Posted on July 9, 2009 · 2 Comments
Scraped knees, bruised egos, and disappointment have long been hallmarks of learning to ride a bike, which nearly every kid tackles typically around or after the age of 4. Not to mention parental fatigue and frustration from watching a little rider struggle and suffer injury. There has to be a better way, right? That’s what we at Gyrobike believe too.
Gyrowheel was born from four of my friends’ fascination with making learning to ride a unicycle easier (and less painful!) while we were all at Dartmouth College. (They were students at the Thayer School of Engineering while I was at the Tuck School of Business.) They needed to find a way to help keep the unicycle upright so they decided to try and create a training wheel that used the same physics principles that stabilizes a gyroscope to add the stability they needed to the bike. The idea worked.
They soon realized that this would not only stabilize a unicycle but also add stability and balance to any regular two-wheel bike and that countless little kids could benefit from finding a safer and easier way to learn to ride a bike and Gyrowheel was born. For decades, most kids have started out riding a two wheeler using training wheels. The problem is that training wheels do not simulate two-wheel bike movement, and therefore do not teach the rider the correct way to ride a bike. Training wheels simply keep a rider from tipping over (most of the time) and teach bad riding habits, such as leaning away from a turn. Kids using training wheels develop muscle memory that is counter-productive to riding a bike. When the training wheels come off, these riders find themselves back at square one and have to unlearn bad habits.
And let’s face it, kids don’t like training wheels. Training wheels don’t look that cool when your kids’ friends are zooming around on two wheels without them. Older kids particularly feel embarrassed by the stigma of riding with training wheels. Even kids whose parents have them skip the training wheels step struggle through the learning process with trial and error and often injury. All too often we hear from parents whose kids are either embarrassed by riding with training wheels, or have gotten so discouraged from continuously falling that they give up trying. I have a friend (who shall remain nameless) who is 33 years old and was so discouraged from learning to ride that she hasn’t tried to ride a bike since she was 8 years old!
Gyrowheel replaces the front wheel of bike and is designed to fit virtually any standard bike with the same standard wheel size. Not only does it look cooler than training wheels, it adds stability to a bike and teaches proper riding technique. Gyrowheel senses unbalanced biking and re-centers the bike under the rider’s weight when the bike starts to wobble. It simulates fast biking by allowing new riders to enjoy the stability normally only experienced while biking at high speeds. Training wheels can’t do that!
Believing that we could really make a difference, the inventors and I partnered to find a way to bring the invention to all the kids and parents out there so that learning to ride would be safer, easier and a whole lot more fun – Gyrobike was founded in 2007 with this endeavor in mind.
We spent two years in product development, prototyping and exhaustive testing. Gyrowheel was designed with a disk that spins independently inside the wheel. Our challenge was to not only develop a front bike wheel with a disk that could do this, but also to find a way to get the disk to spin fast enough to create a force – the fancy term is “gyroscopic precession” – that would stabilizes the bike. This would keep the bike steady even at a very low speed – making learning to ride easier, safer and a whole lot more fun.
Our next step was to make sure Gyrowheel was the best, safest product we could make. And we went through multiple versions – first just to make sure the technology would work the way we planned, and then to make sure the Gyrowheel was little people friendly. We fully enclosed the disk to keep small fingers safe. We enclosed rechargeable batteries and motorized the disk. We created a fun design that allows kids (and adults!) to see the “magic” disk in action.
And we tested and we tested. Gyrowheel underwent many tests — including compliance, safety, and environmental — to ensure that we would be delivering a product that parents can trust. We also tested Gyrowheel on hundreds of new and experienced young riders. And what we found was:
- When testing in the ideal environment, (i.e. a flat or veryslight downhill location free of obstacles and distractions, including siblings, pets and road hazards), our new riders have 100 percent success rate learning to ride a two wheeler with Gyrowheel.
- On average, riders using a Gyrowheel and no training wheels learned to ride much faster than riders who had been using training wheels
- In fact one little girl learned to ride in just 30 minutes with Gyrowheel
At the end of the day, our mission has always been to deliver a safer, more fun way for kids to learn to ride a two wheeler. And I am pleased to say that after 2 long years, Gyrobike will begin to deliver the first Gyrowheels on the market later this year. We are looking forward to seeing the first group of new, confident little bikers, who didn’t have to learn the hard way, shortly thereafter.
Tips to Teach New Riders:
- Avoid using training wheels!
- Ensuring a safe riding environment is important. Choose a location free of obstacles and distractions, including siblings, pets and road hazards. Ideally the ground should have a very slight downhill slant, though flat ground works well too.
- We recommend temporarily removing the pedals from the bike (look in the instruction manual of the bike for guidance). Note: there are lots of bike out there you can buy without pedals, but we recommend saving your money and just removing the pedals so you can attach them when your rider is ready to start pedaling.
- Lower the seat so that both of your rider’s feet are comfortably flat-footed on the ground while straddling the bike seat. A slight bend in the knee is ideal.
- Help the rider gain comfort and confidence simply sitting on the bike seat and holding onto the handle bars.
- Have the rider practice pushing along the ground with his or her feet to scoot the bike around, like a seated scooter, until he or she is comfortable pushing off the ground and able to pick up his or her feet from time to time. This exercise should build confidence and balance.
- When the rider is comfortable with this exercise, you can reattach the pedals and start to incorporate the peddling action.
- To assist them with balance, support the rider on his or her lower back using your hands and stand to the back of the rider.
- Do not try and hold the handle bars of the bike to support the rider.
- Encourage the rider to “keep pedaling” and to look ahead” – these are helpful keys to success.
- When your rider is tired or seems to be getting frustrated, take a break but have them give it another try soon.
- Praise and positive reinforcement goes a long way – so make sure your rider knows that he or she is doing a great job!