Toddler gets a Toddlebike!

May 10, 2013 at 11:33 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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toddlebikeEver since Little Chillikebab got her first bike, Toddler Chillikebab II has wanted to be able to ride it. And so we have to put her on and wheel her round (her feet don’t touch the ground), whilst her older sister looks on somewhat resentful that her bike has been commandeered.

Then Mrs Chillikebab came across the ‘Toddlebike’, in a review posted on the ever-reliable Cycle Sprog. Perhaps this was just the thing! So she ordered one from the UK, and the helpful people at Toddlebike shipped on over to us from the UK. It duly arrived, and Toddler Chillikebab II was off. It was love at first sight – she just jumped on an whizzed off. Within half a day she had learned that by lifting up her feet she can scoot even faster across the floor.

Big sister also had a go, and was able to ride it too, albeit to a series of indignant shrieks from her sibling –  ‘MY BIKE! MY BIKE!’.

It is super light, seems sturdy and well made, and is fun fun fun. Just like all bikes should be! Definitely a hit, and something I’d unhesitatingly recommend.

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New bike!

December 31, 2012 at 14:31 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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weeride balance bike boxChristmas was a very exciting time in the Chillikebab household. A new bike was waiting underneath the Christmas tree! Unfortunately, it was not for me – but for my daughter, who has now reached an age where her full indoctrination can begin. Actually, in many ways I was more excited than if it had been for me.

She was very excited by her new balance bike, and had several goes – although was rather disconcerted that it didn’t stay up on it’s own. ‘It’s a bit wobbly,’ she kept saying, as it leaned one way then the other. Hopefully she’ll soon get the hang of it and be scooting along.

Balance bikes are the new way to teach kids to ride. Apparently giving them a bike with stabilisers (training wheels) creates a dependence on them, which is then very traumatic when they are removed. Reading some web sites you’d think that no-one ever learned to ride in the 1970s and 80s without significant mental scarring. Frankly I don’t really remember that going from stabilisers to no stabilisers was that big a deal, but balance bikes are the modern thing – they can learn to balance and steer first, and then add the pedalling later. I’m not so bothered about the metal scarring (harden up, toddler!), but when I see small kids scooting along on their balance bikes they look like they are having a ton of fun (compared to frantically pedalling some tiny bike and getting nowhere) so we gave it a go.

The balance bike I bought was a ‘Weeride’. I chose it for three reasons – because it is small (my daughter is small for her age), that it had pneumatic tyres, and that it was quite light and easy to carry. This last point is important; there are lots of very cool wooden balance bikes out there, but they are heavy and hard to carry. And as I realised when reading about other families’ experiences with these bikes you are going to end up carrying it quite often when little legs get tired on the way back from the park.

toddler_on_bikeIt also has a brake, which is a complete waste of time. Kids use their feet to slow and stop, and in any case the brake lever is a full sized-affair, meaning my daughter can’t get her fingers anywhere near it when she’s holding the handlebars. That notwithstanding, I felt obliged to spend half an hour on Christmas Eve adjusting so it worked reasonably well. I should have just taken it off.

So how has she taken to it? Well, she loves having a bike of her own, but I think is a little put off by how hard it is to ride. It does take some practise. Still, she has a little go most days, so I’m sure it won’t be long before she’s scooting along with confidence. At least, I hope so. The alternative is that she’ll be mentally scarred and traumatised by the thing, and will refuse to ever ride a proper bike – stabilisers or no.

Beer delivery

February 25, 2012 at 13:35 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Last week, Toddler Chillikebab turned two years old, so we had a birthday party. it was huge amounts of fun; large numbers of sugared-up toddlers charging about, pushing each other over and then wailing, a ridiculously large cake with butter icing slowly going rancid in the twenty-eight degree heat, and a whole load of thoughtful presents that were mostly broken within the hour.

