Secrets of a childhood Strider Balance Bike. A great reminder for us all Why Less is More.

When I was a toddler, my parents bought me a traditional bicycle with training wheels. A balance bike at the time was not invented yet. The training wheels were there so I would not tip over and hurt myself. The traditional childhood is like this when it comes to learning to ride a bike. We all remember that 1st bike. How it felt, the freedom to move faster and further. But to move you had to pedal while relying on the training wheels to keep us upright. It was tough at first.

Rynek in Sandomierz, Poland - birth town
Rynek in Sandomierz, Poland – my block on the right

The pedals kind of got in the way. Brakes were activated through the lever on the handlebars and sometimes moving the pedals backwards would also activate the brakes. Oh boy, that was a lot to take in. But we did right. I remember the early wobbles as I tried to learn to balance. Knowing the training wheels were there helped, but it still made the hair raise up on my back. Then once I got enough courage I would ram straight into a wall of the building where we lived, many times. Arms and knees were bleeding. What an experience.

Enter the Balance Bike

Fast forward to today; when I became a father, and my kid (Josh) was ready at a ripe age of 2 we did something different. We got him a balance bike. Have you heard of Balance Bikes? Yeah neither did I until Urszula kids occupational therapist from SensoryLifestyle.com mentioned it. Few Googles later I was up to speed.

“A balance bicycle, or run bike is a training bicycle that helps children learn balance and steering. It has no pedals and no drivetrain.”.

The bike has NO pedals. NO drivetrain i.e. chains or gears. And NO brakes! It’s as simple as it gets. A frame with wheels, a seat and handlebars. Even the wheels are basic. Heck, the WHOLE bike is basic. It’s like they started with a standard bicycle and said… let’s strip it down till we cannot anymore. Down to the core essentials.

Less is truly More!

Strider Balance Bike Standard Bike
Balance Bike Normal Bike

Unlike a traditional bicycle where you might have to push the child or support them, with a balance bike there is minimal supervision. Josh started sitting on the seat and walking the bike. Like the Flintstones. Then he progressed to pushing his feet off from the ground and balancing. Soon he was coasting around turns and speeding along pathways. All in about a month. A child learns to balance faster when they don’t have to pedal. Pedals also get in the way. I saw Josh fall over few times trying a normal bike with pedals, before ending up on the seat and looking at me to push him.

Check out this video I made of Josh riding a Strider Balance Bike in Shoreline Park, Mountain View

The Power of Simplification in Software Development

As a software engineer and a maker of many things, I am always intrigued by simplification. In software we often “refactor” code to make it smaller, better and faster. When working on technology products, we often say to blow away features to make a large application light. Less is More. Products users love often simple. Not complicated. And usually serve a single purpose.

When we discuss product design, we also talk about building habits (ref Hooked book). What is the simplest behavior which can lead to a reward. It’s hard building sticky products feature heavy. People get overwhelmed and lose interest fast. Many books, many blogs and many words are exchanged by makers in Silicon Valley about the power of simplification. Most products suck because this simple approach to simplifying the product is often ignored by the ego. If you want to learn more about features vs. benefits, please read my prior blog post on SPIN Selling.

Less is More

And right here in front of me stands the BEST reminder of the power of simplification. It may not be a technology product, but it sure carries the same weight. Less is More.

Necessity > Novelty. For a 2-year-old learning to balance is a fundamental motor skill development milestone. If you want to learn more about this, I highly recommend you read SensoryLifestyle.com or google this topic.

1. knowing the rules of the game and 2. using the right tools; is how we get results.

Technology Products

When we think of the two best technology companies in the world, no doubt Apple and Google fall into that spot.

  • Remember the beauty of Apple’s iPod? It was its simplicity.
  • When you visit Google.com, the page is simple. The only thing you can do is Search. Simple right?

Let’s also look at Cars. Who is the most innovative car manufacturer? I believe it is Tesla Motors. They haven’t done anything revolutionary. No, really they haven’t. They just simplified the car. If you know a bit about engines, you will know that a piston motor is complicated. It has many moving parts. And many things that can and do go wrong. Now, the electric motor is winning. It’s simple. A magnet, coil and apply electricity.

Benefits > Features

I’m going to finish on a final note. When we simplify, we remove features. Features do not sell. So don’t worry about stripping down your product. Instead, focus on the benefits. And sell on those. The stripped down bare bone balance bike Josh rides cost ~$130 while a regular bike with gears, pedals, balance wheels et al, cost ~$80. The price difference is nearly 50%, yet guess which one wins hearts?

~ Ernest

Author: Ernest W. Semerda

IQBOXY cofounder, GSDfaster founder and The Road To Silicon Valley founder/editor. Follow me on Twitter: @ernestsemerda or Google+.