Balance bikes have revolutionized the way kids learn to ride bicycles. They are becoming increasingly popular among parents who want their children to learn to ride a bike in a fun, safe, and effective way.
Balance Bikes — Overview
Unlike traditional training wheels, balance bikes teach children how to balance and steer without the need for extra support.
In this article, we will explore what balance bikes are and why they are a great option for parents looking for a starter bike for their children. We will also delve into the benefits of balance bikes and how they can help children develop important skills for life.
What is a Balance Bike
A balance bike, also known as a running bike or a glider bike, is a type of bicycle that is designed to help children learn how to balance and steer without the use of training wheels. Unlike traditional bicycles, balance bikes do not have pedals or a chain.
Instead, children sit on the bike and use their feet to push themselves along, learning to balance and control their movement as they go.
This makes balance bikes an excellent tool for teaching young children how to ride a bike, as they can focus on developing the balance and coordination skills they need without the added complication of pedaling.
Overall, balance bikes are a safe and effective way to introduce children to the joys of cycling and help them build the skills they need to ride a regular bike.
Evolution of Children’s Bikes — The Fascinating History of the Balance Bicycles
The balance bike as we know it today was first developed in Europe in the early 1800s. Known as a “running machine” or a “walking machine” at the time, it consisted of a wooden frame with two wheels and a handlebar but no pedals or chain.
Children would sit on the bike and push themselves along with their feet, learning to balance and steer as they went.
Over time, the design of the kid’s bikes has evolved, with improvements to the frame, wheels, and handlebars. In the early 1900s, the balance bike began to decline in popularity as the pedal bike became more widespread.
However, it continued to be used in some parts of Europe, particularly in Germany, where it was seen as an effective tool for teaching children how to ride a bike.
In the 21st century, the balance bicycle experienced a resurgence in popularity, particularly in North America and Australia. This was due in part to the growing recognition of the importance of physical activity and outdoor play for children’s development.
Today, balance bikes are widely recognized as an effective tool for teaching young children how to ride a bike, and they are available in a variety of sizes and styles to suit different ages and abilities.
How to Ride a Balance Bike with Confidence
Here are the basic steps for riding a kid’s balance bike:
Adjust the seat
Make sure the seat is adjusted so that your child’s feet can comfortably touch the ground when they are sitting on the bike.
Find a flat, open space
Choose a safe and open space, like a park or an empty parking lot, where your child can ride their bike without any obstacles or hazards.
Start with walking
Encourage your child to sit on the bike and walk it around, getting comfortable with the feel of the bike and how it moves.
Push off and glide
Once your child is comfortable walking with the bike, encourage them to push off with their feet and glide along, lifting their feet off the ground for short periods of time.
As your child becomes more confident, encourage them to practice balancing on the bike, keeping their feet off the ground for longer periods of time.
Teach your child how to steer the bike by leaning their body in the direction they want to go. Encourage them to practice turning left and right.
Gradually increase speed
As your child becomes more comfortable with balancing and steering, encourage them to push off harder and glide faster.
Remember to always supervise your child while they are riding their balance bike and to make sure they are wearing a properly fitting helmet. With practice and patience, your child will soon be riding their balance bike like a pro!
Pros of Balance Bikes
There are several compelling reasons why children should learn to ride balance bikes:
Builds balance and coordination
Riding a balance bicycle helps children develop their balance and coordination skills. By learning to balance and steer on their own, children develop a sense of spatial awareness and improve their overall physical dexterity.
Makes the transition to a regular bike easier
Learning to ride a balance bike first makes the transition to a regular bike much easier. Since children have already learned the fundamental skills of balancing and steering, they can focus on learning how to pedal and brake rather than trying to master all the skills at once.
Safer than traditional training wheels
Traditional training wheels can give children a false sense of security and may actually impede their ability to learn how to balance on their own. Balance bikes, on the other hand, help children develop the balance and control they need to ride safely.
Encourages outdoor play and exercise
Riding a balance bike is a fun and engaging outdoor activity that encourages children to be active and explore their environment. This can help promote a lifelong love of physical activity and healthy living.
Builds confidence and independence
Learning to ride a balance bike helps children build confidence and a sense of independence. By mastering a new skill on their own, children develop a sense of pride and self-confidence that can carry over into other areas of their lives.
Cons of Balance Bikes
While balance bikes have many benefits, there are some potential drawbacks to consider:
Limited age range
Balance bikes are designed for young children who are just learning to ride, typically between the ages of 18 months and 5 years old. Once children reach a certain age or height, they will need to transition to a regular bike.
Balance bikes are designed for use on flat, smooth surfaces and may not be suitable for rough terrain or off-road riding.
