Cycling

The benefits of balance bikes

Benefits of balance bikes

Skate Park

benefits

Part 1

Over the last two decades balance bikes made an appearance on the markets in Europe and slowly took over the global market. Based on many customers’ comments, balance bikes are still an unknown territory for many parents in Australia.

We get asked often why the bikes have no pedals and what the purpose of a no-pedal bike is. Often we also need to advise that training wheels on balance bikes are not a necessity at all, as the legs are the stabilisers.

I spotted the first balance bike in London about ten years ago and I could not believe what I saw. A tiny two year old boy was flying through Marylebone on the footpath and he had both his legs in the air, scooting at a high speed in front of his mother. This child was in full control and had so much fun, and from that moment I was committed to get my future children onto a balance bike as well. Little did I know that I will actually have a business and import and distribute them in Australia :-).

Since this moment in London I have witnessed children in our network and my own as well on balance bikes and with no exception, I have been convinced of its benefits.

In this particular post I want to go into detail about the visible and obvious benefits that all consumers can observe and experience. In a future post I would also like to elaborate on the “hidden” not so obvious benefits, especially from a health perspective.

First and foremost, as its name suggest, the children learn to balance on a balance bike. The most common question we get asked, where the pedals would be as many perceive pedalling the most challenging part of cycling. Pedalling is the easy part out of all skills required to cycle. The biggest challenge is balance.
As the children stand on the ground with both their feet, they feel a sense of safety. They intuitively start walking when sitting on the balance bike and start leaning in when they want to change direction. When seeing children on a balance bike the first time it is hard to believe that they will learn to balance by themselves in a very short time. But as they keep going back on and develop more confidence and familiarity with the bike, they also start walking faster, running and eventually scooting. They do this at their own pace, just like they learn standing, walking and running and they do not need our help. Once they reach the scooting phase they automatically balance and master stirring the bike. At this stage they might be ready to transition to a traditional pedal bike, without training wheels.

The other advantage of learning to balance first as opposed to pedalling is that children also learn to deal with unexpected loss of balance. With both feet close to the ground their reflexes kick in immediately to correct the imbalance and they are less likely to fall or injure themselves in a challenging situation.

Most children who start riding on a balance bike also transition to a traditional pedal bike at a much younger age than those who start to ride with training wheels (in general 3-4 years versus 5-6 years, respectively). As balance and stirring skills have been fully developed, they only need to familiarise themselves with pedalling. My son moved onto a 16” pedal bike shortly after his third birthday. He initially had to get his head around pedalling, which took him about 45 minutes to an hour. As soon as he mastered the pedals he was off and rode the bike by himself with no stabilisers. His friend who transitioned a year later, at the age of 4, mastered his 18” bike within ten minutes (note, a balance bike has 12″ wheels). I have also met children on our trial tracks, who started riding immediately and surprised their astound parents who wanted to get them bikes with training wheels.

A more economical and ecological advantage of a balance bike is that it replaces a trike and a 12” pedal bike. As some balance bikes (see here) are suitable from about 18months or a height of 80cm, children can start to ride as soon as they are steady on their feet. With an adjustable seat, the balance bike can be used up until 4 years, the age when most children easily can fit a 16” pedal bike.

I also find that the balance bike is still a solid companion in our everyday life. Both my children use them every day and ride them everywhere. Even though my son can ride 24” bikes, he regularly sits on his balance bike as it gives him a different type of freedom and mobility than a traditional bike. He can jump and ride up and down on obstacles, it is easy to carry, because it’s light and he can master challenges where his legs would fail him with the other bikes at this stage. When we ride distances, he definitely rides our 20” troX elite or 20” raX flat, but on an everyday outing in our neighbourhood or to the skate park, I find him always choosing the balance bike, even though his knees are nearly touching the ground. We certainly got our money’s worth, but most importantly, he has a lot of fun and that is probably the most important benefit of all! Life is too short to not have fun and if you look through the images at the Melrose Fat Tyre Festival below from this year, the big kids could not agree more :-)

Before wrapping up, I would like to add my personal reasons as to why I as a parent love the idea of a balance bike. Personally, I never liked having a pram. They are big, heavy and bulky and too much hassle to manoeuvre and store. As soon as my daughter mastered her balance bike, I could retire the pram. I could feel free and more mobile again and my daughter loved her independence and always got a good workout in the great outdoors. I call that a win-win :-)

Fat Tyre Festival

The Stig Melrose

melrose south australia

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When to start on a balance bike

Balance Bike

Skatebowl balance bike

Very often when we have the pleasure to meet customers in person, we get asked when the best time is to start a child on a balance bike and how the parents can help the child develop their skills.

