Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Wiggins Effect

Well crikey - 4 rides in a week, getting out there almost every day, one broken bike and plans to purchase lots more - is this a renaissance of cycling in the Stead Household?

Rather chuffed to see that after 130km of riding, the difference between the GPS measurement of Strava and the bike computer measurement of Suunto differ by only ~2%. I'd call that accurate enough for mild-life crisis tracking.

And Strava has been proving addictive - even Paula's remembering to take her Android phone with her on walks. Back into running this week with a few short goes, to see if the knee is up to it after a month of Osteopathy and knee exercises.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Teaching children to ride (or: 'Why trainer wheels are the devil's accessory')

If you have a child, chances are they will want to ride a bike. Children rate cycling only second to swimming as a fun thing to do.

The traditional way to teach a child to ride is to buy them a small bike, slap trainer wheels on it, and then watch them fall off the very tippy tricycle you just made them until they grow past the counter-intuitive physics setup you put them into.

Let me explain: When you turn a corner on a bike, you lean inwards. A tricycle cannot lean. If you try to lean on a tricycle, you end up on two wheels. As a bike fitted with trainer wheels gets its drive from the rear bike wheel, leaning lifts the wheel off the ground, so the child's legs then spin forward quickly and unexpectedly as traction is lost. A typical tricycle has the wheels equi-distant. It is a 'perfect triangle', and therefore very stable.

A bike with trainer wheels is anything but stable. The trainer wheels are relatively close together compared to the distance to the front wheel, making for an isosceles triangle that is very easy to tip side-to-side.

Usually a child with trainer wheels puts pressure on the wheel arms so much that they bend upward. This then allows them to corner correctly - until the lean over too far, the trainer wheel contacts the ground, the rear bike wheel lifts and carnage usually ensues.

All this delays the child's ability to cycle freely, sometimes by years. Seriously. There are 5- and 6-year-olds out there on trainer wheels who could have been cycling at 3 or 4.

So what's the answer? How to tech your child to balance in a way that doesn't kill your back and gives them the sense of independence and freedom to let their brain focus on the bike? A stick.

There are many types of stick - from a broomstick right up to custom-built multi-pound ones made form space-age steel or aluminium. Fellow Kiwi Gary Moller wrote an excellent how-to guide on the subject years ago - here's a photo from the eBook:

But if DIY isn't your thing, there are commercial alternatives now available all over the place: just Google on ' balance handle child bike ' and a whole range come up to suit different budgets, taste and bike design. All these contraptions do the same thing: connect an adult's hand to the bike, at a comfortable height.

Once fitted, it's as easy as walking or jogging behind your child. You'll both know when it's time to let go.

Back From The Dead

Right. I've said this before and I'll probably say it again, but Must_Try_Harder. Keep blog updated. etc etc. As a starter for one, here's last night's effort. Bugs, bugs, bugs.