Balance bikes can be more expensive than traditional bikes with training wheels and may not be affordable for all families.
Some balance bikes may have weight or height limitations that can make them unsuitable for larger or older children.
Limited resale value
Since balance bikes have a limited age range and may not be suitable for older or larger children, they may not have a high resale value.
Despite these potential drawbacks, balance bikes are still a great tool for helping young children learn to ride a bike and develop important physical and cognitive skills.
Difference between Balance Bikes and Training Wheels
Balance bikes and training wheels are both tools used to help children learn to ride a bike, but they differ in several key ways:
Balance bikes have no pedals and are designed to help children learn balance and coordination by propelling themselves forward with their feet. Training wheels, on the other hand, provide stability but do not help children learn how to balance.
Balance bikes are designed to teach children how to steer by leaning and shifting their weight, while training wheels limit a child’s ability to steer independently.
Balance bikes allow children to ride independently and at their own pace, while training wheels require a parent or caregiver to be present to provide support and assistance.
Balance bikes are generally considered safer than training wheels because they help children develop the skills they need to ride safely and confidently on their own.
Transition to a regular bike
Children who learn to ride on a balance bike tend to have an easier time transitioning to a regular bike since they have already developed balance and steering skills. Children who learn to ride with training wheels may have to unlearn some habits and skills before they can ride without them.
Pedal Bikes vs. Balance Bikes: Which One Will Set Your Child Up for Cycling Success
Here is a table outlining the main differences between balance bikes and pedal bikes:
|18 months to 6 years
|4 to 8 years and up
|Helps children learn balance and coordination
|Enables children to ride longer distances and at faster speeds
|Some models have a footrest
|Equipped with pedals
|Some models have a hand brake, while others don’t
|Typically equipped with hand brakes
|Often used to help children learn to ride
|Can be adjusted to accommodate the child’s height
|Can be adjusted, but limited by the size of the bike frame
|Lightweight and easy to maneuver
|Heavier and less maneuverable
|Generally less expensive
|Generally more expensive
Top Tips for Choosing the Perfect Balance Ride for Your Little One
If you are in the local bike shop for a balance bike, here are some buying tips to help you choose the right one:
The size of the balance bike is important to ensure that your child can comfortably reach the ground and handlebars. Look for a bike with an adjustable seat and handlebars to accommodate your child’s growing size.
Balance bikes should be lightweight enough for children to handle and maneuver easily. Look for a bike that weighs between 5-10 pounds.
Balance bikes are typically made from either wood or metal. Wooden bikes are eco-friendly and have a classic look, while metal bikes are more durable and can handle more wear and tear.
Balance bike tires can be either air-filled or foam-filled. Air-filled tires provide a smoother ride and can handle rough terrain, while foam-filled tires are maintenance-free and puncture-proof.
Some balance bikes come with handbrakes, while others rely on children using their feet to stop. Handbrakes can be useful for more advanced riders but may be confusing for younger children.
Look for balance bikes that come with accessories such as bells, baskets, and kickstands to add to the fun and functionality of the bike.
Balance bikes can range in price from around $50 to $200. Consider your budget and the features you want before making a purchase.
By considering these factors, you can find the right balance bike for your child that will provide a safe and enjoyable learning experience.
Top Picks for the Balance Bikes
For Young Toddlers
Introducing a balance bike to your toddler at a young age (18 months or 2 years old) can be a great way to help them develop crucial motor skills and gain confidence in their physical abilities.
With so many options on the market, it can be tough to know where to start. That’s why I’ve put together a list of the best balance bikes for young toddlers, so you can find the perfect fit for your little one.
1. WOOM 1
If you’re looking for a top-quality balance bike for your young toddler, the WOOM 1 is an excellent option to consider.
Designed for children between 18 months and 3 years old, this bike is lightweight, easy to handle, and packed with features to make your child’s first riding experience a breeze.
One of the standout features of the WOOM 1 is its natural upright body position, which places the rider’s weight over their hips and makes balancing easier and more intuitive.
The lightweight frame and low step-through design also make it easy for young children to get on and off the bike, while the adjustable seat and handlebars allow the bike to grow with your child.
The WOOM 1 also boasts 12″ air tires, which provide excellent cushioning for added comfort and stability, as well as a hand brake for easy stopping. And with a weight of just 6.6 pounds, it’s one of the lightest bikes on the market with air tires and a hand brake.
While some parents may find the range of seat heights limited compared to other brands, the WOOM 1’s high-quality components and thoughtful design make it a top choice for young toddlers’ first bike adventure.
Plus, with five different colors to choose from, your child is sure to find a bike they love.
In summary, the WOOM 1 is a fantastic balance bike that offers the perfect blend of comfort, convenience, and quality for young toddlers just starting their riding journey.