This post is certainly not a piece of advice from an expert’s point of view. I am not a sports teacher or physio therapist, but I have personal experience through my own and friend’s children and of course through the stories of our customers. However, most people do appreciate our story and I thought it would be good to share it with you as well.

Most balance bikes on the market are labelled with a recommendation for children from the age of 2-3. This probably applies to many children, especially first borns, but as we experienced it with our second child, she was ready a lot earlier, i.e. at 16 months.

In general, I do not agree with any age labelling on children’s products anyway. Just as I experienced with clothes, my son fit most clothes labelled with the same age as he was at the time, but my daughter who is nearly three still fits into 12-18 months clothing. Each child is different and therefore relying on an age recommendation is certainly not the way to go. This also applies to when children are ready for a balance bike.

When to start also depends fully on how well the children can walk. A child that starts walking at 18 months, is certainly not ready for a balance bike even though we do have bikes that most 18 months old children fit. Same applies to children, who are not comfortable with ride on toys and are scared at the sight of it. However, a child who has been walking for at least three months and is confident and past the wobbly phase may try a balance bike and succeed quickly.

What I personally noticed as well with my own but also friend’s children, is that first born children are ready at a later stage. They have no other child to observe and copy from and face the challenge by themselves. My son got his first balance bike for his second birthday and it took him nearly three months to figure out the concept and to develop some confidence. My daughter on the other hand, saw her brother cruising along and became very interested at 16 months and tried it out. By 18 months she rode the bike slowly but independently and confidently.

Rather than focusing too much on the age of the child, it is probably the safest to take the child’s height into account. Our pedeX 01 (here and here as well) and pedeX pirate range is suitable for children from a height of 80cm, the pedeX 02 and pedeX bamboo from 85cm and the pedeX wood wave from 90cm. If your child reaches any of these heights and they is a confident walker it is time to give him/her a chance to ride.

In the next post, I will describe what we as parents did to assist our two children with the initial attempts to ride a balance bike.

© scoolbikes.com.au

The importance to read and understand street signs

Disclaimer: This post is by no means meant to take a side of a certain party or to criticize certain groups. It is merely written based on experience and the frustration it has caused and it elaborates on my personal opinion and feelings on certain laws and certain missing actions our society and government is not taking

Street Sign

It was lunch time and I decided to take a break for a quick bike ride for an hour.

I was looking forward to this ride, where I can free up my mind, get some exercise done and come back refreshed and full of energy to my desk to finish off the second half of my day. What I did not anticipate was that I would come back very angry and frustrated.

I grew up in Germany from the age of six and riding a bike was part of our everyday life. We rode our bikes to school, to our friends, to the food shops, to the local lakes, the mountains and even to the neighbouring towns. Riding was fun and effortless and safe, as there are over 70,000 km worth of cycling paths across the country. I rarely had to ride my bike on the road to get to a town 20km away. And even in areas where there are no cycling paths, I was never petrified to ride because drivers respected cyclists and made sure to overtake when it was safe for everybody.

In the last two years before finishing school, cycling turned into a regular 50km ride habit to unwind and to help me focus on my studies for my Abitur. I remember how great I felt after this long ride next to the mountains and how refreshed and motivated I felt after my ride to sit down and study.

When I moved to Australia, I expected to be in a country with ample of opportunities to ride. I have lived in four countries in my life and out of all countries Australia has the best cycling conditions from a weather perspective, yet the worst out of the remaining conditions. There are hardly any designated cycling paths – a few have been added, but still far not enough to get around safely, especially with children.

Drivers do not know how to behave around cyclists. Despite of the new laws that enforce a car to overtake a cyclist with more than 1m, I have still seen too many cases where the distance was not respected and the cyclists were lucky to have only gotten away with a shock (mind you, I was shocked, too).

