Our obsession with designing the perfect Rothan

Innovation  |  Oct 07, 2022  |  Tim Goodall
Kid's pink balance bike angled

Learning to ride starts with learning to balance. Learning to balance starts on a Rothan.

Our balance bike of today has been 17 years in the making; 17 years, and counting, of continuously iterating the design.

Iterating when our assumptions were wrong.

Iterating when we are right but can be better.

To give children a better cycling experience.

Scooped saddle to keep kids on

The action of pedalling pushes the rider against the back of a saddle. On a balance bike, the scooting action, or running, moves the rider back and forth. The scooped saddle ensures they stay in the saddle and don’t constantly slide off the front. 

Narrow hubs to protect ankles

On a balance bike, the riders’ legs sweep the length of the bike and catch anything in the way, especially wheel nuts and brake arms.

We’ve tucked everything in; ultra-narrow hubs, domed wheel nuts, and carefully positioned brake arms keep the profile of the bike sleek. There’s nothing left to catch their legs and ankles.

Kid riding balance bike

Micro-reach brake lever for easy stopping

It’s hard to imagine your child needing a brake when you see them cautiously waddling with their balance bike for the first time. Yet when a kid is confident, it’s terrifying to know they have only their feet to stop.

Our first balance bike had no brake.

Then it was an optional extra.

And now included as standard.

We included the brake as standard when we didn’t want to make children’s safety optional.

Our decision process went something like this:

  • "We don’t need a brake on our balance bike because children only waddle with them, and in any-case, there isn’t a brake lever that can effectively operate a rear brake".
  • "Oh, when at full-speed, children can out pace their parents. We should make brakes available". Isla designs a brake lever, we invest in manufacturing a lever, and make brakes optional. With hindsight it’s absurd to write make brakes optional.
  • The penny dropped. We recognised brakes were an important safety feature. They could no-longer be optional. Brakes. Optional. Two words we will never combine again.

Small diameter handlebars and grips 

Pedal bikes have five contact points and balance bikes just three – those three better be good! Two of the them are the handlebars, and most importantly, the grips.

They must be small in diameter so kids can wrap their whole hand around the grips, and not just hang on to the tops. A standard sized handlebar and grip is like an adult holding onto a scaffolding pole.

We’ll take a deep dive into the grips another time – we've lots more to say.

Kid holding balance bike handlebar

Steering limiter to prevent brake damage

Contrary to popular belief, children don’t jack knife on their bikes; they let go of their bikes which then fall to the ground. The steering limiter stops the handlebars from twisting when the bike is dropped, causing the brake cable to snag and maybe damage the brake itself.

It also makes sure the handlebars are facing the right way around where the brake can be reached.

Rothan steering limiter safety mechanism

Where's the foot rest?!

Lots of people love them, others loathe them.

Our Rothan does not have a footrest, although some children do use the frame.

Our main reason for not having a footrest is that they are another protrusion; something else to leave bruises.

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