The Strider balance bike is known for its well-designed frame that is easily adaptable to fit a wide range of age groups. With an extended seat post and adjustable-height handlebars, the Strider can accommodate kids of various sizes.
This feature makes it a versatile option for families with multiple children who may have different needs when it comes to bike size.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Strider balance bike is its affordable price point. Despite its relatively low cost, the Strider is a high-quality bike that can withstand wear and tear.
It is designed to fit light kids, heavy kids, tall kids, and short kids, making it a safe choice for a wide range of toddlers.
The Strider Classic and the Strider Sport are two models that differ primarily in terms of maximum seat height.
The Strider Classic has a seat height range of 11″ to 16″, while the Strider Sport comes with a longer seat post that extends the range to 11″ to 19″. While adding the extra seat post is more expensive, it is handy for older toddlers as they grow.
One downside of the Strider balance bike is its foam tires, which provide minimal traction and no cushioning. This makes it less than ideal for non-paved surfaces or rough terrain.
Additionally, the exposed bolts on the bike can potentially scratch a child’s legs if they come into contact with them.
Overall, the Strider balance bike is a reliable and adaptable option for parents seeking an affordable, high-quality balance bike for their young toddlers.
Its adjustability, lightweight design, and easy maneuverability make it a popular choice among parents, while its foam tires and exposed bolts may be potential drawbacks for some.
Best Balance Bikes for Toddlers (2 to 3 years old)
When it comes to the best balance bike for toddlers between the ages of 2 and 3, there are a few options that stand out. These bikes are slightly larger than the ones recommended for younger children and are designed to fit toddlers who wear at least 24 months pants.
While young toddlers may not be able to use the handbrake immediately, it becomes hugely beneficial as they grow older and starts riding more aggressively.
It’s worth considering these bikes if you’re looking for something that will last your child a little longer and offer them more of a challenge as they progress in their balance bike journey.
The Guardian Balance Bike is a fantastic choice for toddlers who are ready for a slightly larger balance bike. It features air tires and a handbrake, along with several fun and colorful designs to choose from.
With a taller minimum and maximum seat height than the WOOM 1, the Guardian provides exceptional quality but more room for growth for tall or older toddlers.
One of the standout features of the Guardian balance bike is its proprietary SureStop braking system. This system allows the rear and front rim brakes to be activated by pulling just one brake lever.
During testing, the Guardian provided plenty of top-notch stopping power to keep young riders safe, but not significantly more than other high-end balance bikes with quality hand brakes.
While the SureStop brakes are a unique feature, they shouldn’t play a major role in your purchasing decision if you’re comparing it to a balance bike with a high-quality single handbrake.
However, the cute designs, top-notch customer service, and quality build make the Guardian balance bike a great option.
Additionally, the Guardian balance bike is easy to assemble with guided stickers to help, and bikes are assembled and packaged in the US. However, one potential issue is that the rider’s right leg can rub against the rear brake cable during the stride, which may cause some discomfort.
All in all, the Guardian balance bike is an excellent choice for parents looking for a high-quality balance bike with fun designs and exceptional customer service.
2. Swagtron K3
The Swagtron K3 balance bike is a great option for families on a budget. It boasts a well-designed frame with a longer wheelbase that provides more stability compared to other budget-friendly balance bikes.
The Swagtron K3 also features solid-quality air tires that can handle various terrains, a sleek matte aluminum frame, and a true headset. At under 7 lbs., it is also lightweight and easy to maneuver for young riders.
However, it is worth noting that while the design of the Swagtron K3 is impressive for its price point, it may not be as durable as other higher-end balance bikes. Additionally, adjusting the seat height requires tools, which may be inconvenient for some parents.
In last, I’ll say that the Swagtron K3 is a great value for families who want a quality balance bike without breaking the bank.
Best Balance Bikes for Preschoolers (3 to 4 years Old)
When it comes to balancing bikes for preschoolers, a longer wheelbase and a handbrake are important features to consider.
These bikes are designed to provide more room for the child to stretch out and a handbrake to help them safely slow down and stop as they build up speed.
1. WOOM 1 Plus
The WOOM 1 Plus is an excellent lightweight balance bike option for preschoolers aged 3 to 5. This bike is a larger version of the popular WOOM 1 balance bike and has several features that make it perfect for timid kids starting off their balance bike journey.
The comfortable, upright body positioning is great for younger children who are still getting used to balancing on two wheels.
The WOOM 1 Plus has larger 14″ air tires, which provide plenty of room for growth as the child gets bigger. The removable “surfboard” footrest and turning limiter also add to the bike’s versatility, making it great for most kids who are just starting out or for those who are a little more advanced.
