Christmas Product Review: Hotwheels Track Pack and the Gyrowheel

Christmas is right around the corner so we are going to review two gifts for kids, one affordable classic and one revolutionary bike riding training tool.

Hotwheels tracks have been around since the 70’s. They are inexpensive, do not require batteries, encourage creativity and are super fun. The Hotwheels Kidspick Track Pack contains orange sections of track that are linked together with red connectors allowing you to create a custom raceway that is compatible with most Hotwheels and Matchbox cars. Unlike many “themed” track kits that are kind of gimmicky, the Kidspick kit contains all the essentials to get rad with none of the bogus flair. The kit comes with track, a loop, 180 degree berm, trackclamp for gravity setups, trigger propulsion system, risers, jump, catchtrack, carrying case and of course one HotWheels car. The traditional propulsion method is to set up a high start point and use gravity to roll cars downhill. The other option is to use the included rubber band trigger system to rocket cars down the speedway. Kids can get creative with limitless different track designs. Not all concepts work. You need to incorporate physics into your track design to keep cars from jumping off the track. If your track is too steep or off camber, cars fall off. If your inrun to the loop is not fast enough, the car won’t make it. Things get really exciting when setting up large gap jumps. The set comes with a jump and “catch track” that if placed properly will allow your car to stick huge jumps. You can maximize thrill factor by setting up stuff like toy bussess under the jump just like Evil Knievel would do. At around $25 this is good ole fashion fun that lasts for hours and won’t break the bank. You could really go nuts if you got two kits and linked them together. Bring out the stuntman in your kid with a Hotwheels track for Christmas!

The next gift item is an amazing piece of technology designed to help kids ride a two wheel bike without training wheels. The Gyrowheel, designed by two Dartmouth Alumni, goes in place of the standard front wheel on your kid’s bike. It uses cyntrifical force to stabilize the bike when moving forward. It offers more tension at slow speeds and less at high speeds allowing the rider to learn to balance naturally. It comes with three different settings so that you can start with the most stable and back it off as balance improves. Eventually your kid won’t need it and will be able to ride a bike about five years ahead of schedule. At $150 the Gyrowheel is not cheap. The smart thing to do is buy one and share the cost with your neighbors. Once your kid can ride, pass it on to the next kid. Pretty soon you will have a BMX gang of four year olds terrorizing the neighborhood.

UPDATE: Fact correction from the manufacturer. SBDC apologizes for the misinformation.
I do have two quick fact corrections for you however. First, Gyrobike’s basic “proof-of-concept” was the brainchild of four undergrad engineering students for a class project. Gyrobike’s founder and CEO was at the business school at the time finishing her MBA. She licensed the patent, founded the company, and worked with a team of engineers in San Francisco to bring the concept to market.

The second thing is about the physics behind why Gyrowheel works – it isn’t a centrifugal force that creates the stability. If you really want to geek out – the physics principle is called “gyroscopic precession.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precession) Simply put, the disk/wheel wants to stay “upright” and at a 90 degree angle to the axle – the “axis” it is spinning around.

Here’s one last tech toy that rocks…The Syma Remote Control Helicopter. Here’s our review from last year.

Syma metal series mini helicopter review

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