I had an inkling in advance what it would be like, as all of Toddler’s little friends are turning to two too and we’ve been to a few such parties recently. The key to survival, it seems, is plenty of adult party drinks to dull the sound of the screaming little voices, and if necessary to be used as sedatives after the event (both for the adults and the children…).

Yes, beer was going to be needed, along with bubbles to celebrate the auspicious occasion, and some wine for the shielas. So earlier that day I set off to the local bottlo to pick up what we needed – two cases of beer, three bottles of bubbles, some wine, and two bags of ice.

I loaded up my purchases on the counter, and the buy offered to give me a hand carrying them out.

‘Thanks,’ I said, ‘I’m just outside’.

The look on his face when I dumped the beer cartons on the back of the Radish was priceless; a mixture of astonishment and disbelief. He put the other things down next to me, and wished me luck, shaking his head as he went back inside.

But the Radish swallowed it all no problems. I have to say, the heavy-duty double-arm kickstand I bought for it a few months ago makes this kind of operation much easier, as the bike is rock solid stable as you load up. It was a lot of weight, which is a little tricky when first pulling away, but once moving it cruises along just fine. Much easier than with a passenger. I even got some admiring looks as I set off, with a couple eating in the pavement cafe next to the bottlo seeming very impressed, although what what they meant when they sad ‘we’ll probably read about you in the paper’ I’m not quite sure…

Precious cargo, pavements and cycling advocacy

November 13, 2011 at 14:52 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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I’ve carried a lot of things on my Radish cargo bike over the last year or so – groceries, a table, teacups and even a person. However, there is no doubt that the most precious cargo I carry is my beautiful daughter. Since buying the BoBike seat, we use the bike quite often to get around; I take her to playgroup, and we go out to the park or to the shops.

She really enjoys it, and often talks about ‘going on Daddy’s bike’. And as we go along we sing and chat, and she points out the things we see (‘Doggie!’ “Bus!’ ‘Tree!’), and rings the bell for me when I ask her to. It is lots of fun for both of us, and we laugh together as we whizz down the hill, the wind in our hair.

I’m a confident cyclist, capable of holding my own on the road, happy to ‘take the lane’ when needed, very used to traffic and I think quite good at reading road situations and staying out of trouble. Indeed, I’ve escorted novices on their first few commutes, and help them understand how to ride more assertively on the road in order to make the ride safer and more enjoyable. I am also aware that riding a bike – even on the road in Sydney – is not actually that dangerous, despite what many would have you believe, and that your chances of being involved in an accident are actually very very slim – much less, for example, then when walking back from the pub after a few beers, or when playing football.

However, from the moment I first set off with Toddler Chillikebab on board, it was clear that I was going to ride differently. A bit slower, yes, after all it’s not going to be much fun for her if she’s bouncing around in her seat. But what was very quickly apparent was that I was going to ride on the pavement for all but the quietest streets.

Take this road, for example, which runs near my house. It’s one of those slightly uncomfortable roads for cycling – dual lane, but with lots of parked cars. Riding along you either have the option to take the whole available lane, and risk annoying  car driver behind you who wants to go past, or ride next to the parked cars, putting yourself in the door zone and inviting traffic to pass quite close to you in the adjacent lane. I’ve ridden down this road lots of times; it’s not especially fast and the traffic is well behaved on the whole. I certainly don’t think twice about it when I’m on my own; I just take the lane or pull in as seems appropriate and all is well.

However, I wasn’t going to ride it with Toddler Chillikebab on board. We cruised along on the pavement instead. It just seemed the natural thing to do.

This has really got me pondering how most people think about cycling. Most people who don’t cycle would I’m sure feel the same, even if they didn’t have a toddler on board. Riding on any sort of busy road just isn’t going to happen.

It also reminded me of some comments made online by Omar Khalifa, the CEO of Bicycle NSW (the state peak body for cycling). He wrote about riding down Harris Street, and finding it very unpleasant with many aggressive drivers. (He also commented that such cycling was inherently dangerous; which I thought was a particularly unfortunate bit of Whispering, considering he is supposed to be the lead cycling advocate in the state.)

