2 Wheels + 2 Pedals = 1 Lone Mbot

2013 january 24 bike! 002

There is something different about this picture, and it’s not Gbot’s funky shades.

Learning to ride a bike seems somehow more important than the first day of school. Maybe because riding a bike is something you do–pretty much the same way–for the rest of your life, or at least until your get so old that your children tell you you’re in danger of breaking a hip.

Santa delivered Mbot’s 16″-wheel Giant Animator without training wheels, because I hoped, after eighteen months spent cruising around on his Strider, Mbot would have the balance and confidence to take off on a pedal bike, in spite of the larger frame and a seat so high that only his toes touch the ground. The training wheels were in the cupboard, just in case.

In the past three weeks, in spite of the cold, Mbot’s been out five or six times on the big boy bike, for a few minutes at a time, with me holding on, or cruising by himself down the driveway, pedaling once or twice before putting a foot to the ground. The seat was technically too low, but I thought being able to put both feet on the ground would give him confidence. It seemed to, but it also made it more difficult to get leverage on the pedals. A couple of days ago, I raised the seat. It’s still a little low, and I’ll raise it more in a week or two.

And yesterday, trailed by Gbot, still on his Strider prebike, Mbot rolled out his new pedaling skills for a ride that lasted a good three minutes before he put his feet down, at which point he immediately asked for a push and headed off again, and this time I didn’t look at my watch. The bot can ride a bike.

He toppled over a couple of times, and got up, unphased. I love to watch this version of human-ness–this super-elastic, Flubber-butted version, this unossified phase, as different from me as a caterpillar from a butterfly, although I am not the one with wings.

After twenty minutes of pedaling–getting the hang of turning in circles, going fast!, and avoiding his brother, who was zooming around like a Gretzky slap shot–Mbot steered up onto the sidewalk, lay down the wheels, sat down, and arranged two rocks in front of him. “Mom,” he said, “Is it okay if I play a little rock game with myself? I don’t need two persons.”

And, his cape of independence settled visibly around him, a big “M” emblazoned across his shoulders, that’s exactly what he did.

Warning: Those who haven't given birth may not be able to see the cape.

Warning: Those who haven’t given birth may not be able to see the cape.

Great Toy Find: The Stomp Rocket Rocks

…Three…two…one…

It’s been the greatest toy find since last year’s Strider bike (see “Look Ma, No Pedals!”). The rockets DO glow in the dark, as advertised. They DO go really high–it looked like 100 feet to me–as  advertised. And most important, when shot point blank at Mommy’s booty, neither the rocket nor the booty experience damage.

Launch preparation: No knowledge of physics, engineering, or how to make sense of assembly manuals written in poorly translated Mandarin necessary.

The only design flaw is at the point where the three legs of the launch stand fit together. They fit, but easily spring apart. I fixed the problem just as easily by wrapping the juncture with three inches of polka-dotted duct tape.

The Stomp Rocket Junior Glow Kit with four extra rockets, $22.42 on Amazon. Amazing fact: they are as fun as the kids on the box make them look.*                                                                        *This blog is not financially compensated by Stomp Rockets in any way, unfortunately.

The key to their success, I believe, lies in the simplicity of their design. It’s nothing that I couldn’t have made a crude version of myself, out of a whoopee cushion, a length of garden hose, a sawed-off snorkel affixed to four rulers strategically taped together, a few tennis balls with holes cut in them and, of course, the polka dotted duct tape.

In fact, the only improvement I can think of that would make them even more attractive to the bot-aged set is if the air reservoir did make a fart sound when you jumped on it, in addition to sending a rocket flying up into the air.

Keep your eyes open for the new and improved version.

Look Ma, No Pedals!

Got bear?

If you’re thinking, “Wait a minute, Mbot and Junepbear are both only 3 1/2, surely they are too young for a bike,” you are embarrassingly ignorant of the latest in velo-technology: the pedal-free two-wheeler or, as the inventor Ryan McFarland calls it, “the no-pedal balance bike.”

This “pre-bike” is the greatest thing to come along since spandex. Instead of pedals, there are foot rests, and as soon as I figure out how to link my Youtube account to my blog, I’ll post a short video that ends well of the pair shown above cruising downhill at speed. But let’s not hold our breath for my original footage; in the meantime, click here.

Several companies make similar bikes, but the first model we bought had a convex top tube, making it difficult to stride with the bike between legs that have a sixteen inch inseam. So we splurged for the original Strider, and Mbot hasn’t been seen since. I suspect he’s in Europe training for the spring classics.

They’re marketed for kids as young as eighteen months, and Gbot and his animal-du-jour travel the neighborhood, although he hasn’t yet got the balance to cruise, footless.

But my parents report that their neighbor’s son, who is 2 1/2, has been doing it since before he turned two, and will give Mbot a run for his money in Belgium. This child’s grandfather has ridden his bike across most of the continents, and so I’m thinking the kid’s got a genetic headstart.

But does he have a bear?

It's best to choose a cycling partner who never complains.