With NSW having enforced the new cycling laws on 1 March 2016, the government added another reason NOT to cycle. I am all for cyclists abiding by traffic rules and safety and fully agree that helmets should be worn, but I am against enforcing it as a law; it does not encourage cycling and a cyclist without a helmet does not harm the greater public, but himself. Why can that not be their own choice? And if we are already talking about helmets? Where are the guidelines of how to wear a helmet correctly? Does NSW fine for incorrect fitting? Because wearing a helmet incorrectly or a wrong size, will not protect like a helmet that fits and is worn correctly? Why is that not policed?

The most ridiculous law in my opinion is the enforcement of the bike bell on road bikes and mountain bikes. Clearly the person who wrote this law has never ridden a road bike. The only place I can mount my bell is right next to the head set. In order for me to ring the bell (which I did not think I will use, but keep on reading and you will understand why I had to), I need to take my hand away from the brake (!), let go of the handle bar and flick the leaver. What if I have to break suddenly? Yes, I have the other break, but only one hand on the handle bar! Will I have time to get back to the safe position that helps me navigate my bike in a safer way? When I rang the bell the first time, this sprang to my mind. The answer is: NO. I will just fly off my bike! So from here on, I used my natural bell, i.e. my voice and shouted like I used to.

However, I do not understand why I had to use the bell / shout on a section that was purely signed for cyclists. I deliberately chose an area with a designated cycling path. I’d say about half of the area is a designated cycling path and next to it a designated walking path. Both paths are marked clearly with street signs on the side and with oversized prints on the paths of bikes and walkers. And yet, people are all over the shop.

So as I was riding along in the section where this clear distinction of the two paths is made, I ride around a bend and two ladies walk in my lane. I have to break and I ring the bell frantically (here I notice what I wrote about before). The ladies jump left and right in panic, which makes it hard for me to judge where to go to avoid a collision; I have to pull the brakes hard, not to run them over and not to injure myself. Naturally I do shout at them with frustration and ask why they cannot walk in their lane as the signs say. The dumbfounded ladies just yell at me: “which signs”, as if I was making up a story. All I could do is point at the street sign and the human sized print underneath their feet. Then I left and rode hard to get my anger out.

And now let’s do the maths: I would say, there is a sign of the above picture after every 50-100m on a stretch of let’s assume 3km. In addition to those mounted signs there are oversized prints of either bikes or walkers on the footpath at about the same distance. So even if both signs appear after every 100m, that is 30 street signs and 30 oversized prints (or 60 prints, because there are two next to each other). So that is 60 / 90 signs along this stretch and they don’t see them?

Today’s example was not the first, but today’s ended luckily with no injuries. However, I have been on the same stretch, in the bend before where a mother let her toddler ride her scooter on the cycling path. A young cyclist came along the bend and did not see the child on time. The outcome was luckily nothing severe, but both the child and the cyclist had bruises and scratches all over themselves. And what upset me the most, was that the mother tried to put the blame on the cyclist.

I am a mother of two and I defend my children where I can, if it is reasonable, but in this instance, it was not the cyclist’s fault. The cyclist did nothing wrong, he rode his bike in his lane on the left hand side. The mother did not take into account the signage and her child had to suffer the consequences.

(In case you wonder why I did not say anything to the mother. I was on the oncoming side too far away to say something. I witnessed the accident from distance.)

So rather than focusing on enforcing ridiculous laws that just make the population cringe and discourage cycling, how about this government raises awareness of their street signs and teaches children at school and young drivers about street signs and road rules and how to behave and respect each participant on the rode equally, no matter if pedestrians, cyclists, runners, drivers of cars and trucks, etc. Only this way is it possible to raise a generation that is considerate and respectful towards each other. Putting ridiculous laws into place just makes people believe we live in a nanny state and takes the joy of a nice sport away, as it happens to me right now.

© scoolbikes.com.au

Kids riding in traffic

 Harbour Bridge

Kids Riding

Riding bikes is part of our everyday life, not only because it’s our business, but also because it keeps us active and it is fun.

My children started riding a balance bike when they turned two and 16 months. As we live in a busy and dense suburb in Sydney and I don’t believe in driving to beach promenades or cycling areas every day, I had no choice, but let them ride on the footpaths and the local parks. Many people dislike the idea of letting their children ride in traffic, I am not keen on the idea either, but if I have no other option, I adjust to my surroundings and make the best of it.