I’ve also ridden down Harris Street, and I suppose a few months ago someone had commented on it, I’d have either given them some tips on taking the lane, or perhaps suggested finding an alternative route. But now, I might offer an alternative suggestion – just ride on the pavement. There’s a big, wide pavement on Harris Street, and not many people walking along, so it would be perfect. Of course, you have to ride much more slowly, and there are cross-streets which entail stopping to cross. You also need a different bike; riding on a  bumpy pavement on a road bike is very uncomfortable; hard skinny tyres and a hunched-forward position make it very wearing on the wrists. It also feels frustratingly slow. But on an upright bike, with big tyres to soak up the bumps it’s just dandy; you can cruise along and feel quite relaxed.

I suspect that that type of cycling isn’t the sort that Omar wants to do, and unfortunately most bicycle advocates, being keen road cyclists, just seem blind to its possibilities. I know that a few years ago I certainly was; it was only when I got the Radish that I started to see another way and I’ve been slowly finding out more about it over recent months. In the Northern Territory it is legal to ride on the pavement, and the NT has the highest modal share of cyclists, despite having the most dangerous roads and the worst weather.

Allowing cyclists on the footpaths would probably be a controversial move; no doubt people’s first thoughts would be of lycra-clad hoons carving up old ladies outside the shops. However, I’m not so sure that would happen; road cyclists want to ride on the roads – it’s non-cyclists who would ride on the pavements. They’d probably cruise along slowly just like Toddler Chillikebab and me, ringing their bells and singing songs. Now that doesn’t sound so threatening, does it?

Of course, what we’d really like are proper separated bicycle lanes. Without doubt they are the most comfortable way to ride. But while we wait for them to be built (and in Australia it could be a long wait) we could consider allowing cyclists onto the pavement, at least in areas where pedestrian traffic is light. It would probably get a lot more people riding their bikes than telling them that on dangerous streets you should take the lane.

Toddler Chillikebab’s first ride!

October 8, 2011 at 20:21 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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I finally got around to doing something I’d been meaning to do for months – get a child seat so I can take Toddler Chillikebab with me on the bike. What finally prompted me to get it was necessity; it seems with the various schedules for Mrs Chillikebab, Baby Chillikebab and Toddler Chillikebab I was going to need a way to get Toddler Chillikebab to her oh-so-middle-class-structured-playgroup thing without using the car.

I had been mulling whether to get the custom kiddie seat that fits on the back of the Radish, or one that goes on the front. The one on the front had more appeal, but they can get in the way of pedalling; indeed one bike shop I went in to ask about them told me they had stopped selling them as everyone was bringing them back because they couldn’t ride the bike with them.

But the Xtracycle one seemed rather expensive, and it was going to take ages to come, and then I saw a BoBike seat in the window of the bike shop around the corner, so I bought it. I fitted it to the bike, and we were ready for our first ride!

Toddler Chillikebab seemed quite content to be put in the seat, and happily fiddled with the lights and the bell as we set off. I had promised her we would be going to the park, but we made  a detour first to post some letters.

‘Are you enjoying the ride?’ I asked her once we had been going a few minutes.

She took the whole thing in her stride, didn’t mention anything about the bike but pointed forward and said ‘Park! Go to park!’. Clearly she was quite comfortable with the whole bike thing, except for the fact that it wasn’t getting to the promised destination fast enough.

And once we got home, she excitedly told Mrs Chillikebab about the slide, and the swings, and going to the park, but didn’t even mention the bike. Hey ho; I am very keen that people start seeing bikes as normal and not noteworthy, rather than exotic and strange, so I suppose I should be applauding the matter-of-fact attitude of Toddler Chillikebab. But I secretly wished she had perhaps been a little more excited about her first ride…

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