Balance bikes vs. tricycles vs. stabilizers
Learning to ride a bike is a huge milestone.
It’s probably on a par with losing the first tooth and starting school – a super cool triumph that you and your kid will both probably remember forever! But what’s the best way to teach your little one so that they get the most out of learning to ride?
You have three main pre-pedal bike options: 1) Balance bike, 2) Tricycle or 3) Stabilizers. Each of them will get your future Tour De France winner to pedalling success eventually, but which will get them there the quickest? To help you pick, we’ve run through the main benefits of balance bikes vs. trikes vs. stabilizers.
Pros of balance bikes
When we were learning to ride the choice was simple: stabilizers, a trike or nothing! And once we got on a real bike, it was kind of like starting from scratch. We had to relearn how to balance properly, without the support of extra wheels that we had on trikes or bikes with stabilizers. The great thing about a balance bike is that it builds confidence and balance by letting your child take small scoots forward with the safety of having their feet near the ground. They get used to holding their weight over two wheels and learn to put their feet down if the bike starts to topple – meaning fewer bumps and scrapes when they move onto a pedal bike! The one thing that your kid won’t learn on a balance bike is how to pedal, but that comes easily once they’ve got to grips with balancing and steering.
Pros of trikes
Trikes have always been a go-to option when it comes to toddlers learning to ride. With two wheels at the back instead of one, trikes will give your kid extra support to help them balance while they get used to pedalling. These three-wheelers are a pretty safe and toddler-friendly option, as the frame is typically low to the ground and the saddle is really more of a seat! The downside of trikes is that they don’t teach kids to balance properly on two wheels. So, when they move to a proper pedal bike, they often start the learning curve all over again, which makes their progress much slower. Our opinion is that trikes definitely have their place, but usually they’re more of a fun ride rather than a shortcut to pedal bikes – with a few notable exceptions (skip to the end)!
Pros of stabilizers
When we were kids, taking off the stabilizers for the first time was about as big a deal as winning that amazing marble (Pog, football card, etc.) that everyone wanted. It was such a cool feeling being able to zoom along without wobbling awkwardly from side to side on those rickety little wheels. Lots of parents still choose stabilizers to help their kids get used to riding, and they even come as standard on lots of kids’ bikes. Like trikes, the benefit of stabilizers is that they add extra support to the bike as your toddler learns to pedal. And, like trikes, the main downside of stabilizers is that your kid doesn’t learn to balance properly.
Once those little wheels come off, it’s a whole new world (and not a very fun one at that point)! Your kid will have to get to grips with balancing and steering on two wheels. Another snag with stabilizers is that they’re pretty awkward and wide at the back, which can be frustrating for getting around tight corners. Remember trying to zip across a bumpy patch of grass with your stabilizers on? Kind of impossible. Normally you came out the other side with one stabilizer wheel higher up than the other and rattling away noisily!
All three options are great for building up the strength, coordination and confidence your kid needs to learn to ride a two-wheel pedal bike. However, loads of parents nowadays love balance bikes because they let toddlers scoot along while learning the whole time. But, THERE IS ANOTHER OPTION! If you like the idea of a trike, you could try a two-in-one trike-to-balance-bike, which can be changed from a trike to a bike as your develops. Whichever training option you use, we’re sure your child will have a blast learning to ride!