No matter where we go – grocery shopping, a quick ride, the doctor, etc. – the bikes are being used; at least the kids’ bikes. Very often, I don’t end up riding, but walking and the kids ride ahead. They know to stop at the edge of a road and to wait for me. They know not to ride to close to the road but as far away from the side as possible. I made sure, they learnt these rules early and I only let them ride ahead once I was a 100% sure, they will behave according to road rules. It’s been working very well and we all benefit from it. I have two happy children, who move enough and are balanced and if the kids are happy, obviously we parents are happy too.

Suburb

Sometimes, we bump into people who do not agree with this approach. They make a point of telling me (even if it is not direct) that what I am doing is irresponsible. Many people cannot understand how I can let my children ride up to 50m ahead of me. My answer is simple: I know I can trust them and they listen when I shout out.

Street Smart

When they started riding I explained the rules and I tested if they understood and acted on them. Initially, I gave instructions repeatedly over a time period of about three months. When I had the feeling they worked out the rules, I stopped saying anything but stayed close to be able to react, just in case. They fully understood what needed to be and what could not be done and from that point I was happy to let them go free. I still keep my eyes on them and I call out in case they are too far away. They always stop when necessary and they always listen when they hear me.

I consider this freedom as very important for them to develop self-confidence, independence and street smarts but to also show them how much I trust them. Obviously, there are limits to where I let them ride as well. If we are close to a highway or a multi lane road, I ask them to get off their bikes and to push them next to me, until we leave the busy area. But on roads where there is moderate traffic with footpaths, I am more than happy to let them ride.

www.scoolbikes.com.au

© New Scool Pty Ltd, 2016

Ice Stickers

ICE STICKERS – Rider safety is not just about accident prevention, but also about how efficiently you can act if and when an accident does occur.
I’ve been interested in the development of ICE technology ever since my husband purchased his POC helmet which uses the icedot.org platform.  I love the technology and simplicity of having your medical details easily available via a visible QR code in the case of an emergency, but (…knock on wood) I am not in need of upgrading my older giro helmet, so I came across these ICE stickers from Taggisar, which was a much less costly solution for me than buying a brand new helmet. At $10 for two stickers (say one for your helmet, and the other for your phone or bike frame), it could be the best $10 you’ve spent that you hopefully never have to use!
La Velocita recently provided a very helpful and succinct review of the product, which I think is worth sharing – see below or click here:

Taggisar ICE Stickers reviewed by La Velocita

Melbourne based website La Velocita reviewed our Taggisar ICE Stickers – Here’s what they had to say.

Taggisar ICE Stickers

The guys at Taggisar have come up with a simple solution to provide people with access to important information about you in the event of an accident. La Velocita takes a quick look at the ICE Sticker.

Safety when riding is critical no matter who you are, racer, commuter, mountain biker, weekender. Unfortunately, from time to time things go wrong and we end up on the ground. If you are unlucky enough to be seriously injured people with you and emergency services will need fast access to contact details of family and to any medical conditions you have.

This is where the Taggisar ICE sticker comes in. Scanning the Ice Sticker QR code provides people with your emergency contact details and medical conditions.  It also allows an alert to be sent to a pre-nominated person letting them know that you have been in an accident and providing your position on a map.

We really like  this product. There’s no batteries to worry about, it’s pretty much impossible to activate by accident and very simple to set up and use.

Taggisar sent us some of their “rider Edition” two packs. Within minutes we had the app downloaded, emergency information endeared, sticker linked and one on our helmets and one on the back of our phone case.  Easy.

Taggisar is quickly gaining momentum in Europe and the USA and is in the process of entering the Australian market.  We think that it’s a product that has the ability  to save lives and make riding safer, so a big tick from us.

The importance of quality

Centennial Parklands

A year ago when we started our bike business, we took a big risk, by entering a very different market from what I personally knew from Germany, where I spent most of my life growing up. My view is that the Australian bicycling market appears to be happy to spend endless sums on high-end road and mountain bikes for adults, but when it comes to 20” or 24” children’s bikes, $300-$400 seems to be the absolute maximum. Bikes below the 20” size tend to be under the $100 price bracket.

