How To Balance Bike
Teaching a child to ride a bike is one of the joys of any parent. Like many parents, I usually just like to sit back and watch my little ones ride around and away happily. Pure joy and bliss! In this article, I give incredibly guidance on how to ride a balance bike and the best balance bikes available in the market in 2021.
In this review, we will be looking at every aspect of balance bikes and comparing them with other types of bikes to help you make an informed choice. We will also recommend balance bikes for both small and big toddlers from trusted brands that we believe will see your child’s training a long way. Also, we will mention some balance bike accessories that you and your child will love.
How old balance bike – age to start using balance bikes
The best age for kids to start using a balance bike is between 18months to 2 years. Like with any sport, the earlier, the better. But kids up to 5 years also enjoy using them.
Since balance bikes do not have a drivetrain, they sit low to the ground and are much lighter than traditional bikes. This makes it possible for small kids to propel and steer the bike and stop using just their leg power.
Where to buy balance bikes
What size should a balance bike be?
Unlike regular bikes, balance bikes do not have standard sizes. They differ between manufacturer and model. They come sized based on either wheel size or seat height.
Balance bikes can have the same wheel size but fit differently between a one year old and a four year old for example. Thus, wheel size is not the best indicator of a bike’s size.
The most precise way to tell if the bike has the right fit for your child is by comparing the seat height with your child inseam. You can measure your child’s inseam by having them stand against a wall with shoes on, then place a book between their legs up to the crotch. Measure the distance between the floor and the top of the book. It should be the same or less than an inch longer than the minimum seat height.
The maximum seat height of the bike should be at least two inches above the child’s inseam. This allows some room for the child to grow into.
Balance bike for 1 year old
Balance bike for 2 year old
Balance bike for 3 year old
What are the advantages of balance bikes?
- Easy for small kids to master
Balance bikes are lightweight and don’t have pedals, so kids only need to concentrate on balancing. It also gives them full control to steer and stop using just their feet.
- Kids increase their strength and improved coordination
With a balance bike, kids are forced to use their arms and legs to propel themselves forward. This helps develop their muscles and increase strength. It also improves their motor skills and coordination.
Balance bikes are low to the ground than regular bikes. So, kids feel more secure and if they fall, the impact is minimal. Plus, the bike only goes as fast as the child can push, so there is no risk of high speed crashes.
- Eliminate the need for training wheels
Once a child learns to balance, transitioning to a pedal bike is smooth and fast and doesn’t require training wheels.
- Great for exercise
Riding is a sure way to get kids off video games to spend more time outdoors. It is also a fun way to teach them to develop healthy habits for life.
As earlier mentioned, there are many options to get your child excited as they move around. But, what are the advantages of balance bikes over these cheaper or more convenient ride options?
Balance bike vs Training wheels
To get a balance bike or training wheels? This is one of the question today’s parent has to ponder when they want their child to learn how to ride a bike. Back in the day, everyone trained using training wheels, but balance bikes are now the most popular among young riders.
To help you answer this question, it’s important first to understand that the two options function very differently.
A balance bike does not have pedals, so the child has to push on the ground with their feet to push themselves along. They then progress to running and gliding. Once they are already gliding independently, they also master balancing while in motion. The kids also learn to steer and the limits of steering to avoid falls (which are less traumatic as the bike is closer to the ground) and learn to shift weight as they turn sharp corners. Once kids have achieved these milestones, they learn to pedal away in a matter of minutes.
On the other hand, training wheels help to keep your child upright, so they don’t need to work on balancing. Instead, they learn to pedal and steer. The real challenge then comes when the training wheels are removed. The child is now forced to learn to balance to get from one point to another. So as you can see, it’s really not smart, and the process actually takes longer. Plus, training wheels make the bike wobbly as the weight is shifted between the wheels. As a result, these bikes cannot be used on rough terrains and sloppy grounds. Still, this is an option for someone who doesn’t want to spend on a bike balance bike and pedal bike later.
So there you have it. Training wheels aren’t bad, but they make the learning process much longer. Balance bikes are super lightweight, so they are manageable by kids as small as 18 months. They make the learning process much easier and faster and enable kids to go on longer rides on varied terrains.
Which is the Best Balance bike for toddlers?
Which is the best balance bike for 4 year olds?
Balance bike with brakes
Balance bikes don’t really need to have brakes because the child’s leg power is enough to stop. But, having brakes gives them more skill to apply when they start riding a pedal bike. It also boosts confidence.
These are some of the best balance bikes with brakes.
Prevelo Alpha Zero – easy reach Tektro dual handbrake
Yedoo Too Too – rear V-brake
Pello Ripple- Rear Tektro v brake
Ridgeback Scoot– Rear handbrake
Balance bike with pedals
This is usually an option for the budget minded families. Instead of buying a balance bike then a pedal bike later, you can buy a convertible balance bike that comes with or accepts add-on pedals. While these bikes are heavier than balance bike, the child is able to learn riding in a fairly short time. You also find that the pedals are small and crank arms are short, making riding the pedal bike uncomfortable for long distances. As the child gets better at riding, you will be forced to buy them a real pedal bike. Here are some great balance bikes that have pedals.
