Outdoor

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

MTBiking Australia Fat Bike Review

Fatbikes for kids? At first I laughed but then the idea started to sink in. The idea of a proper
fatbike for younger riders makes a hell of a lot of sense.

I’ve got two girls aged six and nine. They have regular BMX/MTB style bikes and we often
take them riding on the local cycle path. I’d love to take them out in the bush but our local trails
are simply too tough—they are either too steep or too technical. It’d be great to have some
green rated trails as an introduction to off-road riding but there’s nothing around and even
the one or two flatter fire trails are littered with soft sand traps.

Enter the fatbike; we mightn’t have kid-friendly off-road riding but like many parts of
Australia we do have many kilometres of beautiful sandy beaches. Our beaches are long, flat
and entirely car-free—the perfect place for a family pedal, plus a swim at the end if it’s a warm
day!

With these thoughts in mind, we recently checked out S’Cool bikes as they have two kids’
fatbikes in their line-up. The XXfat is offered with either 20 or 24-inch wheels. Both use
4.0 inch wide Vee Tire rubber mounted to 80mm wide rims. That’s as wide as you’ll find on
an adult sized fatbike; it should provide some serious flotation with a lighter rider aboard.
Aside from beach riding, the big rubber and single digit tyre pressures gives a massive increase
in traction which makes regular MTB trails a little easier for kids to manage.

True 4.0 fat bike tyres on 80mm wide alloy rims - some serious flotation right here!

True 4.0 fat bike tyres on 80mm wide alloy rims – some serious flotation right here!

The frame is alloy and features an extremely low top tube to make hopping on and off as easy
as possible. The 20-inch is recommended for riders over 125cm while the XXfat 24 should be
safely rideable for those over 135cm.

Weight is often an issue with fatbikes but the alloy frame and rims has kept the bottom line
reasonable; the XXfat 20 weighs 13.3kg while the 24-inch is 15.1kg (both measured on our
scales with pedals fitted).

Both S'Cool models have alloy frames with internal cable routing and super low top tubes.

Both S’Cool models have alloy frames with internal cable routing and super low top tubes.

The gear spec seems okay for a kids bike too. Both run cable disc brakes, proper A-headset
style MTB stems and Shimano trigger shifters. Gearing wise the XXfat 24 has an Altus level
2X9 drivetrain while the XXfat 20 keeps it simple with Shimano Altus 1X9.

Both sizes in the XXfat sell for $999—certainly not a cheap bike (especially if you need two)
but not that much more than a couple of iPads, and I know what I’d prefer them to be playing
with!

For more on the S’Cool go to www.scoolbikes.com.au

 

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.

Balance bikes

Seven or eight years ago, when I lived in London, I became first aware of balance bikes. I spotted one in Marylebone on New Cavendish Street. A little boy was riding it and he was so fast and so confident, I could not believe my eyes. What fascinated me the most, was that he was not older than two and he could balance and steer a bike without training wheels. I had to stop and watch. What I saw there was not only such a simple concept, but also such an effective one. This bike had no pedals, instead this kid used his feet to run. This put the bike into motion and off he went.

Soon these bikes also appeared in our network. Friends who had kids bought them and the same phenomenon happened. But most importantly, what I saw again, the kids had so much fun. They embraced their independence, they felt free and they loved it so much, it was impossible to leave somewhere without the balance bike.

A year ago we got my son a balance bike for his second birthday. I have never regretted the purchase and cannot recommend it enough. It took no longer than a week for him to figure out the concept by himself. Once he felt safe, he became more courageous and daring and this helped him improve even more. This was also motivating for him to keep on going. Wherever we went, shopping, playground, park, bushwalking, etc., the bike had to be with us.

On his third birthday we got him a 16 inch push bike. It took about an hour for him to figure out the pedalling and then he rode it. No training wheels and no broken backs.

I cannot recommend a balance bike enough based on this experience and having seen kids in our network doing the same, it just proves they are effective learning tools. Honestly, when we were kids, I didn’t know a three year old who could ride a normal push bike without training wheels. I was six when my Dad moved the training wheels higher so I would not fall in case the bike tipped. And most of my friends were the same age. And it took ages until they were off. Now I know plenty of kids who started on a balance bike and then moved onto a normal bike with ease at the age of three. Those who skipped the balance bike are still on trainers. I think that just shows that it’s worth getting one.

balance bikes in skate parks

Despite of my son having moved on to a push-bike, the balance bike is not dusting in a corner. My husband loves skateboarding and they go to skate parks together where he works on his BMX and mountain biking skills 😉 Recently, I took him to bushlands where he explored the off-road tracks. He had so much fun, it was impossible to get him and the bike into the car. Based on that, I can positively say, the balance bike has not retired yet. He might have to share it soon, though as our 17 month-old daughter is ready to hit challenging terrain as well.

©scoolbikes.com.au, 2014

Blaxland Riverside Park – The Amory

Blaxland Riverside Park, also known as the Armory, must be one of the most impressive playgrounds around Sydney. It’s definitely the biggest. Spread over 3 hectares of space there are plenty of attractions to keep your kiddies and yourself busy.

Blaxland Riverside Park is an all abilities park for all ages. Even NJ (1) could enjoy a bit of the facilities, like the sand pit, watching the water fountains and using the swings.  KJ on the other hand is now at an age, where most challenges are interesting and they have to be tried out.

If you can, try and go there on a weekday during school times. We once went on a weekend and a school holiday day and it was mayhem. As the playground is situated in the Olympic Park, visitors go there from the western, central and eastern parts of Sydney.

If you do not have the choice to go on a quiet day, then try and get there really early and leave when the influx of people arrive. It’s also easier to find parking. Free parking is very limited and fills up quickly. In case you get there and you cannot park, go to area P5 for an hourly rate of $4.

Here are some impressions and hopefully you find this place just as spectacular as I do. My kids and their friends certainly enjoy it and are always happy to go back.

Blaxland Riverside Park - Slides and picknick area

Blaxland Riverside - Children climbing

Blaxland Riverside Park - Wormwhole net

Blaxland Riverside Park - Giant Swings

Blaxland Riverside Park - Giant Swings

Blaxland Riverside Park - Viking Swing

Blaxland Riverside Park - Water play area

Blaxland Riverside Park - Water play area

Blaxland Riverside Park - Water Play Area Birds Eye View

Blaxland Riverside Park - Sand pit area and water play area

Blaxland Riverside Park - Climbing tower behind the water play area

Blaxland Riverside Park - Climbing Tower

Blaxland Riverside Park - Inside the Climbing Tower

Blaxland Riverside Park - Kiosk next to the water play area

Blaxland Riverside Park - Cycling and foot path

Opening times:
365 days a year from sunrise to sunset

Entrance Fees:
Free

How to get there:
Catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Sydney Olympic Park

Parking:
There is free parking right next to the playground, but spaces are limited. On busy days, ensure you get there early. Alternatively, you can park at P5 and walk via the marked route to the park. Fees for parking are $4 per hour or $20 per day. On event days a flat rate of $25 may apply.

Further information:
See information page on the Sydney Olympic Park webpage

©www.scoolbikes.com.au, 2014