Our bikes are above those price ranges and many people are at first in doubt about our pricing (as also discussed in Bicycling Trade). Yes, we agree, our bikes are not cheap, but in our opinion, the incremental price provides our junior riders with superior performance in developing and accelerating their riding skills. After all, isn’t the common saying: You get what you pay for?

Blackwattle Bay

When our eldest graduated from his balance bike, our priority for choosing a pedal bike was quality, how easy it was for him to ride and our budget. To make a bike easy to ride, it is necessary to invest into quality components. Low quality components are typically heavy and make the bike hard to manoeuvre, especially for a small child. Personally, I think low quality bikes are extremely dangerous. I constantly would question how responsive the brakes were, how the bike reacted if a major part broke and as a result what injury my child would get from it. Cycling alone is not risk free, but I want to reduce the risk of falls and accidents wherever I can and it is certainly possible by choosing a good quality bike.

And what a difference the bike makes! Lower quality bikes in my mind, pose a higher risk for injury as are very difficult to ride while learning and building their confidence on two wheels. Good quality bikes typically ride well and the rider can focus on balancing and riding rather than manoeuvring the bike.

Balast Point Park

Our boy moved from a balance bike to a normal push bike shortly after his 3rd birthday. He never used training wheels and he transitioned within less than an hour and off he was by himself. He initially needed help to get on and off the bike, but with time he mastered those challenges problem free. As he does have access to bikes through his parents’ business, he became extremely curious about the new bikes he saw us promoting. He wanted to ride them, even though they were too big for him. By the time he was 3 ½, we allowed him to try one of our troX elite 20” samples not thinking he would succeed (a mountain bike we recommend for kids 6 years and up). Well, we were wrong! He needed help to get on, but he mastered the rest with ease and soon went for his first proper bike ride with me.

Narrabeen Beach

Bad Feilnbach

Shortly after we visited friends, who had a 12” push bike with training wheels. He wanted to ride it too and we obviously let him. What happened next surprised me. My son sat on it and could not ride it. He had trouble moving the pedals. The same boy, who rode 20” bikes at 3 ½ simply couldn’t get the 12” with training wheels moving! This bike appeared to be a lower quality bike in my opinion, even before he sat on it. My first impressions by simply looking at it cemented my view. The welding was poorly done, the cranks were too long, the wheels and spokes were made out of steel and it was extremely heavy. S’COOL’s kids’ bikes are designed for children and for their abilities. They have light-weight aluminium frames, roll well and are easy to push. As a result the child can solely focus on balancing, riding and having fun. They look forward to getting on their bike, so much so, it’s sometimes impossible to leave the house without their bike (which is the way it should be when you’re growing up). I saw this with my son and with children in our circle whose parents got them S’COOL bikes when we launched. The kids are of different characters and abilities and some of them are more timid than the others, but they all love riding their bikes. The beauty of this is, they last. Our son’s bike will be passed on to our daughter and I have no doubt we will then be able to pass it on to another child as well.

Many factors speak to investing into quality kids’ bikes, just like we invest into other shorter-term items as our children grow such as prams, clothes (that kids sometimes wear only once or not at all), cots or the fit-out of their nurseries and bedrooms. It makes me wonder why people are happy to spend so much on these items, but when it gets to a bike they first shy back?

Brauneck

Lenggries

A bike is a tool to learn balance, i.e. their motor skills develop. It’s fun and gets the kids into exercise (a separate topic to address with childhood obesity and lack of movement becoming an increasing problem affecting kids nowadays). Quality means it lasts and can be re-sold or passed down to other children who are lucky enough to inherit it. As the saying goes, “I’m not rich enough to buy cheap things” so I’d rather save more and pay a little more and not have to replace and repair lower quality products so often (hence I save) and also contribute to protecting the environment, by reducing waste and landfill.

All S’COOL bikes are designed and engineered in Germany and come with a 2 year manufacturer’s warranty.

