By Kim Cross
I remember the day my dad took off my training wheels. He ran with me across the parking lot, his big, steady hand on the back of my bike seat. I don't remember him letting go. But I do recall looking over my shoulder, surprised, as he shrank into the distance. I think I was seven or eight.
When I became a mom, I couldn't wait to experience that magical moment from the other side of the bike. And just a few weeks ago, I got to do just that. My son, Austin, might not remember it when he grows up though—he's only three.
Here's one thing that made a difference: the Gyrowheel. Subbed in for the front wheel of Austin's bike, it made the bike stable even at slow speeds (think starting and stopping), so there was less of the wobbling that can make learning to ride a challenge.
How does it work? The answer would make your physics teacher proud. You probably know that the faster you ride, the more stable the bike feels. Well, the Gyrowheel contains a battery-powered gyroscope that spins inside the wheel, and its centrifugal force simulates that high-speed stability. On the fast setting, the bike is so stable it can basically ride itself across the room (no joke). The slow setting allows for a little swaying, which helps kids transition to the feel of a regular bike.
Austin not only rode sans training wheels (talk about boosting a kid's confidence), but he also rode smoothly, without those jerky handlebar movements that give a parent heart palpitations. We let some of his toddler pals test it out, too, and even the most timid of the bunch was able to ride.
So if you have a budding cyclist on your Christmas list, you may want to skip the training wheels and give Santa a heads up about the Gyrowheel.
Pros: It instills confidence and limits crashes, shortening the learning curve of riding a bike.
Cons: It's a bit pricey for something you'll only need for a short time. Also, the battery for the 12-inch wheel holds a charge for just two hours (a mere 45 minutes for the 16-inch wheel) at the highest setting, and takes 16 hours to recharge (the 16-inch takes 4 hours).
Cost: $99 (12-inch) and $119 (16-inch) at thegyrobike.com
Extra tip: It's still possible to fall when using the Gyrowheel, so start your child out in a flat, grassy field instead of the driveway or street.
Southern Living travel editor Kim Cross is the founder of Magic City Cycle Chix, a women's cycling group based in Birmingham, Ala.