It’s been a transportation-filled week!
It all started last Sunday, when we bought Oliver his first bicycle.
Originally, we had planned to buy Oliver a bike for his second birthday. He’s been interested in them for several months. As we would walk around our neighbourhood, Oliver would point and exclaim, “A big bicycle! A red bicycle! Two bicycles!” But more recently, he started pointing out children’s bicycles in particular, wistfully remarking, “Nice bicycle,” as children would ride past us on the seawall. I asked Oliver if he, too, would like to have a bicycle some day, and his eyes lit up as he exclaimed, “Yeah!”
J and I decided that given Oliver’s interest, it made more sense to buy the bike now — at the beginning of the season — than to wait until his birthday in mid-August. It’s not as if he’s really old enough to understand the concept of a birthday gift anyway :).
I already knew that we were going to buy a “balance bike” — a miniature two-wheeler with no pedals or training wheels — rather than a tricycle or a traditional bike with training wheels. But with so many different brands and models to choose from, I had my work cut out for me in trying to figure out which one would be the most suitable bike for Oliver, at a price that wouldn’t break the bank.
Prices for balance bikes range from about $50 at the low end, to nearly $300 at the high end. Some models are designed for children as young as a year old, and others can accommodate children up to five years of age. The bikes can be made from plastic, metal or wood, and have either pneumatic tires or “no-flat” solid or foam tires. Some bikes have hand or foot brakes; some don’t. Some have foot rests (remember, there are no pedals), and some don’t.
After browsing numerous manufacturers’ websites and reading what seemed like a gazillion Amazon reviews, I eventually settled on the STRIDER bike. It was not the cheapest, but at $125, certainly not the most expensive either. The STRIDER is built for children 18 months and older, whereas many of the other bikes I looked at appeared to be better suited to children three years and up. It is one of the lightest bikes on the market, which is important for both the child (easier handling) and the parent (because guess who has to carry it when Oliver gets too tired to ride?). It has a two-year warranty and claims to be durable enough to last through several children. So far, Oliver loves it, and J and I have no complaints.
Oliver took to his bike immediately, and was even trying to maneuver over curbs, bumps and grass in his first five minutes of riding! It was very slow going (more than a half hour to travel the two blocks to Whole Foods), but Oliver was determined to make it — and he did.
We have established a couple of non-negotiable ground rules:
1. No helmet = no bike. Oliver is not a fan of hats and hoods, so naturally, he was very resistant to wearing a helmet at first. I explained to him that he must wear a helmet every time he rides his bike, and that if he wants to remove his helmet, he can either walk or sit in the stroller. He tried to remove his helmet several times during his inaugural ride. Each time, I stopped his bike and lifted him off, restating the limits. Ultimately, his desire to ride the bike outweighed his desire to avoid the helmet, and he stopped protesting. We haven’t had any issues since then. I have made sure to point out all of the other cyclists (children and adults) I see wearing helmets, and to show Oliver my own bike helmet, so as far as he knows, helmets are just part and parcel of the cycling experience.
2. We ride our bikes outdoors only. If Oliver were a little older, he would not be permitted to ride his bike through our building’s corridors, into the elevator and through the lobby. So, we have taught him to walk his bike until he gets outside. He has a couple of indoors-only riding toys that he can ride around inside our apartment, if he feels so inclined.
I am really looking forward to watching Oliver gain confidence, physical skills, and hopefully a lifelong love for cycling.
On Friday, Oliver and I took the sea plane over to Nanaimo to have lunch with some out-of-town relatives who were driving through the area. Normally we’d have taken the ferry over to the island, but we lucked out and found a seat sale that made it only six dollars more expensive to fly than it would have been to drive. And we saved hours in travel time!
As you may know, Oliver is fascinated with the sea planes, so I was really excited for him to have the opportunity to actually fly in one. The flight to Nanaimo is very quick — only 15 to 20 minutes — which is the perfect amount of time for an introduction to what can be a very intimidating experience for a young child. As predicted, Oliver was silent and intent on the way over, as he took in the unfamiliar surroundings, sounds, smells, sensations (motion) and people. On the way home, however, he was happily chatting away, pointing out all of the things he could see through the window, and smiling and conversing with our fellow passengers. All in all, it was a fantastic experience and I’m so glad we did it. Now Oliver has a whole new understanding when he watches the sea planes from his bedroom window.
Finally, we capped off our week of transportation with a trip to the Burnaby Central Railway miniature trains. The railway is run by the BC Society of Model Engineers, and is quite a fun and charming little place. For only $2.50 per adult (free for children under three), you get a 15 minute ride on a historical model train, around an elaborate series of tracks, complete with rail bridges and tunnels. We rode the trains twice and then headed home for lunch and nap time. Oliver was so excited that he was literally bouncing off the walls when we got back home!
For anyone who is interested, here is some more information from STRIDER about the benefits of balance bikes.