Cyclist Interivew – Thomas Treloar from The Rolling Fix

Introducing Thomas Treloar from the Rolling Fix

The Rolling Fix

I cannot remember when and how I came across The Rolling Fix, but what I clearly know is that first impressions last and those were rather positive. The Rolling Fix is a mobile bike mechanic business run by Thomas and Cameron in Sydney; they recently have started servicing Melbourne as well. A mobile bike mechanic does not run a shop where you take your bike for servicing, repair or assembly, but they come to wherever you are. With busy life-styles nowadays, but growing interest in cycling, it is a great option to have your bike fixed, at your work, home or a convenient spot you choose. I met Thomas a few months back, when he came to our house to service our mountain bikes and to see our bike range from S’COOL. We have since added The Rolling Fix as our preferred bike service to our website and are now proud to interview Thomas for this series of cyclist interviews:

  1. I cycle because … it’s fun. Every ride no matter how short puts a smile on my face.
  2. I use my bike most…ly every day.
  3. My first memorable moment on a bike … was the first time I rode with no training wheels. It was on a red Peugeot in Paris; I was 5 years old.
  4. As a child, I rode my bike … as much as I could. I would ride every day after school.
  5. Mountain bike or road bike …: Both equally.
  6. Fat bikes … are good fun but not very practical living in Sydney.
  7. Balance bikes …: I wished I had one when I learnt to ride.
  8. My favourite ride … is Mont Ventoux in the Provence region of France.
  9. Registering a bike …: I will pay rego if it means it puts an end to anger towards cyclists who obey the road rules.
  10. My favourite S’COOL bike …: I think the pedeX pirate is great. The ability to pop the wheels off with one click is a great feature.

Finally, could you please give a short statement about the cycling culture in your area?
I consider my area to be Sydney. I am continually amazed by the increasing number of people riding. If you stand on Bourke Street in the mornings you will see more cyclists than cars, however the best part is the variety of cyclists. This diversity creates such a welcoming culture. Won’t be long till cycling will become as normal as driving a car.

The history of fat bikes

Fat Bike

The latest trending development in the bike industry is the rapid emergence of fat bikes. Throughout our journey of marketing and showing our kids’ bike range, many people have not been sure what a bike with 4 inch fat tyres would be good for. Surprisingly, even hard-core riders in the mountain bike community have been questioning both its purpose and existence.

Surely, the same scepticism was present in the late 70s and early 80s when the first mountain bikes appeared in the cycling community. The scepticism did not last long though, as riders soon realised that riding a mountain bike with wider tyres, lighter frames and technical components opened doors to great new riding experiences away from the traditional paved road. This emergence allowed for more and more areas to be explored, such as gravelled and rocky roads, tracks in forest and fields. But mountain bikes also have their limits. As soon as the bikes approach softer surfaces and untouched terrain, carrying or walking with them is inevitable.

Two different parties in Alaska and New Mexico were facing this problem as well when they attempted to ride through softer terrain during the late 80s.

The first Iditabike Event in Alaska in 1987 put riders to their limits when they had to cross a 200km snow covered area. While riding on harder surfaces during colder times of the day was possible, it became challenging as soon as the sun thawed the snow into a slushy mass. Many riders ended up walking long distances with their bikes to reach the finish line. In the following years, the riders adjusted their bikes to the difficult conditions to reduce walking/carrying to a minimum. Some built custom forks and frames adding two or three tyres next to each other at the front and the rear of the bike in order to give them more grip.At around the same time Ray Molina faced similar challenges in New Mexico and Mexico when exploring new sandy terrain in the area. In order to enable riding in the sand without sinking in or getting stuck, he build a 3.5” tyre and rim and adjusted the frame to fit the tyre which eased the ride over the sand dunes significantly.

As a result of his successes in navigating sandy terrain by bike, Ray Molina exhibited his Remolino rim at the Interbike show in 1999. Impressed with the idea, Mark Groneweld from Alaska took these with him to build a bike that made riding through tough snowy conditions possible. The result was the first fat bike which enabled riders a smoother ride at the Iditabike event with less walking.

As with many new products, access to these fat bikes were initially very difficult. Most of the bikes were custom made and very expensive. Consequently, only hard-core riders embraced them.
In 2005, Surly Pugsley made the change by building a more affordable model and distributing them in high-end bike shops all over the US. Through the easier access to these bikes and its success many other big bike companies joined in over the years and extended their bike range with fat bikes.

