Olle's Big Two-wheeled Adventure

For someone with a garage of bikes and parts you'd think my kids would just run at any two-wheeled contraption leap on board and be headed off into the distance before you'd understand what is going on... but the reality is mastering a two-wheeled contraption is not easy and the transition from tricycle to bicycle has for my oldest boy, been full of ups and downs... and a few trips into the trees that line the driveway.

Olle was aching for a bicycle long before his arrived. Which happened late last year when his tricycle died, it was well before his birthday or Christmas. So Carla and I decided that now was as good a time as any for him to get a bicycle that would last him for a few years. The typical bike shop "kids bike" was quickly ruled out, as they are basically pieces of shite pretending to be bikes. They are too heavy and more often than not, poorly made. So I decided the best option would be a pukka BMX bike.

What Olle ended up with is a 18" ABD BMX, from Avanti. It's a reasonable bike, solid well constructed frame with front and rear cantilevered brakes, Kenda tyres and a host of ABD kit. It came home from the shop with training wheels... and that's where things started to go wrong.

Whilst Olle was a gun on his trusted tricycle, circling the deck around the house at high-speed, far higher than I'd ever attempt or thought possible; so the first time on his new bike he was down the drive and into the trees, as the concept of brakes, steering and pedaling departed. I think it's something most learners have experienced, for me it was on a neighbors bike and I hit a big fence going very fast... you know the kind of fence as tall as a house as wide as the section, something impossible not to miss!

Back to Olle, his enthusiasm for his new bike began to wane pretty quickly, despite having in the positive column, a nice long driveway and a pretty dry summer. However things were also beginning appear in the negative column; training wheels that were not set up correctly and kept falling apart/off, the bike was not set up correctly when it was built and had to be returned to adjust the drive train (when I noticed the chain eating away paint and metal on the rear stay...), and the crashes. Mostly caused by dodgy training wheel set-up and depleting confidence. I tore apart the training wheels, did some re-engineering and a good application of Loctite in some key places, so no more problems.

Despite all the problems, Olle really wanted to move away from training wheels so he could ride like me. Each time we tried removing them, it would all fall apart very quickly and I'd be requested to put them back within 10 minutes. On the last attempt I played around with how the bike was set-up, the seat was lowered, the bars brought closer and we worked on getting his balance right, but from the look in his eyes, I could see this was not going well, his confidence was shot.

So what next?

It seems that training wheels are a big problem in getting kids from tricycles to bicycles, they hinder learning the balance, which is such a key. The consensus is the transition can be managed with a balance bike, however, with the BMX already in the garage, we were not about to purchase another two-wheeler. So the plan was to turn Olle's existing bike into a balance bike.

The first step was to remove the pedals, then the chain and finally the crank. What I was left with was a big hole and a bike that was now about 2 kilograms lighter. I covered the bottom bracket with some plastic cut to shape from a milk bottle and sealed with some water-proof tape.

So far it's working and I think once the lawn becomes a bit drier he'll be away laughing. I'll keep to my promise, when he can ride his bike with pedals, he can come riding with me, something he really wants to do.

Something I'll be looking at when the crank and pedals are ready to return is components that weigh less... I think I can see why many kids have so much trouble riding their bikes, they are so bloody heavy! Olle's 18" BMX weighs a couple of kilograms less than my 26" trail bike and that's too much for a six year old.

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