Kids these days don't have to learn to ride a bike the old-fashioned way with training wheels. They can just hop on a Jyrobike and get a high-tech assist without the whole world knowing they're learning how to pedal.
The Jyrobike is raising funds on Kickstarter. If it sounds a bit like a two-wheeled Segway concept, that's because it kind of is. The front wheel contains a control hub with a spinning flywheel that generates a gyroscopic effect that stabilizes the bike. It keeps the bike upright, even if the kid is wobbling around. The bike is aimed at 3- to 8-year-olds, so adults are out of luck for the time-being.
The control hub runs on batteries and can last over three hours. That should be enough time to instill some confidence in a new rider on the very first outing. The gyro-features are pretty nifty, but kids will really get excited about the built-in sound effects that come out of a speaker. A playing card in the spokes seems positively ancient compared with your choice of a horn, roaring dinosaur, or siren.
Once your kid outgrows the need for the gyroscope, the stabilizing flywheel component can be removed to turn the Jyrobike into more of a regular bike. The control hub made to replace the front wheel on a regular 12-inch bike is going for a $129 pledge. The whole bike with the hub already installed is $249. Hubs and bikes in 16-inch sizes are also available.
Some of the pledge options include a remote control. This puts the power in parents' hands. It can be used to remotely change the balance settings on the fly so the kid isn't really aware that she is handling more of the bike-balancing duty on her own. The idea is to reduce the anxiety of learning how to ride.
There will probably be differing viewpoints on the Jyrobike. Some folks may think it's unnecessary and that kids should just learn how to ride by dealing with the inevitable stumbles. Other folks will get a kick out of the technology and like how it can speed up the learning process. It apparently can also be a big help for kids with motor-control issues who would otherwise have difficulty learning how to ride.
Even as an adult with plenty of bike-riding hours under my belt, I still kind of want a big-person's version of the Jyrobike. It just looks like fun.
The project went up Tuesday on Kickstarter. If it snags $100,000 in pledges by July 3, the Jyrobike will be funded. As of this morning, 44 backers had pledged more than $12,000.