20 inch kids fat bike

Today, nearly every major bike brand stocks fat bikes in their range, enabling the everyday rider to have access to some cheaper models as well. Since 2014, many brands have also added fat bikes to their kids’ bike range after On-One (UK) and S’COOL (Germany) took the lead in building the first 24” and 20” kids’ fat bikes, respectively. The cycling community was so impressed with this development that S’COOL received a Eurobike Award in the Mountain Bike Category for the first production 20” fat bike in the world.

Children now also have the opportunity to ride on more challenging and softer terrain as well.

Mont 24 Hour Race

Mont 24 hours race

As many mountain bikers might be aware, last weekend was the Mont 24 Hour Race near Canberra. Scoolbikes unfortunately could not participate in the race, but we had the chance to exhibit our bikes at the event and show the enduro mountain bike scene our kids’ MTB and fatbike line-up.

The event was situated about 10km from Bungendore, just off Kings Highway towards Queanbeyan and Canberra. The race started on Saturday at noon and finished 24 hours later (as the name suggests). The idea behind the race is to have a team of ideally 6 people, who one after the other do an approximate 18km lap in the East Kowen Forst area on their mountain bikes. Once a rider has finished a lap, the next rider follows and this goes on for 24 hours. The team with the most laps wins the event.

The great part about the race is that the riders bring along their partners and children and a lovely community meets in one spot and enjoys a weekend of pure outdoor life with camping and plenty of opportunities for mountain biking. The event also includes a kid’s race, so the smallest riders had a chance to be part of the show.  East Kowen Mountain is full of challenging and fun tracks and everybody could find a way of riding and experiencing the essence of mountain biking (even the ones who did not participate in the main event).

Facilities were provided by the organiser Self Propelled Enterprises and there were plenty of food stalls to grab a bite to eat. They even organised a café stall and a bar, so really nothing was missing the event.

The two days went very quick. We had a chance to show our bikes and it was very encouraging to hear such positive feedback. I would think those opinions are valuable reviews, given they were from serious riders with plenty of knowledge on bikes. We showcased our fat bikes of course, which were the eye catchers of our stand. The enthusiasm got even bigger when the riders examined its build and quality. They were highly impressed with the bikes as a whole.
The troX elite range got the thumbs up from pretty much everybody who looked at it. They are not just beautiful looking mountain bikes for children from six years, but are also sturdy and built from high-end components to ensure safety and fun.

All in all, the event was a great experience from both a business and personal perspective. It was lovely to finally get on my mountain bike again and to go for a good ride. The nature in the East Kowen Forest area is simply breathtaking. Never in my life did I expect to cross paths with a wild kangaroo and be surrounded by hundreds of rosellas while mountain biking. We certainly will return for a weekend ride in the near future and definitely next year for the next Mont 24 Hour Race, hopefully then with a big enough team to participate in the race.

The difference between wearing a helmet and wearing a helmet correctly!

Helmet

As most of you would be aware, wearing a helmet while cycling is compulsory in Australia. People get fined for not wearing a helmet. As a result, the majority of people abide by the rules and wear one.

Wandering in the streets and looking out for cyclists made me realise that the majority of adult riders wear their helmet incorrectly, and more importantly, a child wearing a helmet correctly is a very rare sight.

In August 2014 I spend a lot of time with bike helmet manufacturers at the Eurobike exhibition in Friedrichshafen, Germany. For those who don’t know, the Eurobike Expo is the biggest bike and bike accessory exhibition in Europe and one of the biggest in the world. Bike and bike accessory manufacturers gather there over four days and show their new products for the next season. The capacity is huge, I needed two full days just to explore who was exhibiting. One area that I focused on was bike helmets. While talking to the biggest (and in my opinion best) bike helmet manufacturers, such as UVEX and ABUS I also learnt how to fit and wear a helmet correctly.

Based on what I saw, I believe it is good to share the knowledge I gathered to raise awareness on how to wear a helmet correctly. I hope the below information is helpful.

What helmet should I buy?

Each country has their body of standards that require products to meet certain safety norms. Standards in the EU, are different to the ones in the US or in Australia. The important thing to note is that helmets in Australia and in the US are enforced by law and as a result the helmets have to meet the standards of the country. When purchasing a helmet, ensure yours meets the following standards:

EU / NZ*: EN 1078 and CE label

US: 16 CFR Part 1203

AUS / NZ*: AS/NZS 2063

*At the time of writing my understanding is that New Zealand has adopted the EU standards and also accepts Australian standards.

