How to teach your kid to ride a bike with no effort for you:

There are a couple of ways  to teach your kids to ride a bike.  You have the painful option and the easy option.  Both methods work.

Training wheels Option:

training wheels dad teaching childTraining wheels are how I was taught to ride a bike. I hated the experience. I vividly remember my mom teaching me to ride and me drifting into a metal mailbox post. It hurt, it sucked and I hated it. The training wheels are bolted onto each side of the bike and the bike can stay up without the operator having to balance. Seems like a good idea, but the training wheels teach the kids a lot of bad habits and makes learning to balance doubly difficult. I did not know any better and this is how I trained my first daughter, and the transition away from training wheels was just like I remember it as a child- painful. It was difficult for me to teach her to ride. Neither of us enjoyed the experience.   My first daughter was 5 when she learned to ride a bike without training wheels.

I am not sure how many of you know the history of the bike, but the first bike was invented by a German man named Karl Drais in 1817. The bike was called a Draisine named after himself, or later got the name dandy horse. This bike had no pedals and the user would sit on the bike and run along with his weight supported by the bike. The bike was made almost entirely of wood and the tires were wrought iron wrapped around wheels. This was the first device that competed with the horse. These first bikes were considered a young man’s sport, as they were quite dangerous and not comfortable. It took another 78 years before the first modern equivalent bike, called the safety bike, appeared. This bike opened up biking to men, women, young and old and although the materials used have changed, the general design has remained the same.

Balance Bike Option:

balance-bikeThe second option to teach your child to ride a bike is to use a Balance Bike (Laufrad): Once my second child came we had been living in Germany for a few years and I saw a number of the local kids using these Balance bikes. A balance bike is a bike with no pedals and is sized so that the child can sit on the seat with both feet on the ground. It is basically one of these original dandy horse bikes upgraded for modern convenience.  I purchased one of these for my youngest and she loved it. First she would walk using the bike and the next thing I knew she would pick up enough speed and then lift up her feet and coast for about a 100 ft (30 m). One day we were on an errand together and it was a slight downhill slope. She put her feet up and coasted for 300 ft- I was dumbfounded. No training on my part, zero effort and she had mastered the most difficult part of biking. I figured she had the balance down and that day we would try biking. I placed her on a bike that day and pushed her and told her to pedal. First try and she was riding. For me as a parent it was no effort teaching her how to bike. The kicker is she was 3 ¾ years old. The only bad habit she learned from the balance bike was she wanted to put her feet down to stop, but this was a small inconvenience compared to the bad habits training wheels had caused my first daughter.

Wrap up:

In conclusion, I find a balance bike the only solution to teaching a kid to ride a bike as opposed to using the training wheels. Your child learns balance first. Once the balancing is mastered then learning to pedal becomes quite simple. Additionally, I recommend that you buy one of the balance bikes used, as child only uses them 2-3 years before moving to a bike. They make the transition to a bike much easier than the training wheels. Do your part and stomp out training wheel use and teach your kid how to bike through the balance bike!

How I got into bike commuting

I remember asfather-and-son-biking a child my father would take me to school before he went to work. It was always in his car. Then one spring day he told me we will ride our bikes tomorrow. I was excited, as this sounded like an adventure. The first time we rode, the morning air had a good bite to it. We took off and rode many side roads. It was wonderful to sense the outdoors rather than being locked in an enclosed vehicle. The adventure was thrilling and we made it to school in no time. Riding our bikes in the long days of the year was always a treat for me.

Fast forward to adulthood. I am an American and I helped a company start up a plant in the former East Germany. I lived there with my wife and our first daughter. Our house there was fairly close to work and we were able to make it work with only one vehicle. A few years later and the same company moved me to another plant in Germany- this time in Bavaria. We now lived a good distance further away from work and our family had recently grown in size too. A second car or another alternative to get to work was required.

My wife was going to need our car more often than me. When my wife needed the car, she would drive me to work, but that took 30 minutes out of her day and she did not like doing that very often, especially with small kids. The other option was buying a car, and I did not want to have to cover these additional costs, if I could avoid them. The next option was to take the public bus to work. This was time consuming option; it literally took one hour to commute by bus. It was not bad, because I could read or work on the laptop. However, I found I would get car sick on the bus. Definitely not a great situation.

I have been an avid runner since the 1991 and thought instead of running every morning, maybe I could try biking instead of the bus. After using Google maps to find the best route to avoid the freeway and minimize the amount of traffic, I tried out the commute one Sunday afternoon on my old mountain bike. It took me 75 minutes. I was exhausted and I realized this could work. The first year I would ride in the morning and take the bus that evening and on the next day ride the bike back home in the evening. I was getting exercise, loving the experience and learning.

The following spring I bought a commuter bike. It was a Bergamount Alumnimum frame commuter bike and took that for my first ride. Holy cow, it was fast. My commute time went from 75 minutes to 55 minutes one way, and with this bike I was able to start commuting both ways in a day. It took a while, but it was great exercise. I got rained on, I sweated, and I learned about lights, I learned how to change a flat, and how to do simple bike maintenance.

Commuting became an adventure and was fun again like I remember as a child growing up. I hope to share my knowledge that I have accumulated with you here on this blog.

