Are balance bikes any good for learning to ride?
Good question! Before we talk about the pros and cons of balance bikes, let’s take a cycle trip down memory lane. Most of us remember the crazy excitement of learning to ride a bike as a kid. The moment you kicked off on two wheels, pushed through the hairy wobbles and made it to the bottom of the hill in one piece. What an awesome sense of freedom!
We probably had some bumps and scratches by the end of the afternoon, but these war wounds only added to the triumph. Now it’s your little one’s turn to ride on two wheels… we know, it’s crazy! But instead of going through the frustration of stabilizers (and that weird way they always slope to one side) there’s now a shortcut to turning shaky starters into cycling pros faster than ever before: THE BALANCE BIKE!
Why do parents start their kids on a balance bike?
One reason most parents invest in a balance bikes is because they can play a key role in developing your toddler’s gross motor skills, balance, spatial awareness and coordination – all things they’ll need in huge doses when they progress to a pedal bike. Back in your day, the norm was to use stabilizers or a tricycle first, or your parents just put you on a pedal bike and hoped for the best!
Stabilizers and trikes are good for practice, but they don’t teach your kid to balance on two wheels properly. So, when they kick off on a pedal bike for the first time, everything feels different and (oops!) they fall off. With a balance bike, your kid gets to scoot along just as they would on a pedal bike, and put their feet down any time they get the wobbles.
Balance and steering – without the pedals
Balance bikes teach kids the basics of riding a bike before introducing the motion of pedaling. Even if they just start by shuffling along, they’re still soaking up the skills needed for balancing on two wheels. This also allows them to concentrate on the equally important task of steering to avoid the cat or bashing into dad’s leg etc. Once they get the hang of this, they’re already halfway there. By the time you upgrade them to a pedal bike, they’ll be off to a flying start. Seriously, just watch them out-learn the other kids!
How old until kids can ride a balance bike?
There’s no reason why you can’t start them off on a balance bike from as young as 18 months. The main thing is to make sure they can touch the floor and feel comfortable at all times – remember this is supposed to be fun! In most cases, kids can move up to a pedal bike by the age of three or four, with no awkward stabilizers necessary.
You can even get a two-in-one trike and bike if you feel like your child isn’t quite ready for balancing on two wheels. This awesome design changes as your kid’s skills develop – all you have to do is swap the two back wheels for one and, hey presto, it’s a balance bike!
The answer to fewer scrapes and bruises
Your kid is bound to have a few wobbles when they first start riding. The thing with a balance bike is that it teaches them to put their feet down when the bike starts to topple, leaving them upright and happily un-bumped. So, when they move onto a pedal bike, they instinctively put down their feet when they start to wobble, rather than letting the bike tumble. With stabilizers and trikes, kids don’t get used to that feeling of the bike tipping over, so they don’t know what to do when their pedal bike starts to fall. In other words, they get the lesson without the bruises to prove it!
Helps to develop self-confidence
There’s nothing quite like the freedom of pushing along on two wheels to boost your kid’s independence and self-confidence. Balance bikes are designed to let toddlers feel free and have fun, which means they can really ‘go for it’ in their own way. You’ll probably remember from childhood that stabilizers and pedal trikes are heavy, bulky and don’t let you get very far (we’d always end up getting stuck in the mud) – but balance bikes are lightweight and can just be picked up when there’s a muddy patch or a hill. By the time they start school, they’ll be full of beans and ready to ride with their new friends!
So, are balance bikes good for learning to ride? Well, we certainly think so (although we would say that). But we’re not the only ones to believe in the magic of these awesome little push-powered rides. Kids love them because they’re easy to ride, and they’re always a hit with parents because they’re much safer and arguably much better for overall development. Test ride one and we bet your kid will be zipping around with loads of control and absolutely zero fear in no time!