The standards ensure the helmet has been tested for impact during accident and falls. If the helmet meets the standards the appropriate code has been applied. You can find the standard approval inside your helmet on a sticker with the above mentioned codes. Just ensure that you don’t peel off the sticker to avoid being fined in case you are checked.

As long as the helmet meets the respective standards the price does not change the degree of safety. What changes though is the quality, weight and comfort. Generally speaking, the more you pay, the sturdier, lighter and more comfortable the helmet.

Which helmet is right one for me?

The first answer is, a helmet that fits your head comfortably. When I bought my last helmet the advice I was given was: If you don’t feel you’re wearing a helmet, then it fits perfectly, i.e. it does not wobble, because it is too big or it is not too tight.

I use my helmet mostly for mountain biking, so it was important to me that the air flow is very good. Personally, I think it does not matter what you use your bike for, if you live in a hot country, like Australia, a helmet with good ventilation (i.e. big holes) is a must.

For sunny days, I wanted a visor, but that’s not a necessity.

Weight was another important factor for me. I hate anything on my head, so getting a super light helmet was my preferred option. I simply did not want to feel it.

Ask yourself as well: When do I ride my bike the most? If you ride mostly in the dark, ensure your helmet has reflectors or integrated back lights to enable car drivers to see you well.

Make sure you buy the helmet in a shop with experts. The helmet needs to fit perfectly to provide you maximum protection. Only a person who knows what to look for will be able to sell you the right product.

An adjustable helmet has the advantage of maximum comfort. But it is important the helmet fits perfectly when the adjustment is in its widest range. Hence, I cannot emphasize enough, buy your helmet in a shop with experts. If the helmet does not fit, it provides hardly any or no protection!!!

How do I wear my helmet correctly?

This part seems to be the most difficult. So far it’s been easy to get the right helmet by following the standards and asking some experts for the right choice. Putting the helmet on correctly can be harder as there is no expert on your side on a constant basis. Hopefully, my “user guide” helps.

The most common mistake I can see is that the forehead is not covered / protected by the helmet. So many people push the helmet back. It might be irritating to have a hard shell sitting on your forehead, but keep in mind, the helmet is there to protect you and that requires the forehead to be covered.

Correct wear generally means the helmet sits two fingers wide above your root of the nose. Imagine you fall forwards off your bike. Even if you manage to collect the fall with your hands, the force will make your head hit the ground and your forehead is first. If the helmet sits correctly it’s the helmet and impact on your head is significantly reduced.

Here are a few images I found on the CPSC webpage that portray the correct wear quite well:

helmet wrong wear

helmet correct wear

Now you know how to place the helmet correctly on your head. But there are other parts to consider as well that are vital for maximum protection.

If you have an adjustment knob tighten or loosen it to the desired fit when you put your helmet on. Ensure that the helmet does not move around when you shake your head. If it wobbles it is too big.

Next, adjust the side straps. These form a V around your ears. Move the adjusters up, just underneath your earlobes. Now test how much the helmet moves. Push it forward and backwards. If the helmet moves more than approximately 1.5cm the V-straps need adjustment. If it moves forward adjust the straps behind your ears. If it moves backwards adjust the straps before your ears.

Also ensure the straps underneath your chin are not too loose or too tight. The best help is to close the straps and to adjust them so that you can still fit a finger between your chin and the straps. This ensures comfort and safety.

If you consider all these steps the chances to put the helmet on correctly are very high. Check each time that all parts fit correctly, otherwise re-adjust.

One more important point. Be careful with your helmet. Don’t throw it and try not to drop it. The impact can damage or crack the mould and destroy the helmet. If you had a fall you must replace your helmet. It no longer will protect your head after impact.

I cannot emphasize enough that only a correctly fitted helmet will achieve the protection everybody is looking for, but so many people appear not to be aware what correctly fitted means. If you read this and agree, please share it with friends and family, there are too many kids and riders out there who don’t seem to be aware of the danger they put themselves into under a false impression of security, just because they are wearing a helmet.

But most importantly, I wish all of you a safe ride and I hope your helmet will never have to serve its purpose!!!

P.S.: Based on the read above, can you determine if the the boy wears the helmet correctly or not? I am interested to see what you think :-)