Smart Trike Xtend – comes with the pedal kit
Strider 14 X– pedal kit sold separately
Go Glider-pedal kit sold separately
Balance bike with a basket
A basket is a lovely addition to a girl’s bike. She can take along her play toys or some snacks on her adventures. They’re very few balance bikes with front baskets, but we managed to find some for you below.
Balance bike with handle
Having a handle on a balance bike is very convenient for parents when it comes to towing and storage.
It also provides a place to grip when teaching your child to balance and control their speed. These are some of the balance bikes with a handle.
Balance bike vs scooter
Kids love both bikes and scooters; they bring in so much fun and happiness and help kids learn to balance. So let’s see which of the two you should use.
Resemble a regular bike except for the lack of pedals. The child uses the handlebars to steer the bike in the desired direction, and their feet both to push themselves along and stop the bike. In the process, they learn how to balance on two wheels while in motion.
Pros of the balance bike
- Can be used by kids as young as 18 months
- Extremely safe as the bike as they can stop the bike easily using the feet
- Focuses on teaching the child to balance on two wheels
- Smooth transition to a pedal bike
- Great for long distances like to school and on different terrains
- Bigger and heavier, not easy to carry if the child gets tired
Scooters come with two wheels or three if it’s a micro scooter. They train kids to balance when standing with one foot almost in contact with the ground, for easy stopping when needed. With time, kids learn how to balance their body weight and cover even longer distances with both feet on the scooter.
Pros of the scooter
- It’s harder to fall since the rider will be standing; they can easily get off
- Teaches kids how to balance
- Easy steering
- Smaller and lighter hence easy to carry or store
- Lean to steer mechanism is confusing when they transition to riding a bike and other ride ons where handlebars control the steering.
Both these options will teach your child to balance, encourage an active life and boost their confidence.
Regarding which option your child will love more, it will probably depend on what you introduce them to first and other influences like they may enjoy or want a bike more if you are a biking family. But, if you are training your child to ride a bike, a balance bike is ideal.
Balance bike vs Tricycle
For those wondering between a balance bike and tricycle, here is what you need to know.
Tricycles are targeted at toddlers, but still, they don’t provide the right fit as most kids can’t reach the pedals. They are heavy and bulky, weighing almost as much as the child. They are designed with the notion that small kids can’t balance, so they teach a child to pedal and steer instead. The child would then have to learn to balance later, which is a counter-intuitive and lengthy process. They are prone to tipping on one side when going over uneven terrain, and making sharp turns is also tricky.
Balance bikes much lighter; hence they are easy for small kids to maneuver without getting too tired. Kids can ride out for miles as opposed to when using a tricycle. They teach kids to balance, making the transition to a pedal bike very smooth. A balance bike also gives you more value as it can be adjusted to grow with your child.
Balance bike hands down wins.
Balance bike vs pedal bike
When it comes to teaching your kid to ride correctly, you want to do it as simple as possible so your child can grasp the concept fast. With a balance bike, all your child has to do is practice balancing on two wheels while moving, which is the hardest lesson. Pedaling is really simple and takes bike balance graduates just minutes to be riding away.
The problem with pedal bikes is that they weigh almost double the balance bike because of all the components. So they are cumbersome and not easy for small kids to maneuver or pick when they fall. This also prevents kids from going very far. Kids would have to be at least three years old to ride a pedal bike comfortably.
Balance bike vs removing pedals
Some people feel that balance bikes are a huge waste of money as the child will only use it for just about a year. It is more practical to buy a regular pedal bike and remove the pedals so that the child can learn to balance then reinstall the pedals later. You only need to lower the seat height so the child can be able to push themselves along with a slight knee bend and stop safely. However, this works best with kids 5 years old and above, and with larger bikes from 16 inches. Small kids would not be able to have their feet on the ground even when on the lowest seat height setting. And again, the bikes are too heavy for the small kids to push along.
Balance bikes have varied sizes and can be adjusted to grow with your child. They are also easy for kids to maneuver and allow your child to ride for long distances.
Best balance bike baskets
Balance bikes have so many accessories, and baskets are some of the fun things you can add for a cool look. The bike baskets come in a wide range of colors and fun designs for girls and boys. Others are in gender neutral colors too.
Here are some fantastic choices
Biria kids bicycle basket– these are made of mesh and ultra lightweight. Have colors for both boys and girls and a tagline “I love My Bike.” They also have a carry handle to use off the bike.
Schwinn Girls Bicycle basket– made of plastic, but it’s super cute and sturdy. It has a woven pink and yellow classic design and flowers to light up the look.
Colorbasket junior basket– features the classic woven design and color options for girls and boys.
Haba doll bike basket– Super simple, cute, and the quality basket just for Dolly! It comes with three Velcro straps for attaching it around the bike’s handlebars and stem.
Mary Stephens is our infant development and baby fun activities specialist here at Motherhood HQ. She has over 10 years of experience dealing with kids, previously as a K3 teacher and now as a K9-12 teacher specializing in physical education and Social Studies. She is certified to teach in New York and Massachusetts and when not teaching trampoline jump tricks or giving toddler safety guides, she enjoys writing and providing helpful guides to parents on baby fun activities from infancy to toddlerhood. Mary is also an independent consultant providing parents with fun activities at home and appropriate toys and baby gear for infants and toddler development. She can be reached at her email, mary.s(at)motherhoodhq.com.