One unique feature of the WOOM 1 Plus is the coaster brake, which is a rare find in balance bikes. This provides optimal stopping power and helps preschoolers learn how to use brakes properly before transitioning to a pedal bike.
However, it’s worth noting that with its taller handlebars, the WOOM 1 Plus is best for timid and casual neighborhood riders. Kids who will likely be tackling pump tracks won’t be able to lean in far enough to get aggressive.
In terms of drawbacks, the footrest on the WOOM 1 Plus may be too large for smaller kids, but it is removable.
Overall, the WOOM 1 Plus is a lightweight and perfect balance bike that offers a lot of room for growth and will provide preschoolers with the confidence they need to progress to a pedal bike.
The Banana Bike GT is a great option for parents who want to get their child a balance bike without going out of budget. Although it lacks a handbrake and larger 14-inch wheels, it has a longer wheelbase and 4.5 inches seat height range, making it a comfortable ride for growing kids.
Despite being a budget option, the Banana Bike GT boasts a surprisingly good design, with air tires that offer a smooth ride and a quick-release seat post clamp that makes it easy to adjust the seat height.
However, as with all budget balance bikes, they may not be as durable as some of the more expensive options.
Parents who are looking for a balance bike for a short time or want a budget option may find the Banana Bike GT to be a solid choice.
However, those who want a bike that will last for a long time or need a bike with additional features, such as a handbrake, may want to consider some of the other options on my list.
Best Balance Bikes for PreK (4 to 6 years)
Who says a four or six-year-old is too old for a balance bike? Not me! Riding larger balance bikes is an incredibly fun and effective way to learn how to ride a bike.
In fact, it’s a much better experience than struggling with a pedal bike with training wheels. If your child is in the PreK age range of 4 to 6 years old, they’ll still love the freedom and excitement that comes with riding a balance bike.
Looking for a balance bike for your 4 to 6-year-old? Look no further than the Ridgeback Scoot XL! This bigger version of the Ridgeback Scoot is perfect for taller kids who need a little more room to grow.
With 14″ wheels, a wide and stable handlebar, a long wheelbase for stability, and up to 6 inches of seat height adjustability, the Scoot XL is built to last and provide a smooth ride. The adjustable handlebar height is a bonus for kids who may continue to ride the bike until they are 6 or 7 years old.
However, keep in mind that the Scoot XL may be too heavy for lighter-weight kids, and some parents have noted exposed bolts as a potential safety concern.
Summing Up — Balance Bikes
Balance bikes are an excellent tool for developing children’s coordination, balance, and confidence on two wheels. They allow kids to learn how to ride a bike in a safe and intuitive way without the use of training wheels or pedals.
With so many options available on the market, there is a balance bike for every child, regardless of age, size, or skill level. By starting with a balance bike, children can develop a lifelong love of cycling and an appreciation for the outdoors.
So, start your kid today with a balance bike and watch as they soar into the world of cycling with ease and joy.
Balance Bike — Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best age for a balance bike?
The best age for a balance bike can vary depending on the child’s development and physical ability, but typically children can start riding a balance bike as early as 18 months old and can continue using it until they are around 5 or 6 years old.
Is a children’s balance bike better than a tricycle?
In many ways, a children’s balance bike is better than a tricycle. Tricycles can be heavy, cumbersome, and difficult to maneuver for young children. They also require a lot of space to ride and turn, making them less practical for indoor play or small yards.
On the other hand, balance bikes are lightweight, easy to control, and can be used both indoors and outdoors. They teach kids how to balance and steer a bike at an early age, which can make the transition to a pedal bike much smoother.
Additionally, balance bikes allow children to use their feet to stop and start, which gives them more confidence and control over their movement.
Can I use a regular bike as a balance bike?
Technically, any bike without pedals can be used as a balance bike by simply removing the pedals or not installing them.
However, keep in mind that a regular bike may not have the same design features as a purpose-built balance bike, such as a lower minimum seat height, wider handlebars for stability, and a lightweight frame for easy handling.
These features are important for young children learning to balance and steer on a bike. Additionally, a regular bike may not be as safe or durable for young children as a balance bike specifically designed for their age and size.
Therefore, it is recommended to use a purpose-built balance bike for children learning to ride.
Can you add pedals to a balance bike?
Yes, it is possible to add pedals to a balance bike. Some manufacturers offer pedal conversion kits that can be attached to the balance bike, effectively turning it into a regular pedal bike.
However, keep in mind that adding pedals to most balance bikes can add weight and complexity to the bike, potentially making it less user-friendly for younger children who are still learning to balance and steer.
It’s also important to note that the transition from a regular balance bike to a balance bike with pedals is a significant step for children, and it’s important to ensure that they are developmentally ready before making the switch.