How to get motivated to ride your bike:

possibleSometimes the difference between taking the car and stepping onto your bike is simply the motivation you have. Biking provides a ton of advantages, and we know this intuitively. Still we need motivation sometimes to get on that bike in the morning and ride to work. Here are the things that motivate me to bike to work:

 

  1. Biking gives you energy – I get my exercise and am able to get to work at the same time. Exercise has always been important to me and being able to combine commuting and exercise has actually been a time saver for me.
  2. Biking is a Zen like, calming experience. The beautiful thing about a bike for me is the quietness of the bike, the sound of the wind rushing past, which gives a white noise feel and puts me into a very rewarding state of wellbeing.   This state makes me feel better for hours and is really nice after a stressful day to get on the bike and let the workday stress wash away as soon as I start to peddle.
  3. Wind in your face makes you happy – I love the wind rushing past my head and the pure joy of the bike peddling that simply brings a smile to my face.
  4. Able toThink outside of the box – When I chose to start biking to work it reinforced to me that there is more than one way to do something. It is also kind of neat to see me coworker shake their heads in the kind of weather I ride my bike in. Having the right rain gear and mud flaps totally opens up the possibilities. This frees you up.
  5. Inspiration in $$$$ saved – just remember, if you can cut out one car from your family, you start saving an additional $6000 a year and you do not need a gym membership any longer. A $500 dollar a month after tax raise is a great motivator and you get exercise for free at no extra charge. On top of that no parking fees and expensive maintenance costs.
  6. Sell your car! – the big ballsy move. Cut the apron strings and go sans car! Once you sell your car, you remove the training wheels from this experiment and give yourself no other convenient choice, except to use your bike. That is motivation from the other side.
  7. No more traffic Jams – When I get to traffic lights, I am now always at the front and no longer need to wait for light sequence. I always have the EZ pass and get to cut to the front of the line.
  8. Be prepared – Rain gear, mud flaps, gloves, spare tires.
  9. Track your progress – get something like the app Moves for the iPhone or Android and track your daily progress. Remember, what get measured gets improved.
  10. Document your physical progress – take before pictures, and then monthly update your progress. Moving to a bike will cause you to lose weight as you start burning more calories. On a bike at fast tempo of 18-20 mph (28-32 kph) you burn around 1000 calories an hour.

 

For me, these things are what motivate me to get on my bike every morning and enjoy the freedom bike commuting provides over commuting by car. Hopefully, you can find motivation in this list and keep the bike commuting habit going.

How to Change out a flat tire like a pro in 2 Minutes flat

Hey all, flats do occur and you need to know how to change these out.  This short action list is all you need to fix a flat like a pro.flat tire picture

Hopefully, you are using my tips to prevent flats, but they still occur sometimes.

Actions to change a flat tire:

  1. Disengage the brake
  2. Remove the wheel from the bike. I assume you have quick releases, and if you do not than pull out your crescent wrench and use this to remove wheel
  3. Fully deflate the tire, if not already done through the puncture failure point.
  4. Use the tire lever tool to remove the tire from your rim
  5. Remove the rubber hose from the tire
  6. If possible, take a damp rag or shirt and clean out any rocks and debris from inside the tire
  7. Take the new rubber hose and partially inflate (I recommend a small pump here rather than the CO2 cartridges) just enough to easily snake back into tire
  8. Place partially inflated rubber hose into the tire
  9. Position inflation nipple into hole of rim
  10. Use the tire lever tool to place tire on rim again (you may need to deflate the tire again)
  11. Once tire completely on rim, partially pump up tire and ensure that the rubber hose is completely below the tire (if not deflate and get rubber tube positioned completely below tire)
  12. Complete pumping up the tube
  13. Remount bike wheel
  14. Reengage the brake

That is it- simple and to the point.  Good luck all.

 

How to be a night rider without having to be above the law:

It is starting to get dark out earlier here on the top side of the world and we need to stay safe while biking as the sun starts setting sooner.   Getting caught in the dark can be stressful if you are not prepared.

First and foremost it is important to remember safety and visibility is paramount. Knowing that the darkness is coming sooner here are 8 suggestions to help you stay safe during the evening hours:

  1. Rear lights. The rear lights that are battery operated allow you to stand out where you are most vulnerable, when a car comes up from the rear. Make yourself visible.
  2. Front lights. The front light is the second most important piece of equipment. It allows you to see the road and oncoming cars to see you as well. Get as strong a light as possible. With the LED lights you can get very high Lumens at low energy requirements.
  3. Brightly colored jacket. Preferably one of the yellow neon jackets. These make you much more visible when a light is shined upon you as well. Additionally, they keep you protected from the rain and weather.
  4. Blinking light on backpack or helmet. One of these devices helps you to stick out more through the rapidly blinking light.
  5. Reflectors on your wheels. When a car is coming onto your perpendicular to you these reflectors help you to stick out further.
  6. A bell. Sometimes while riding you come across pedestrians who may not being paying attention and a bell can help communicate quickly that there is a bike rider nearby.
  7. Choose lightly traveled routes. This applies in summer as well. However, in winter it applies even more. Find paths where cars move the slowest, or not at all.
  8. Cell phone. Keep your charged cell phone on you, so if you do get into further trouble you are able to call home or call a taxi to give you a hand.

These simple tips will keep you safe and let you be a night rider too.