“As a child, when we wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle, many practised using trainer wheels. But, a lesser-known concept to learning a bike is by practising balance which can be achieved by riding a balance bike,” says 20-year-old Prem Kale, the founder of Vamshycle – an organisation that makes balance bicycles.
Balance bikes are cycles for toddlers in their development stage to build motor skills. They are low to the ground and have no pedals or brakes.
In 2017, Prem decided to drop out of Vidya Valley School, Pune because he wanted to pursue his passion – creating products and engineering designs.
In 9th grade, he made a drone for a school project, and in 10th grade, he combined his passion for creating new things and cycling to make a prototype model of a folding cycle. He made this through trial and error by watching videos online. Once the prototype model was successful, he wanted to challenge himself and decided to make a ‘balance bike’ but using wood.
About the balance bike
The balance bicycle named Tipayi (which means three-legged) is a light-weight cycle that has no pedals, chains, or brakes.
The body is made using Russian Birch Plywood that Prem got imported from Russia with the help of his father, Amar Kale, who runs an interior decorations showroom.
“I started working on the product in 2018, and I opted for this variety because the wood is weather-resistant and light-weight. With a clear coating, it is even more durable and prevents any bug infestation. Initially, using a wood-cutter, I have at home in my workshop – I started working on the design. After a few trials I got the shape and dimensions of the frame correct,” says Prem.
To the wooden frame, he attached broad wheels to ensure stability, and the parts are held together with bolts that are stainless steel to prevent rusting. He says that the seat is custom-made by him using foam and cushion material for extra comfort.
By the end of 2019, Prem has his production model ready and launched a balance bike that can be used in three different stages to adapt to a child’s growth – (i) A tricycle for children aged between 18 months and 2.5 years (ii) With two wheels but a short ground clearance for children aged between 2.5 – 3.5 years and (iii) By reversing a part of the wood at the back, it can be made a little taller for children aged between 3.5 – 5 years.
Prem says, “The cycle grows as the child grows. The user can adjust the height of the seat and can dismantle the pieces to upgrade the product to the next stage. To help them, along with the product, there is also an instruction manual, and an alum key to adjust the bolts. There is also a variant with only the last two stages as some children would be old for the training wheels.”
The three-stage variant weighs three kilos, and the two-stage variant weighs three and a half kilos. This allows children to manoeuvre the cycle with ease, and parents can transport it anywhere with ease.
“Since the cycle is compact, it can be loaded into the car and taken anywhere, even on road trips to other parts of the country.”
The product was first showcased at a fair in Pune, but now it is available on Amazon, and on Prem’s website named ‘Vamshycle’. The bike’s price ranges between Rs 3500 and Rs 5000 depending on the variant, and the colour you choose.
“The coloured bikes have vinyl stickers pasted on the wood frame with a matte finish coat that gives it an elegant look,” says Prem adding that he made the first few models himself, but decided to get the wood cut from a third-party once he started to receive more orders.
To date, he has sold more than 30 cycles.
Rajan Rana, a resident Delhi purchased the product for his 2-year-old son in July so that he would improve his balance skills, reaction skills, and have fun inside the home.
He says “I was looking for balance bikes on Amazon India, during the lockdown to keep my son active indoors. I had come across these bikes in Switzerland after my sister purchased the same for her children. My two-year-old is using the tricycle version, and whenever he is cycling, I have noticed that he is more reactive and aware of his surroundings. I am very satisfied with the purchase because it is light-weight, compact, and my son will use the same product for the next 3 years with simple modifications.”
How did Prem achieve this?
After Prem dropped out of school to pursue his dreams, he kick-started his journey, by joining ‘Makers Asylum’ – a Mumbai-based organisation focussed on providing a creative space for those who wish to learn and create.
“I took up a one-month program there to learn about working with wood, laser cutting, and 3D printing. The program taught me how to design with the material, and exposed me to others who were creating different products using the same material,” he says.
But this was not the first time that Prem experimented with creating something. While he was still in school, he would watch videos online and procure necessary raw materials to make quadcopters, drones, and RC aircrafts using foam boards and a motor.
“I knew what I wanted to do in the future, and I was sure that it was not in the books I was studying. Initially, everyone was sceptical about my decision to drop out of school. My parents were unsure about the decision, but they had faith in me. When I started showing them that I was serious about pursuing my passion, and made progress with my work, they were happy about my decision.”
In 2018 after completing his program at the Makers Asylum, Prem went on to participate in the IndiaSkills National competition where he was placed as the third runner up.
“This victory encouraged me to start my venture and make the balance bike.”
Image courtesy: Prem Kale
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)