Balance Bikes: Navigating Your Child's First Bicycle Experience
From Training Wheels or Stabilizers to Balance Bikes: Navigating Your Child's First Bicycle Experience
Forget about training wheels! A new generation of bikes, called balance bikes, are changing the game for kids learning to ride. These bikes separate balancing and steering from pedaling and braking, so kids as young as two can start learning the ropes.
A balance bike is often a toddlers first experience of two wheel freedom on their own. It can be very liberating and the coordination, balance and fine motor skills they learn will impact every day of the rest of their lives. These skills are essential to living and learning.
The early development of gross motor skills, controlling muscles and movement has long been known to promote healthier, stronger kids.
Child development experts at the American Pediatrics Association recommends that "kids from 2 to 5 years of age should engage in 2 or more hours per day of physical activity.”
Why Choose a Balance Bike?
Balance bikes have been around for a long time. The first bicycles were designed without pedals! But after a short run in popularity in the 1800s, they were replaced by pedal bikes.
Today, balance bikes are back in a big way and offer a range of benefits over training wheels, including:
- Early Balance and Steering Skills: Kids who learn to ride on balance bikes develop strong arms and learn balance and steering without worrying about falling.
- Faster Mastery: The lack of pedals means kids can focus on mastering the balance bike more quickly.
- Customisable: With various balance bikes available, including plastic, wood, and metal models, parents can choose one that fits their child's needs and preferences.
- Convertible: Regular bikes can easily be turned into balance bikes, making them a more affordable option, especially for older children that have missed those early years with a balance bike.
Choosing the Right Balance Bike for Your Child
There are plenty of options when it comes to balance bikes! Here are a few popular models to consider:
- Kiddimoto Superbike: This wooden-framed bike with pneumatic tires and a steering limiter on the front wheel costs between £120-£140.
- Kiddimoto Super Junior: This simple metal balance bike is robust, lightweight and very adjustable. Available for around £60.
- Wishbone 3 in 1: This wooden-framed trike can also be converted and costs $229.
- FirstBIKE: This fiberglass-framed bike with or without a hand brake costs $165.
When choosing a balance bike, make sure it fits your child well. The material of the frame is also important to consider – wood and metal are a more natural material and cost less, both for the pockat and the planet. At the same time, plastic and fiberglass are usually lighter.
We can't have this discussion without also mentioning safety! We want your kids to be safe, and we know parents need to be comfortable with their kid's safety equipment. We recommend a helmet at all times and gloves at a minimum. Knee pads and elbow pads are also a good addition.
Balance Bikes Are Not Just For Kids
Are you an adult who never learned to ride a bike? Maybe you have a disabled person in your family who cannot reasonably handle a bicycle. Perhaps you didn’t know about balance bikes and your child is over 6 years old and too big for a balance bike. Balance bikes can be very liberating and a great way to learn.
Then you can make your own balance bike. One option available for big kids and adults is to make your own balance bike. Remove the pedals and lower the seat so your child's feet can touch the ground. They can practice balancing before adding the pedals back in….voila!
What About Training Wheels?
Even though balance bikes are becoming more popular, many kids start with training wheels or stabilisers. Training wheels provide stability and allow kids to practice skills like steering and braking without fear of falling.
However, they are counter-productive, in that they do not develop balance. The bike is essentially a 4 wheeler and doesn’t require balance, which can cause a child to develop a dependency on these ‘crutches’. Ditch the outboard wheels…go 2 wheels right from the get go.
What Are the Benefits of Balance Bikes for Kids?
There are many perks to getting your child a balance bike!
- Early balance development: Kids learn to balance on the bike, building a solid foundation for switching to a traditional bicycle with pedals.
- Confidence boost: Riding a balance bike helps kids build confidence in their riding skills before they tackle pedaling and braking.
- Easy to learn: Kids as young as two can learn to balance and glide on a balance bike, making it a fun and straightforward way to start riding.
- Money-saver: No need for training wheels means less money spent on accessories and equipment.
- Eco-friendly: By helping kids learn to ride earlier, balance bikes increase the likelihood of using a bicycle as a form of transport and reduce the need for petrol powered vehicles.
Balance bikes have become the go-to option for kids learning to ride a bike. They offer a variety of benefits over traditional training wheels, including the development of balance and steering skills, faster mastery, customization, and cost-effectiveness.
When selecting a balance bike, choose one that fits your child well and consider the material of the frame. And if you want to save money, regular bikes can easily be converted into balance bikes, but this is generally a solution for bigger kids and those with disabilities.
Once your child has mastered balancing on a balance bike, they'll be ready to transition to a traditional pedal bike. Choose the right bike, start slow, and keep practicing, and soon enough, your child will be zipping around on two wheels like a pro!