Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Skuut: Brief Product Review

The Skuut is one of the less expensive wooden balance bikes on the market. I'm not sure how the "original" wooden balance bikes were/are built (not interested in that conversation), but the Skuut has two major design flaws. Below is a slideshow, if you click on the photos and open them in a new window, you can see annotations I've added to the four photos.

The first is that the handlebar is attached to the front fork using wood screws. This means that the wood screws screw down between the layers of plywood. Any impact or torque on the handlebar results in the separation of these layers. In the case of my boys, these impacts are often at high speeds resulting in complete separation of the handlebar from the fork. I've attempted to draw the plywood back together by drilling two holes and using long chainring bolts and washers. I've also been reattaching the handlebar with the wood screws by shoving matchsticks down the screw holes to give the screws more wood to bite into. This evening I drilled an additional set of holes so that now four screws hold the handlebar to the fork.

The second design flaw is that the wheel is held in the center of the axel assembly by the combination of compression rings and wooden hub pieces. The wooden hub pieces work themselves loose allowing the compression rings to pop out of their groove. The result is a wobbly wheel. The wooden hub pieces eventually split from being forced back on to the hub, so I've replaced them with hose clamps. The wheel still wobbles, but at least it stays in the center.

The boys love their Skuut. Like any loved toy it is starting to break down. The boys are hard on the Skuut, e.g., deliberately crashing it into walls, riding off of steps and high curbs, dismounting at high speeds and dumping it to the ground. They have occasionally have left it out all night allowing moisture to weaken the plywood and rust the wheels.

If you're in the market for a wooden balance bike, look carefully at how the handlebar and wheels are attached. We're going to keep ours patched up and rolling, but I don't think we'll be handing it down to any friends.

Any repair advice from family carpenters and engineers is appreciated.

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