STARTING YOUNG - STACYC STABILITY CYCLES
By CHAD DE ALVA
My twin boys have been interested in dirt bikes since they could first indicate it. From being totally content in their baby bouncers watching me work on my dirt bikes in the garage to frequently choosing the Moto series of movies on Amazon Prime Video whenever we would let them watch a little TV, their interest in dirt bikes has been constant. Not long after they could walk, they were introduced to strider balance bikes that they quickly mastered and rode frequently. So as soon as they met the minimum height requirement, my boys were given Stacyc electric balance bikes, which just so happens to be a great way to get young kids into motorcycles.
Stacyc electric balance bikes are exactly what their name suggests. An electric drive-train is tucked into the frame of a balance bike that is only slightly bigger than the non-motorized balance bikes with twelve-inch wheels that are so popular with young kids. Just like a real dirt bike, a Stacyc has a twist throttle on the right hand and there is a rear brake lever placed on the left hand side of the handlebars, so kids can start to learn to use a real throttle and how to brake with their hands. The bike’s electronic speed control has three speed settings, and on the smaller 12eDRIVE bikes that we have, the three speed settings work out to roughly five, seven, and nine miles an hour respectively. The bikes run on batteries that look just like DeWalt power tool batteries, but you’ll need to use the official Stacyc batteries as the fitment is different than what works with the yellow power tools you may have.
Compared to a kid-sized internal combustion powered dirt bike, Stacyc offers a number of advantages that can help make the transition from human powered bike to motorized bike much easier. Stacycs work just like any other balance bike when they are turned off, so kids can get used to the way the bike handles and behaves before you even introduce them to a motor. This is a great way to learn basic balance bike skills if this is their first bike, or how to use a brake lever if your kids are coming off of a human powered balance bike. Once your kids have balance mode and the brake figured out, you can introduce the motor into the equation. Starting on the slow speed setting, it took my boys all of five minutes to figure out how the throttle worked – but they were treating it like a switch at the start, going from zero to full throttle. However, after a couple of rides, they understood that the throttle could be modulated, and by making a challenge out of seeing how slowly they could ride under power, basic throttle control was quickly developed.
Two other big advantages with Stacycs are that they make almost no noise and there is no exposure to hot parts. While my kids have yet to get tangled up in a crash that they couldn’t extricate themselves from, knowing that there are no hot parts that could burn your kid, should they get stuck under a bike or touch the wrong part accidentally, is quite nice. The noise thing is a huge advantage too. There is no engine noise that you’ll have to talk over, so a normal voice is all you need to talk to your kids. A simple on/off switch on the throttle is all it takes to stop and start a Stacyc, so there’s no need to learn how to start a bike or use a kill switch just yet. Your neighbors won’t mind the sound of your kids giggling while they’re ripping around the cul-de-sac or the forest behind the neighborhood on their Stacycs, but I could certainly see someone not being stoked on the sound of a 50cc dirt bike ripping around all day.
While ripping around the neighborhood is certainly fun, Stacycs really shine when you take your kids out for a ride. Getting them out in the world on a trail is where things really start to click and where the memories are made. Depending on what speed setting your kid(s) are on, you’ll be moving at a pace that’s somewhere between a quick walk and a run if you’re on foot, but I quickly took to using my mountain bike to hang with my kids. This allowed me to easily keep pace when the trail was easy, and I could quickly hop off to give my kids a spot or an assist if we got into a technical section. Having a bike of your own is also really helpful to show kids the line they should take through a section of trail. I’ll also point out that absolutely no one has cared that my kids happened to have motors on their balance bikes when we would run into other folks on local mountain bike trails – but your mileage may vary there.
With a couple of batteries for each bike, you can cover dozens of miles and climb hundreds of feet of elevation, which means that Stacycs are a great way to get your kids out into the world. The average 4-year-old isn’t going to want to do a twelve-mile hike, but a twelve-mile ride can be an awesome adventure, and a great way to share with your kids how motorcycles are more than just something to ride, they’re a great way to get out and explore the world. So make sure you factor in some extra time for unplanned exploring. If your kid(s) randomly stops while riding to check something out – let them! The world is a gi-normous place that is full of all kinds of cool stuff to check out in your kids’ eyes, and it’s been so enjoyable to watch my boys just cruise around the woods exploring, learning, and playing.
Each time we go out for a ride, it seems that my kids are trying new things and growing their skill sets. Again, having a bike of your own is a great way to help your kids grow as riders, because they’ll try and jump off that root or ride over those rocks right after they see you do it – so lead by example. When they come to something on a trail that they don’t want to ride, thanks to the Stacyc’s relatively light weight, they can actually push their bikes through the obstacle. This helps build their independence and saves me from having to hike their bikes through stuff all the time. Sometimes, my kids will ask me to help them ride through a spicy section, so I’ll cover the ends of their bars and help ride them through the obstacle. Thanks to the 100% torque at any RPM provided by an electric motor, these bikes have all the power to get up anything, and they’ll run out of traction long before they run out of power.
Riding single track and other trails with real elevation changes does bring to light one limiting factor of the Stacyc bikes, and that is the lack of a front brake. As anyone who rides anything with two wheels knows, the vast majority of your stopping power comes from your front brake, so don’t be surprised if your kids start wearing out their shoes rather quickly from using their feet as drag brakes for additional stopping power. If anyone from Stacyc is reading this, an optional front brake kit would be next level.
Stacyc electric balance bikes have proven to be a great way to start my kids on their motorcycle journey. Going from a balance bicycle to a Stacyc was a much smaller step than going from a balance bicycle to a 50cc dirt bike – and I think that has paid serious dividends. With a Stacyc, your kid(s) can learn one new feature at a time, so even if a Stacyc is their first balance bike, it’s not going to be like a 50 where your kid(s) will have to learn several things in rapid succession. With a Stacyc, there are no hot parts, no fuel to spill, no motor noise to try and talk over, and a Stacyc doesn’t weigh several times what your kid does, which makes a Stacyc much easier for a kid to handle and pick up.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a card-carrying member of the internal combustion crowd – and I absolutely love a good dinosaur-powered bike. Yet, I have to say the electric bikes are awesome, and I’m really excited to see what new electric bikes are brought to market in the years to come. Electric bikes offer a number of advantages over internal combustion bikes, like all of the torque at any RPM and their low noise levels. There are also fewer moving parts to deal with, which means less maintenance and a lower cost of ownership. Electric bikes certainly do have their disadvantages too, but as with everything else, it’s going to be a game of give and take.
I’m really thankful that my kids have access to Stacyc electric balance bikes, because it’s so much easier for them to get out and ride. If nothing else, I can turn my kids loose in the cul de sac with a few cones to ride around and they’re stoked – and my neighbors won’t complain. With 50s, I would have to load everything up and drive out into the forest where the noise won’t bother anyone. Yet Stacycs enable us to use the multi use trails that lead out of the neighborhood and into the forest, so going for a ride is as easy as getting kitted up. Any other trail users we pass along the way seem to be happy to see kids on little balance bikes, and I know my boys appreciate getting compliments on their “cool bikes.” For more information go to www.stacyc.com