Monday, October 10, 2011

DIY Balance Bike Finished

I used some of this great (80 degree) October weekend to finish up two projects.  The first was the balance bike I started in the spring.  It's a bummer that I didn't get it done for use this summer, but I'm glad it's done and he still have a few months to use it before winter. 

So...  Ta da!

 Yes, I love it, and I'm glad it'd done.  It's inspired by kiddi moto's line of balance bikes.  Below are the images I  used to compile my design of the bike.  I started with a simple Skuut bike design, and worked my way towards a motorcycle. I ended up very similar design to the kiddi-moto syle bike, shown at the top left.  I tried to keep the frame (the black part) one peice, as shown below, but for several reasons it wouldn't work.  In the end, I do like my design, but I think if I were to make more and more of these, my design would start to look more like the kiddi-moto design.  Their assembly seems easier, and their design looks more a typical motorcycle.  Kudos to the designers, they did a good job. 

My Inspiration Photos

My scaled Mock-Up

 I used plywood leftover from our toy storage shelf and other projects, so I can't really estimate the cost well.   I had a hard time finding good wheels that didn't cost $20 each.  I should have headed to the recycling center/dump, but I never did hit a good time to go check it out.  Regardless, I was able to find wheels from Craigslist off an older style little bike.

First, I printed off the plans I made up in inkscape and then traced and cut those out of the plywood.  I will eventually have plans & a pdf pattern up here (or on for both the motercycle and Skuut style balance bike...  ( Nag me, and maybe I'll get around to it sooner.)

 After the pieces were cut out, I assembled the front sections.  It would have been a lot easier to just stop at the skuut bike set-up.  All I'd need saw the front of the frame differently, and this would have practically been done.... but I guess I like the challenge.  This is also when I realized that it's too wide (seat area and legs were effected) to have the motercycle section on top of the 'V' shaped  frame.  Plus the frame was made too short and sat over the wheel section slightly.

Could have almost been done.  Ha.

Old 'V' frame style.  I took out the little block there and re-drilled that hole.

So I had to scrap the 'V' shaped frame and chopped those pieces down, take out the little angle block.  Then I didn't take any pictures, but was able to get to the point of having a working prototype.  There are two seat height settings.  The whole body pivots around a screw at the front and the bolt in the center of the body controls the height.  I wish I could get a few more inches on it though. I was still using the two wheels stolen from the other kids bikes and there was no formal seat, but it was good enough to have the kids test it for me. I took it out the hill with the kids in tow and they seemed to enjoy it.  However, it's construction meant two other bikes destruction so it was disassembled soon afterwards :(

Skip ahead about 2 months...  I found an older bike on craigslist, and using this site, was able to get the coaster brake off the back wheel.  However, the back wheel axle was bigger than that of my prototype bike (I've learned so much), and I need to re-drill....  unfortunately I didn't have the right size drill bit, no drill press and the holes got misaligned, and mishapen.  Bummer.  I did give the bike a nice paint job with just a couple cans of glossy spray paint and some contact paper.  Still, I needed to re-do the back supports before it could be ridden.

Looks good... but it's not.
 Finally.  This last weekend I made new back wheel supports.  Before I drilled, I aligned the back supports and penciled lines all over both side.  From my first attempt, I knew it would be hard to find the right spot for those to attach to the main section of the bike (yes, I could have attached first, then drilled, but this seemed more likely to get a straight hole alignment).  I drilled a small pilot hole  and then the inner countersink.  Those were needed to recess the nuts around the large hub of the back wheel.  Finally, using the right size drill bit (from my kreg jig, haha), I made the holes.  I was very careful when aligning the back wheel, and got it just right!  Who-hoo!  I also added in a little seat.  I was planning on making it softer with some foam and black PUL, but I didn't come up with a good way to attach it quickly.  I have some ideas now, but I'll wait to see if he complains before I add anything else to my to-do list.

Second Test Run -Works great!

At this point we did some more test runs.  This bike is a great size for my son, who's 3 1/2.  He was able to glide around on it, and practice putting his feet up.  However, my 5 1/2 year old daughter seemed much to big for it, and struggled to make it stable.  I haven't tried it with my 1-year-old, but think the age for this bike is about 18 mo to 5 years.

The new back supports were painted black and per my son's request,  the handlebar's red.  He was right, they look cooler.  Here's the final battery of images.  After this test run, I added in a 'kickstand'.  My  son was very displeased with any changes to his new awesome bike, but I think the kickstand is one very nice accessory.

Overall, I think this project could have been a lot easier if I had the right tools to do the job.  I sort of impulsively started the project, and paid for it later.  At first I didn't have the right bolts or dowel for the handle bar.  Nor did I have any wheels.  I didn't have a drill press, or even the right drill bits.  I used the biggest bit for the handle bar holes I had, but spent at least an hour with sandpaper trying to get the hole 1/4" bigger.. and still round.  Initially, I did much of the work in a carpeted entry room, jig-sawing on a couple small bins, with a bunch of our moving stuff around me. Not the ideal work place.  After I moved I had more room to work and a better set-up, but still not the best tools and it still took me a really long time to find wheels.  Later on, I had to wait on the project to get red spray paint and the wood for the seat (and some other projects).    This project took a lot more time than I had hoped, but I think much of that was just poor planning and part of the learning process.


Laura Sloan said...

Looks good! I can't wait to see the plans.

Anonymous said...

Where's the plans? Do you have a link. Want to give it go