. And again.
I loaded the bike in the van whenever we went to a park with a paved sidewalk – knowing the even trails would diminish the crashing and aid in learning balance.
Last Friday, as he circled a playground where his sister and I played, something clicked. The insanely loud training wheels were silent more often than not.
I knew the time was near.
Last night as my husband drove home from work, I snuck into his toolbox, grabbed a wrench, and took off the training wheels.
After demonstrating the whole The Bike Will Tip Over When at a Standstill Without Training Wheels principle, I held the bike as he climbed on. I gave the tiniest of pushes.
And he was off. Sailing. Soaring.
Smiling the biggest, most infectious grin. My pride mirrored his as I inhaled his joy.
“I’m riding my bike without training wheels! Wheeee!”
Then he tried to stop. And crashed.
He tried to get on. And crashed.
Because for some reason in this amazing age of technology, no one has designed “landing gear” for bicycles. You either have training wheels – which are shortlived – or a feeble kickstand. Or in my son’s case now: neither.
Pair it with the evil slam-you-in-the-crotch bar every boy’s bike has and legs that can barely touch the ground while straddling it, and you have a recipe for a lot more high impact splats with the pavement.
Seriously. What the frak were they thinking with that bar design? If a girl’s bike doesn’t need it to be structurally sound, why do boy’s bikes?
It’s enough to make me wish I’d bought a girl’s bike and just repainted it.
Luckily, my son is stubborn. And tough.
I’d better buy more band-aids.
My mother was lucky and had a quick live preview thanks to a faint wi-fi signal and Facetime, but here is the gratuitous “Look Mom! No Training Wheels!” video for the rest of the family and any other interested parties.
Can you tell I’m still beaming?
I wonder if I took a hacksaw to the bar….
What engineering design has made you go “What the frak?!” lately?