Oct 01, 2009
I’m all for ridding the world of stabilisers (US = training wheels). They prevent children from learning how to ride their bikes. The Gyrowheel wants to change all that.
I can’t say that it will. Learner ‘running bikes’ are much more fit for the purpose, of which the Like-a-Bike is still the cream of the crop despite many and varied imitations.
The Gyrowheel is a child’s bike wheel stuffed with electronics, a battery and some seriously clever gyroscopes. It ain’t no Segway but at $100 a pop, it’s a lot cheaper.
But at one hundred bucks it’s about eighty five bucks more than most people will pay for a child’s front wheel.
Sadly, I can’t ride the 12-inch Gyrowheel. Even though I’m small, I’m not that small. However, at Interbike, I was able to feel the wheel and can report that it’s pleasingly odd to hold. It wobbles and wants to pull out of your grip.
Alongside Cannondale’s Simon, a neat piece of electronic suspension vapourware, the Gyrowheel was possibly the most innovative product at Interbike. And for innovative read ‘interesting’, ‘head-scratchingly different’ and ‘who’s gonna buy that?’.
The Gyrowheel press release makes some high claims for the product:
Gyrowheel replaces the standard front wheel of a bicycle and is installed the same way as a standard bike wheel. When powered on, Gyrowheel’s inner disk spins up. It then senses unbalanced riding and re-centers the bike underneath the rider’s weight when the bike starts to wobble, whether riding straight or turning. This action not only helps to keep riders from falling over, it also fosters and reinforces correct riding technique, resulting in a natural and smooth transition to conventional two-wheeled riding.
Gyrowheel comes equipped with internal rechargeable batteries and a charger. It operates with one button and has three stability settings – high, medium and low. As a rider’s skills and confidence improve, the stability setting can be adjusted. When powered off, Gyrowheel behaves like a standard bike wheel.
I was prepared to whizz by the booth, laugh at the product, and move on. That I stayed awhile had everything to do with the product and nothing at all to do with the fact the booth was staffed by cute women.
“The vast majority of children who tested Gyrowheel learned to ride in less than an hour,” said Gyrobike’s marketing director Ashleigh Harris.
That’s all well and fine but that’s how long it takes to teach even a four year old child how to ride a bike using the scoot-weeee-scoot method. I use this method at a local primary school and offer a one-hour guarantee: if the tot isn’t pedalling independently by the end of an hour, they can come back for another hour.
I’ve taught lots of kids. Just a couple have required that second hour. However, there’s a brilliant niche for the Gyrowheel, a type of student I find it hard to teach. Kids with balance problems or learning difficulties take much, much longer to get stable on two wheels. Some I’m still teaching. The Gyrowheel could be perfect for these kids.
At the moment the Gyrowheel comes only in a 12-inch version but a 16-inch version is in the works. I’d also like to see a 24-inch version and perhaps even an adult version.
A bike with a Gyrowheel fitted can just about balance by itself for a few metres, as demonstrated in the pic above. It’s a clever wee thing and could be an excellent training tool for hard-to-teach children but, in the meantime, the method I outline below in my ‘Family Cycling’ book (click the pages to flip through on Issuu.com) works fine for the majority of newbie nippers.
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