Like riding a bike

2 min read

Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage for parents and children alike. It's an iconic scene, parents running along behind, pushing, before letting go with a combination of excitement and worry. It inevitably ends with a bit of a wobble and a crash at the end, but fortunately it's usually a case of dusting down and starting again. It's a repeat and master process, which usually culminates in: "I'm doing it, I'm doing it!"

Riding a bike is not easy and the physics of it all are actually quite complex. Being stable on two wheels requires a continual change of centre of gravity as weight is shifting from side to side. It's one of those things that require somewhat of a knack, and that usually takes time to develop. However once learned, it's said, you'll never forget the skill. Many parents use stabilisers on the back wheel to make the whole thing much sturdier and support any wayward sideways movements caused from pedalling. However, though this provides a safety net from falling over, it doesn't allow children to master the actual act, and inevitably when the stabilisers do come off, it's back to square one. The challenge The challenge this month is therefore to come up with a more effective training aid to teach children how to ride a bicycle for the first time. Now, any solution should still allow parents to get involved and enjoy the excitement and experience of it all, but perhaps it could help speed up the process, maybe from weeks to days... maybe even as little as a few hours of an afternoon. The bicycle balancing training aid should be as inclusive as possible, allowing children with disabilities to be able to take on the challenge and experience the thrill of riding a bike for the first time, whether it's a vision impairment, some kind of nervous or anxiety disorder, or where mobility and balance can be difficult. Obviously any solution needs to put safety first. Perhaps, also, some method of adjusting the amount of support provided can be engineered that allows first time riders to go from extreme stability to just a little bit, allowing youngsters to be gradually weaned off the feel of stabilisation. This is at stark contrast with the all or nothing approach currently on offer from stabilisers. And this doesn't mean a redesign of an entire bike. Indeed, it would be ideal if any stabilising system or device could be retro fitted to virtually any bike. The solution we have in mind borrows a well known balancing aid technology that has been successfully applied in numerous two-wheeled vehicles. However, it's not the only solution, so in the meantime, see if you can come up with anything better. -Solution- Solution to the October 2014 Coffee Time Challenge The solution to this month's challenge of developing a better stabiliser and training aid for learning to ride a bike comes from Kickstarter Company, Jyrobike. Like the name suggests, key to its system is a gyroscope placed in the front wheel to help it balance. The gyro can be set to provide a lot of stability, or dialled down to provide just a little bit. This helps those using the wheel to gradually get use to riding on two wheels. It also allows parents to stay involved, but is an invisible hand keeping kids stable as they take their first few meters under their own pedal power. Jyrobike has also said it has seen that its gyroscopic wheel can speed the process of learning to ride solo to just a few hours in some cases. And because the amount of help can be balanced, it is being successfully used to help children that have previously found riding a bike difficult because of a disability, able to join in and experience the joy of going for a ride. Jyrobike is built around the idea that a bicycle becomes inherently more stable when it travels at higher speeds. It uses a fast spinning disc placed inside the front wheel to provide a gyroscopic force that automatically balances the bike. The wheel is battery-powered, rechargeable, motor-driven and intelligently controlled all in the sealed wheel hub unit. www.jyrobike.com